The Adirondack Council has released a proposal for how the state should classify the former Finch Pruyn lands it will be acquiring, including wilderness protection for the land around the Hudson River Gorge and added Wild Forest in Saratoga and Hamilton counties.
“We urge the state to protect these soon-to-be-acquired lands, lakes and rivers to safeguard wildlife habitat and water quality and from overuse and motorized traffic,” said Diane Fish, the council’s acting executive director.
In a letter to state Environmental Conservation Commissioner Joe Martens, the council called for creation of a new Wild Rivers Wilderness Area along the Hudson upstream of the famed gorge, and expansion of the existing High Peaks Wilderness to include Boreas Ponds.
Both are part of the 69,000 acres the state is expected to acquire over the next five years as part of a $49.8 million deal with The Nature Conservancy, which bought them from Finch Pruyn, the Glens Falls paper company.
DEC will be deciding as lands are acquired whether to classify those lands as Wilderness or less-restrictive designations that would allow motorized access for recreation.
In anticipation of those decisions, Adirondack advocacy groups are starting to make recommendations to the state. Protect the Adirondacks last month made its own proposal for a new wilderness area along the upper Hudson River.
The Adirondack Council proposals include an expansion of the High Peaks Wilderness, which would include the Boreas Ponds section of the Finch purchase, along with existing state lands around it not now managed as wilderness.
In the southern Adirondacks, the Council is proposing an expansion of the Shaker Mountain Wild Forest in the Hamilton County town of Benson by more than 2,000 acres. In Saratoga County, it proposes the expansion of the existing Lake Desolation Wild Forest by adding the Thousand Acre Swamp in Edinburg, a known moose habitat. Both parcels are slated for state snowmobile trails on existing logging roads, the council noted.
All state lands in the Adirondack Park are protected by the state constitution’s “forever wild” clause, which bans their lease, sale or development, as well as logging. However, all motorized use of land designated Wilderness is prohibited, while land designated Wild Forest permits snowmobile and some other motorized uses.
According to the council, about 1 million of the 2.7-million acres of state land in the Adirondacks is designated as Wilderness.