Press-Republican

September 1, 2013

Enviros to APA: 'Go slow' in classifying new state land

By KIM SMITH DEDAM Press-Republican
Press-Republican

---- — ELIZABETHTOWN — Environmentalists have banded together in asking the Adirondack Park Agency to take their time in classifying new state land.

At issue before APA commissioners are eight land-use designations for the Essex Chain Lakes and three parcels of new state land nearby.

Adirondack Council spokesman John Sheehan told the Press-Republican the concern rests in complex legal and scientific questions.

Real answers may take longer than a month to determine, he said.

“There is the possibility that they (APA Board) could make a decision in September. We would hope they would wait at least until October.

“There are a lot of unanswered questions asked by the APA Board at the August meeting.”

ACCESS POINTS

The environmental coalition, which includes the Adirondack Council, Adirondack Mountain Club, Protect the Adirondacks and Adirondack Wild, is lobbying for APA to zone sensitive regions of the Essex Chain Lakes with the Wilderness classification.

Theirs is a position not entirely shared by many town leaders and residents of Indian Lake, Newcomb and Minerva, where most of the new state land is located.

Towns are pushing for a less-restrictive Wild Forest designation in sections of the property, allowing motorized access.

Indian Lake has a town road that cuts through part of the region being classified. A town road limits classification as a pre-existing “non-conforming” structure.

“I don’t think there’s any argument over whether that road can exist,” Sheehan said. “And none of the groups opposed the access points suggested by APA: There is one just above Essex Chain Lakes, one at the confluence of the Indian and Hudson Rivers, and one near the north end of the property near the Polaris Bridge.”

UNANSWERED QUESTIONS

Still, a list of issues remain to be sorted out. Some of them straddle tender legal points encompassing the entire State Land Master Plan.

The list of concerns — as itemized by environmental groups — includes:

▶ Compliance with State Land Master Plan for “no material increase” in the mileage of roads or snowmobile trails or in motorized uses in newly purchased Forest Preserve land.

▶ Legal analysis of reserved float-plane rights within the Wild, Scenic and Recreational Rivers corridor on Pine Lake.

▶ Management options for aquatic invasive species prevention and interdiction under Wild Forest, Wilderness, Canoe and Primitive classifications.

▶ Legality of all-terrain vehicle access to Essex Chain Lakes area.

▶ Legality of snowmobile trail access to Essex Chain Lakes area.

▶ Legality of reconstruction of bridge over the Cedar River under Wild Forest, Wilderness, Canoe and Primitive classifications.

THOROUGHNESS URGED

At the August APA meeting, APA Commissioner Dick Booth had cautioned the board to take time in reviewing both scientific and legal details inherent in Essex Chain Lakes land-use classification.

He suggested APA wait until October to make any final decision.

In a statement, Peter Bauer, executive director of Protect the Adirondacks, said analysis of the thousands of comments from the public should be thoroughly examined.

“The APA must properly review these comments and issue official responses. This should form the basis of its final decision. We call upon the APA to be deliberative and methodical in its review and decision.”

THE WILD EDGE

Maps presented by APA staff for each of seven options (the eighth option being “do nothing”) show different placements of Wilderness boundaries in relation to lands zoned Wild Forest, Canoe or Primitive, each of which allow for various types of recreational access.

The complex mix of land-use restrictions inherent in each classification is the basis for the environmental groups’s joint concern.

“The APA Board of Commissioners should not try to make this decision at its September meeting,” Neil Woodworth, executive director and counsel for the Adirondack Mountain Club, said in a statement.

“There is too much valid and valuable scientific and legal information to review before then, plus thousands of public comments. The board must take its time and do a thorough job. Only then should it make a final recommendation to the governor, who will sign the final order.”

“Establishing a core of Wilderness will protect those resources,” William C. Janeway, executive director of the Adirondack Council said in the joint statement.

“Parking lots and roads on adjacent Wild Forest lands should be near to, but not into, the lakes, rivers and most sensitive lands. This slight separation will encourage tourism and new investments in local communities but won’t harm the unbroken forests and pure waters all of us cherish. This is a balanced alternative.”

APA commissioners revisit the land-use discussion again at their Sept. 12 and 13 meeting.

Email Kim Smith Dedam:kdedam@pressrepublican.com