Foss: State right to take its time on Boreas Ponds

Area is a pristine 20,000 acre tract of land
The Boreas Ponds tract in the Adirondacks.
The Boreas Ponds tract in the Adirondacks.

If you care at all about trees, lakes, birds and fish — anything that could be classified as nature, really — then the state’s most recent non-decision on the pristine 20,000-plus acre tract of land known as Boreas Ponds is reason for celebration. 

The Adirondack Park Agency has been considering a land classification for Boreas Ponds for quite some time, and on Friday the agency announced that it would again delay its final recommendation. 

Sometimes no news really is good news, and this is one of those times. 

A delay is better than a bad decision, and it leaves open the possibility that the APA will make a good decision when it comes to the classification and management of Boreas Ponds. 

The agency’s main goal should be protecting this ecologically sensitive area, which is home to rare birds, such as the endangered Bicknell’s thrush, heritage strains of fish and other wildlife. 

I haven’t had the opportunity to hike or paddle in Boreas Ponds, but by all accounts, it’s a special place. 

John Sheehan, the spokesman for the Adirondack Council, called Boreas Ponds “the largest and most sensitive collection of high elevation wetlands acquired by the state in about a century.”

Environmental groups such as the Adirondack Council would like to see all or most of the property classified as wilderness, and motorized vehicles and other development barred from most of the property. 

They’ve been alarmed — rightfully so — by reports suggesting that the state is considering allowing “hut-to-hut” camping in this ecologically sensitive area. 

The idea is that building semi-permanent structures for campers, such as yurts and dining facilities, would boost tourism in one of the quieter parts of the Adirondacks. 

Bringing more tourists to the Adirondacks is a worthwhile goal, especially if it involves bringing them to struggling areas that don’t see much in the way of visitors or recreational activity.  

But there are better ways to do it than by opening up fragile forest land to potentially damaging human activity. 

One way would be by promising visitors a true and unique wilderness experience, and access to a place few people have seen or experienced. 

The High Peaks have been inundated with visitors in recent years, to the point where the Adirondack Council’s 2017-2018 state-of-the-park report warns that “record crowds are using and negatively impacting the popular High Peaks, overwhelming parking in some towns, while others strive to attract more tourism dollars.” 

Given these very real concerns, it makes sense to promote alternatives and the Boreas Ponds are one such alternative. 

Hikers can access the High Peaks from Boreas Ponds, and these less-traveled hiking routes might appeal to people weary of the more popular and overcrowded trails. 

Certainly, I can see the appeal of hiking in such a place, and I suspect others can, too.  

The Adirondack Council supports classifying the northern two-thirds of Boreas Ponds as wilderness, and opening the southern third of the land to snowmobiling and other activity. 

Which strikes me as a pretty good plan for the land — one that would make visiting Boreas Ponds attractive to a variety of people with a variety of interests. 

The future of Boreas Ponds is far from settled. 

But the APA’s decision to delay classifying the land is encouraging. 

It gives me hope that the tract will receive the protection it needs, and that it will be around for generations to come. 

Reach Gazette columnist Sara Foss at [email protected]. Opinions expressed here are her own and not necessarily the newspaper’s. Her blog is at

Categories: News, Opinion, Schenectady County

Leave a Reply