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In The Adirondacks

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Notes from the North Country

Conservation group targets Hudson River Gorge

The Hudson River Gorge contains world-class wild rapids -- and thousands of acres around it would be made permanent wilderness under a conservation group's recent proposal.

Protect the Adirondacks is urging the state to establish a 39,000-acre Upper Hudson River Wilderness Area along 22 miles of the river running between Newcomb and North River, in Essex and Hamilton counties.

The proposed area would encompass about 20,000 acres of forest the state already owns and 19,000 acres of former Finch Pruyn Paper lands now owned by The Nature Conservancy.
The state will buy that land as part of its $49.8 million acquisition of 69,000 acres in the Adirondacks from The Nature Conservancy -- but it isn't yet known when the land transactions will take place. Under the deal announced by Gov. Andrew Cuomo in August, the state has up to five years.

Once the land is acquired, the state Department of Environmental Conservation will decide with input from the Adirondack Park Agency and the public whether to classify it as wild forest -- which allows some motorized access -- or wilderness, which is more restrictive. Protect the Adirondacks is urging wilderness classification for the lands along the upper Hudson.

"The creation of a new wilderness area that centers on 22 miles of the Hudson River would be a tremendous accomplishment for the state of New York," said Chuck Clusen, co-chairman of Protect the Adirondacks. "Wild country and wild rivers grow fewer each year, and a new wilderness area for the Upper Hudson would provide permanent protection for 22 miles of one of the greatest rivers in America."

The proposed wilderness would include the Essex Chain of Lakes and shorelines of the Hudson, lower Cedar and Indian rivers. It would include the southern side of the Hudson River Gorge, whose Class III and IV rapids attract thousands of rafters each year, most going on commercial guided tours.

The wilderness designation would allow for more day use and camping, Protect the Adirondacks officials said.

"An Upper Hudson River wilderness will protect the whitewater rafting industry over the long term. This industry has proven to be highly successful, as well as sustainable, and provides terrific opportunities and wild river experiences for visitors to the Adirondack Park," said Peter Bauer, executive director of Protect the Adirondacks.

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