New York Governor Andrew Cuomo has approved land classifications recommended by the Adirondack Park Agency for nearly 65,000 acres of land. The move finalizes the creation of one of the largest wilderness areas in the eastern U.S.
In 2012, New York state purchased more than 65,000 acres of former Finch Pruyn forest land in the central Adirondacks from the Nature Conservancy in a multi-year acquisition. It triggered a process for the Adirondack Park Agency to classify the tracts of land. The primary parcel and the last to be classified is the Boreas Ponds tract which has more than 11,000 acres of designated wilderness and more than 9,000 acres of Wild Forest. With Governor Cuomo’s approval, the lands are now part of the High Peaks Wilderness Area creating a contiguous wilderness zone in the center of the Adirondacks.
The MacIntyre West Tract and the northern section of the MacIntyre East Tract have been classified as wilderness and also added to the High Peaks Wilderness area.
Adirondack Mountain Club Executive Director Neil Woodworth says the High Peaks Wilderness will now total nearly 300,000 acres. “It will be the largest contiguous wilderness area east of the Mississippi and it’s bigger than many national parks. You know the most likely man-made thing that you’re going to encounter in places is a lean-to. So this is a huge area where people can walk in and really get into a place of solitude and kind of a primeval nature is in charge and man is a visitor. You know man will leave and nature will be in full control.”
But the Adirondacks are a mix of wilderness lands with small hamlets and villages scattered throughout its six million acres. State Assemblyman D. Billy Jones, a North Country Democrat, says the classifications were a compromise for the environment and municipalities. “I don’t think everybody was happy with what came out of the discussions but it was a compromise. And we’ll have to move forward and we’ll have to see how it pans out.”
Town of North Hudson Supervisor Ron Moore notes that the Unit Management Plan process now begins. “Which will more define what recreational activities we can do where on these properties. And hopefully part of that will become ah result in the final link for our community connector trails between the five towns which will take us over into Indian Lake and Long Lake, Minerva and Newcomb as well as North Hudson. You know this regional approach that we have linking five towns together through some extraordinarily beautiful country we’re hopeful that it’s going to increase the tourism and bring new economic opportunity for all of our five towns.”
North Hudson is positioned to create new access to the High Peaks Wilderness Area, according to Neil Woodworth. “We’re hopeful that people who are interested in experiencing the High Peaks and climbing the peaks, because this is all new territory to explore that hasn’t been available largely in the past, that some of the crowding that’s taking place along the Route 73 corridor between Exit 30 and Lake Placid some of those users will migrate south to access the High Peaks from the south. And we hope that will relieve a lot of pressure that’s currently taking place on the Route 73 corridor.”
The state Department of Environmental Conservation has scheduled a public meeting on the Unit Management Plan in Newcomb on April 3rd.