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‘Wild Forest’ urged for Adirondack tract

DEC draft plan keeps roads open

Monday, January 28, 2013
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— Much of the former Finch Pruyn lands the state is buying in the remote central Adirondacks would be open to public motorized access, under a draft state land management plan.

The proposed Public Access and State Land Classification Plan classifies significant portions of the land as “wild forest,” a category within the Forest Preserve that would allow existing roads to remain open.

The draft plan is being circulated by the state Department of Environmental Conservation, which developed it.

Environmental groups want more of the pending 65,000-acre acquisition to be designated restricted “wilderness,” which would require woods roads be closed and existing structures — even remains of a historic logging camp on the Hudson River — be removed.

But the recommendations are likely to please local leaders in Hamilton and Essex counties, who are interested in promoting the lands’ active recreation use, as a way to bring more visitors into small communities like Indian Lake and Newcomb that depend on the spending of hikers, snowmobilers and hunters.

“At first glance, it seems likely that local governments will be pleased with the proposed wild forest classifications and the proposed public road and float plane access,” said Fred Monroe of Chestertown, executive director of the Adirondack Park Agency Local Government Review Board.

Environmental groups such as Protect the Adirondacks, the Adirondack Council and Adirondack Mountain Club were looking, in general, for more of the land in the Essex Chain of Lakes area south of Newcomb to be declared “wilderness.”

About 13,000 acres around the Hudson and Cedar rivers’ confluence south of Newcomb would be declared “wild forest” under the proposed plan. That would mean the existing roads serving the Polaris and Gooley clubs — two exclusive private clubs being pushed out by the state land deal — could remain open to the public, even after the clubs are gone. Also, canoeists would be able to paddle the Hudson, pull out, and load their canoes on vehicles at a spot before reaching the dangerous Hudson River Gorge rapids. Newly acquired lands in the Hudson Gorge, including OK Slip Falls and the confluence with the Indian River, would be declared a new “Hudson Gorge Wilderness Area.”

First and Pine lakes would be allowed to remain open for use by float planes, which can drop off hunters or fishing parties.

The more-expansive public access rules will bring economic benefits to the region, state officials said.

“Between nearby easement lands and the new Forest Preserve lands, the former Finch Pruyn lands will become incredible public tourist attractions and will provide an increase in public usage and benefits to local communities,” the draft plan states.

The draft plan will be subject to extensive public comment in coming months. It was formally sent to the Adirondack Park Agency for consideration last week.

The 65,000 acres, much of its long-coveted by outdoor recreation advocates for its scenic splendor, are going to be acquired by the state from The Nature Conservancy over the next five years. The Nature Conservancy bought them in a 2007 deal buying 161,000 acres formerly owned by Finch Pruyn, the Glens Falls paper company.

Last summer, Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced the $50 million state acquisition plan. The land will be acquired over a five-year period; the first actual purchase, of the Essex Chain, closed in December.

About 89,000 other acres bought by The Nature Conservancy were subsequently sold to a Danish lumber company and can still be logged, but have easements preventing their development and allowing some forms of public access.

Not all the state’s proposed land use classifications are going to spark controversy.

Among the classifications that aren’t in dispute are additions to existing Adirondack wild forests in Mayfield and Edinburg, and the addition of two Saratoga County properties that lie outside the Adirondack Park to the state’s State Forest system.

The 1,250-acre Thousand Acre Swamp property in Edinburg, which has a moose population, is going to be developed with wildlife viewing opportunities. The 3,800-acre Benson Road tract in Mayfield, meanwhile, could be developed with hiking, snowmobiling and fishing opportunities on lands between Stony Creek and Great Sacandaga Lake.

The 140-acre Pennyork Lumber Tract and 540-acre Daniels Road Tract, both in Greenfield and both outside the Adirondack Park boundary, would be declared State Forests.

The Daniels Road piece is already developed for mountain biking, state officials said, while the Pennyork piece could become more of an envisioned off-road trail between Moreau Lake State Park and Saratoga Spa State Park.

 
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