Governor Andrew Cuomo today signed the official Forest Preserve classification recommendations from the Adirondack Park Agency (APA) and Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) for over 42,000 acres. These lands include new and existing Forest Preserve lands that will be classified Wilderness, Primitive and Wild Forest areas. This action involved classification of over 22,000 acres of newly purchased Forest Preserve lands and reclassification of over 20,000 acres of existing Forest Preserve lands.
Here’s what Governor Andrew Cuomo said:
“I am thrilled to approve this land classification plan that will allow the State to both preserve the Adirondacks’ magnificent natural resources and provide public recreational and tourism opportunities that will help grow the region’s economy,” Governor Cuomo said. “The addition of thousands of acres of land to the State Forest Preserve is a major step in both protecting and preserving the Adirondack Park for future generations. At the same time, this plan enhances the State’s efforts to attract more visitors to the Adirondacks and grow the region’s tourism industry and communities. Today’s announcement marks a momentous occasion for New York’s history and landscape.”
PROTECT applauds the creation of a new Hudson Gorge Wilderness Area. The Governor has successfully protected over 15 miles of the Hudson River as Wilderness. This is a great tribute to New York’s grandest river. See the famous Blue Ledges pictured below.
The Governor’s approval created a new 23,572-acre Hudson Gorge Wilderness Area and a 9,940-acre Essex Chain Lakes Primitive area and classified 7,377 acres as Wild Forest. Another 963-acre Polaris Primitive Area was also created, but is scheduled to be classified as Wilderness once all reserved leaseholder rights expire in 2019.
In 2012, Governor Cuomo announced that the state would purchase 69,000 acres of new Forest Preserve lands from The Nature Conservancy. The first three tracts, purchased in 2012 and 2013, were included in the APA’s action today. These total 21,000 acres: the 18,230-acre Essex Chain Tract, 2,823-acre OK Slip Falls Tract, and 923-acre Indian River Tract. The APA also reclassified roughly 20,000 acres of existing Forest Preserve lands, including the 17,000-acre Hudson Gorge Primitive area.
The new 9,940-acre Essex Chain Lakes Primitive Area will provide a great motorless destination that will be enjoyed by families for generations. New Yorkers will be able to watch these lands grow wilder each year as the forest reclaims roads and the beavers retake wetlands and swamps.
The Governor also approved troubling motorized Wild Forest corridor through the heart of the new Forest Preserve lands and green lights state agencies to plan for construction and maintenance of permanent bridges over protected scenic rivers.
See a map of the classified lands below.
The classification package also included the creation of a motorized Wild Forest corridor through the heart of this area.
Classification Package Creates Long-Term Challenges
The Governor’s approval also authorizes further review and planning by Adirondack Park Agency and Department of Environmental Conservation to revise existing state laws or regulations on a variety of issues. These include:
1. The APA emphasized a preference for the Wild Forest corridor to extend across the Cedar River. This action will necessitate a revision to DEC regulations for management of Wild, Scenic and Recreational Rivers for bridge construction and motor vehicle use in a Scenic River corridor.
2. The APA emphasized a preference for the Wild Forest corridor to extend across the Cedar River. This action will necessitates a revision in the State Land Master Plan for elimination of the current requirement for natural materials in bridge construction.
3. The APA also pledged to review State Land Master Plan revisions to allow mountain biking in Primitive Areas.
4. The APA also pledged to work with the DEC to revise the Wild, Scenic and Recreational Rivers Act to allow motor vehicle use within a Wild Forest corridor.
Now that the Governor has made it all official, Protect the Adirondacks will continue to monitor the APA’s and DEC’s plans around bridge retention and construction. These are controversial issues and need extensive public scrutiny and intervention.