Editorial: Boreas Pond plan shows good governing in action

In New York state, that almost never happens
The Boreas Ponds tract in the Adirondacks.
The Boreas Ponds tract in the Adirondacks.

How often do you see government work the way it’s supposed to work?

How often does the government address an issue by striking just the right balance between strongly conflicting interests and polar-opposite points of view?

How often does government succeed in giving everyone something of what they want and just enough of what they don’t so that reasonable people can be satisfied with the compromise?

In New York state, that almost never happens. In the Adirondacks — where business, government, recreational and environmental interests are naturally at odds — it’s even more rare.

But it’s happening with the controversial classification of the Boreas Pond wilderness area in the North Hudson area of the Adirondacks.

And all parties involved — the various interest groups that contributed information and perspective, citizens who enjoy the Adirondack Park and who care about its future, and representatives from the Adirondack Park Agency, the state Department of Environmental Conservation and Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s office — deserve praise for how they arrived at the decision.

At issue is the fate of 20,750 acres of beautiful Adirondack land with a spectacular view of the High Peaks that had been heavily logged for many years and was now being returned for public use.

Proponents of a more active use of the land contended that the years of hard logging operations that included buildings and a web of roads on the site meant that the land was no longer pristine and therefore should be eligible for more active use. That would include allowing close access to the wooded areas and lakes by vehicles and motorized boat traffic, snowmobiling, camping and other intrusive off-road activities.

But many others saw the end of logging and the return of the land for public use as a rare opportunity to restore a heavily used property to its natural beginnings.

They argued that it was a unique chance to allow the public to enjoy this rare gem in a rejuvenated state.

We argued in December 2016 that state officials, while being cognizant of the need to provide people with access to the park as a way to help the economy, should err on the side of protecting the land and its waterways as much as possible.

A pristine environment is what draws visitors to the Adirondacks and makes the Adirondack Park the special place that it has been and is today.

The result of years of sometimes contentious debate was the plan arrived at last week that drew praise from virtually all sides.

Under the plan, the immediate Boreas Pond area and more than 11,000 acres immediately around it would be classified as Wilderness, limiting access to this special area to passive recreation such as canoeing, hiking, camping and cross-country skiing.

This Wilderness designation will give Mother Nature a chance to reclaim the property from its commercial use.

In time, trees will grow up and fill in around the lakes, culverts and roads will disappear into the natural landscape, and more wildlife will be able make the property their home with little intrusion from man.

More than 9,000 acres below Gulf Brook Road on the south end would be classified as Wild Forest, which does allow active recreation such as bicycles, snowmobiles and motor vehicles.

The plan doesn’t give environmentalists all they wanted, as motor vehicle use could be permitted as close as a quarter-mile from the Boreas Ponds. The location of the Wilderness-Wild Forest border is a concession to government groups and those supporting motorized recreation who wanted to get as close to the pond area as possible.

But even that intrusion could be limited through the creation of Unit Management Plans. These plans are designed to assess an area’s specific natural resources for their ability to accommodate recreational use and help determine the uses that are consistent with the various classifications.

That will further ensure that sensitive areas within the designation area are identified and protected.

The Adirondack Park Agency will consider the compromise plan at its meeting later this wee. If approved, the plan will be sent on to the governor.

For all the criticism we might have of government and the way it works, this tough compromise on the Boreas tract that protects the environment but also allows for public recreational use is an example of the government working the way it’s supposed to.

Soak it in while you can and hope elected officials around the state watch and learn something from the outcome.

Categories: Editorial, Opinion

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