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Old 09-23-2021, 10:33 AM   #1
montcalm
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Ideal Land Management

Completely hypothetical, but if we could better shape land management, would it be more ideal have a "matryoshka dolls" model where wilderness areas were surrounded by a "buffer" of wild forest, and wild forest areas were surround by buffers of easement or working forest?

This then provides the highest level if isolation, and thus protection for wilderness areas, and access through wild forest areas. Working forest kept on the fringes where it least disturbs wildlife and recreation, and also help promote and fund access roads.

I'm sure there are a number of benefits and drawbacks to this strategy if it could be implemented. I've thought of some but I'll save my thoughts for response to others.

I know, currently, the state tries to do this sort of thing where they can i.e. keep easements near roads bordering state lands to buffer forest and wildlife from development. Is this a good method? Is the ideal method as I described above?

Consider:

-Economic impacts of working forests
-Recreation opportunity
-Conservation
-Ecology
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Old 09-23-2021, 10:56 AM   #2
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I agree that there should be a buffer of Wild Forest around Wilderness Areas except in places where the wilderness area is bordered by forest land (perhaps "working" forest land) that is also protected by easements. National Forest wilderness areas are generally situated with larger pieces of government land.

Right now, the wilderness areas run right down to highways and up to people's mowed back yards. At the west end of Lake Placid, the wilderness boundary is about 20' away from a building that houses, I seem to recall, a tanning salon.

Having such a buffer might have the effect of reducing some of the smaller wilderness areas below the 10,000-acre threshold and thereby reducing the overall number of wilderness areas; but where is it written that the Adirondacks must have 21 wilderness areas. It's all still Forest Preserve and overall more restricted than most National Forest Land.

Good question, we'll see what reaction we receive.
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Old 09-23-2021, 04:02 PM   #3
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Very good discussion.

Much of our so-called "Wilderness" is ridiculous. Areas are declared "Wilderness" based on political harangues from various advocacy groups, who recruit kids to show up in green t-shirts to insist that an area with roads and buildings be declared a "Wilderness." This is how we end up with "wildernesses" that really aren't, and don't make sense.

Definitely could be done more sensibly. And as I've posted before, I would like to see a couple "real wilderness" areas, where no one at all is allowed to go.
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Old 09-23-2021, 05:44 PM   #4
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Tom, no area should be off limits, but there should definitely be areas that are hard to reach. Much of the Sentinel, Blue Ridge, Pepperbox, and Five Ponds wilderness areas have no trails or other means of access, and are therefore rarely visited.
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Old 09-23-2021, 08:20 PM   #5
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...no area should be off limits...
I know; of course I agree! It's state land (OUR land) and we should be allowed to use it.

But I enjoy teasing that concept, in the face of the armies of hypocrites who demand "wilderness, except for our chosen pursuit." They want the force of government to drive everyone else out, so they can have a private playground. And the need for so-called "wilderness" is usually the excuse.
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Old 09-23-2021, 10:08 PM   #6
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I was hoping for more feedback, but it's still early. Perhaps these discussions have no merit except to sour the water?

I was hoping not to get caught up in the semantics of wilderness, but rather think of it from a practical perspective in which it truly is a barrier of motorized access. It never makes sense that wilderness can exist 100 ft from a roadside, or a tanning salon, but I suppose that's a leap of faith we take with dichotomic zoning. I think the point is here is it blocks recreation in terms of biking, snowmobiling and car camping. But even within a wild forest unit not every road is busy highway, nor is every trail as snowmobile trail.

I guess where I was going is the fact that our land system is a bit of a mess in terms of what we can get, and what the state decides will be the best way to designate it after its open to the public.

Does it makes sense to block access to a bike or snowmobile trail 100' from a tanning salon because it's "wilderness"?

What are the actual differences in ecological impact between wild forest and wilderness. Do islands of wilderness that are fragmented by highways actually provide the proper ecosystem for large mammals such as moose? Should our drainages and waterways be the centerpoint of protection rather than some random location based on past logging and mining operations?
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Old 09-24-2021, 07:58 AM   #7
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... but there should definitely be areas that are hard to reach.
I apologize in advance for this rant.

The state must be under immense pressure to provide "access," which often is a code word for motorized access.

The road into Boreas Ponds from Blue Ridge Road has been washed out for some time now. It appears that the State is definitely planning and making efforts to repair this road. It is about a 6 1/2 mile hike from the first parking lot to the dam at Boreas Ponds. I have hiked it four times now. Boreas Ponds is a great place in that it is QUIET. Apart from an airplane going over every 15 to 20 minutes, that place is very enjoyable to me in the peace and solitude one feels there. Unfortunately, when one makes the trek in, one passes all of the parking spots at Fly Pond, the parking area just past the Boreas River, then the last parking area just before the gate at Boreas Ponds. I think there are spots for some 60 vehicles cumulatively? It is obvious that the planning is for heavy use and many motor vehicles to visit this area in the future. Once the road is opened to vehicle traffic, this very quiet gem of a place will be transformed into something other and I can't personally imagine wishing to go back there after that. I wish they would just leave the gate near Blue Ridge Rd. permanently closed to vehicles.

On each of my four visits I encountered other folks similarly enjoying this quiet place. A father and son were on their way out, carrying an inflatable canoe, after spending a week near the ponds. Eight folks with horses were making the trip in and back on another occasion. A couple groups of cyclists were visiting. Three younger twenty somethings were hiking in pulling a wagon with camping gear. To me, that is a perfect level of access for this special place. It is not wilderness, yet with the gate closed to vehicle traffic, it certainly feels like wilderness. I can't imagine once that road is opened what a holiday weekend will be like.

As it is now, this area provides a great buffer to the wilderness beyond it. Is it particularly hard to reach? No, based on the fact that I was never the only person there. With the road washed out and the gate closed, it is allowing the perfect level of access and also protection, in my opinion.

Since the Upper Works a few miles away has been expanded to allow for the increase in folks enjoying the back country, why not leave Boreas Ponds as it is now?
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Old 09-24-2021, 08:37 AM   #8
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The road into Boreas Ponds from Blue Ridge Road has been washed out for some time now. It appears that the State is definitely planning and making efforts to repair this road.
I know it was said that the washout(s) occurred during the Halloween storm in 2019, but when I rode my bike to Boreas Ponds last fall I didn’t see any washouts, and you could see that the road was being driven by work vehicles. I’m with you though. Keep that gate closed! That place was getting beat to hell in only the short 2+ years the road was open, with makeshift campsites springing up all around the ponds, as well as trash & used toilet paper being left behind near the dam.

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Old 09-24-2021, 09:04 AM   #9
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So more than anything publicity seems to be a culprit. There was so much publicized glad handing in the purchase and access that it draws in visitors. The one time I went in to paddle and look around, I felt like I was at Grafton lake state park. Besides the nice road and big parking lot the place was overrun with paddlers. Also after all the hype and crowds the place was obviously man made. So I say leave the road open let the dust settle and before long it will be another place that is too difficult for the crowd to get to. After all you still have to carry some from the parking. There are many places where one can go in the Adirondacks to paddle and not run into another soul. Thankfully they are not well publicized and often require just a little bit of effort to get to.
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Old 09-24-2021, 09:26 AM   #10
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The specific case of Boreas ponds is actually probably set up counter to what I'm saying here.

In this case the boundary between wild forest and wilderness should be set at an appropriate limit to minimize negative impacts. Perhaps also adding more amenities (such as trail and campsites) in the wild forest area, where accessed from the road could take more pressure off.

Here again though the visually aesthetic nature of the area is what causes the issue. There are many places far more remote and quiet in the western Adirondacks that don't have the appeal that Boreas has, and never will. You can't expect to have solitude at an area that attracts visitors - it's just the nature of it, we know this from the eastern HPW.

And you can't expect that by making a long trail it will limit use - again the High Peaks are evidence of that. If its something people want to put in a bucket, it'll attract them no matter what.

Again, the true questions are what are the impacts to the ecosystem? What other kinds of recreation are suffering so people can flock to get a view? Why is Boreas important? What special ecological role does it play, and how can we keep that with allowing access?

I don't like the garbage, but let's get real, there are plenty of people who take pictures of the "archeological" garbage left from years past. It's an issue because there is no consequence; you can educate 90%, the other 9% need the consequence and 1% nothing will work.
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Old 09-24-2021, 09:54 AM   #11
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Montcalm, to the point of your original post, I think a well thought out system such as you describe would make a lot of sense. Actually thinking about ecological value, recreational value, and economic value and making smart decisions about how to "lay out" the public and easement lands is something that real "land managers" should do.

But it's not going to happen in NY. Remember, you are dealing with a state that can't build a parking lot, or a bathroom, or maintain existing trails, or even hire enough Rangers and Front Country Stewards to manage the mess they have made in one small area (High Peaks).

And each new land acquisition is not made or designated using a well thought out process. Instead, it's advocates yelling diametrically opposed positions and suing each other. At this point, the process is 80% politics, 20% corruption, and zero% "well thought out land management."
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Old 09-24-2021, 12:15 PM   #12
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Returning to the original post, I don't see how this topic can be discussed without first defining "wilderness". For example, the state of NY has a definition, and the The Wilderness Act of 1964 also defines it. But I have previously argued that wilderness is really a state of mind rather than a bunch of legal regulations, so I tend to ignore what a government entity says (though I do try to follow the rules when I am there). Maybe its a feeling of isolation, or perhaps as someone else mentioned it's the absence of civilization noise. Each of us decides this for ourselves. But both of these loose definitions would appear to benefit from a buffer of wild forest.
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Old 09-24-2021, 12:31 PM   #13
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The specific case of Boreas ponds is actually probably set up counter to what I'm saying here.

In this case the boundary between wild forest and wilderness should be set at an appropriate limit to minimize negative impacts. Perhaps also adding more amenities (such as trail and campsites) in the wild forest area, where accessed from the road could take more pressure off.

Here again though the visually aesthetic nature of the area is what causes the issue. There are many places far more remote and quiet in the western Adirondacks that don't have the appeal that Boreas has, and never will. You can't expect to have solitude at an area that attracts visitors - it's just the nature of it, we know this from the eastern HPW.

And you can't expect that by making a long trail it will limit use - again the High Peaks are evidence of that. If its something people want to put in a bucket, it'll attract them no matter what.

Again, the true questions are what are the impacts to the ecosystem? What other kinds of recreation are suffering so people can flock to get a view? Why is Boreas important? What special ecological role does it play, and how can we keep that with allowing access?

I don't like the garbage, but let's get real, there are plenty of people who take pictures of the "archeological" garbage left from years past. It's an issue because there is no consequence; you can educate 90%, the other 9% need the consequence and 1% nothing will work.
I actually was trying to agree your thoughts in your original post and I didn't intend to hijack this thread. I intended to use Boreas as an example of a buffer. I am proposing that if Boreas is left gated, that it will provide additional protection to the wilderness beyond it. Encouraging and allowing many people to drive up to Boreas will only increase the pressure on the wilderness beyond it.

We can keep Boreas as a gem by allowing the access that it has now-with the gate closed.

Also, when discussing wilderness, often noise is forgotten in the discussion. Highways thru wilderness=noisy wilderness=not wilderness. To me, the areas I truly value and gravitate toward are the quietest I can find. There aren't that many quiet places in NY.

Edit: Well isn't that timely. I just received in my email a DEC notification that foot traffic on Gulf Brook Road is now prohibited so the road can be repaired. Someone started a thread here about it too.

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Old 09-24-2021, 03:01 PM   #14
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I actually was trying to agree your thoughts in your original post and I didn't intend to hijack this thread. I intended to use Boreas as an example of a buffer. I am proposing that if Boreas is left gated, that it will provide additional protection to the wilderness beyond it. Encouraging and allowing many people to drive up to Boreas will only increase the pressure on the wilderness beyond it.

We can keep Boreas as a gem by allowing the access that it has now-with the gate closed.

Also, when discussing wilderness, often noise is forgotten in the discussion. Highways thru wilderness=noisy wilderness=not wilderness. To me, the areas I truly value and gravitate toward are the quietest I can find. There aren't that many quiet places in NY.

Edit: Well isn't that timely. I just received in my email a DEC notification that foot traffic on Gulf Brook Road is now prohibited so the road can be repaired. Someone started a thread here about it too.
Oh I'm agreeing with you. I think the issue is that not necessarily that the road needs to go, but that it shouldn't take you all the way there. Perhaps if it was 3 miles hike and there were campsites along the road in the wild forest area that might take some overnight pressure off as well as the vehicles.

I know the land system is a mess, but this system not quite 50 years old, it's not been around forever, and there's no reason it can't/won't be improved in the future. I think we've come a long way based on the history that I've read, but there's still room for improvement and I want to understand these things so when public comments are open I can write a convincing letter that will make some sort of sense.

My guess is we're actually reaching our saturation point of public land - I doubt we'll go over 50/50 public private. So perhaps at that stage we'll be able to better manage it. And like the land management plans, we are only 50 years in really understanding the ecosystem of the Adirondacks. It's the water tower of the state, we should do our best to protect it just because of that*.


*A weird thing that I read is that mountain and estuary systems can actually be dependent on each other in both directions, not just in the direction of water flow. In that sense we know we've ruined one of the biggest and most productive estuaries in the northeast where the Hudson meets the Atlantic. Perhaps that's something that should be protected as well.
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Old 09-24-2021, 05:09 PM   #15
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Thanks for the clarification. I write in to a lot of public comments too.

I don't think the road needs to go either, but if it were up to me, that road would see almost no motor vehicle use by the public.

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It's the water tower of the state, we should do our best to protect it just because of that*.

*A weird thing that I read is that mountain and estuary systems can actually be dependent on each other in both directions, not just in the direction of water flow. In that sense we know we've ruined one of the biggest and most productive estuaries in the northeast where the Hudson meets the Atlantic. Perhaps that's something that should be protected as well.
Water is everything. I come from a commercial fishing family in Alaska. Water, estuary ecosystems, and trout/salmon are very close to my heart. There used to be wild Atlantic Salmon and anadromous trout runs in every stream and river here in northern NY and the northeast. Now extirpated, or significantly diminished if we count Maine and Eastern Canada. What we have now is very artificial...and with the climate crisis on top of that.

Of course the same is happening in Oregon, Washington, B.C., and Alaska. Even the Alaskan, last remaining sustainable, salmon fishery is becoming severely diminished. Washington State removed two dams on the Elwha River and the results are very promising. There is a small movement to free the Snake and Skagit rivers too, but there is an immense amount of opposition. I worry about when all of the glaciers melt from the coastal range out there. Everyone can see that happening in front of their eyes, yet little changes. The water may become too warm anyway.

So I'm for protecting everything possible, and erring on the side of more protection. More wilderness with larger buffers-curbing pollution, etc. At the end of the day, it is difficult to have much hope.
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Old 09-24-2021, 06:00 PM   #16
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"My guess is we're actually reaching our saturation point of public land - I doubt we'll go over 50/50 public private."

It's hard to get accurate numbers; everyone wants to play with the numbers to support their cause. But right now, there is (roughly) 2.9M acres of state land, and (roughly) 0.8M acres of easement land. So we are already over 50/50.
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Old 09-24-2021, 06:44 PM   #17
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"My guess is we're actually reaching our saturation point of public land - I doubt we'll go over 50/50 public private."

It's hard to get accurate numbers; everyone wants to play with the numbers to support their cause. But right now, there is (roughly) 2.9M acres of state land, and (roughly) 0.8M acres of easement land. So we are already over 50/50.
I see where you're going in terms of tax revenue, but easements are still privately held. By my count we're just under 50%.

My hope for the future was acquiring wilderness inholdings, but I'm not so sure that's really all that important.

I'm not really sure where that 50/50 in my head comes from, perhaps just some political nonsense that I think will make everyone feel warm and fuzzy. I'd of course like more public - easements aren't forest preserve (and water, mineral, and wildlife preserve - we get all those too), so even though we're paying for them, we don't get the same level protection or access. We get some vague lack of development but some easements are working forest, so by no means is it the same value as FP.
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Old 09-24-2021, 07:52 PM   #18
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So I'm for protecting everything possible, and erring on the side of more protection. More wilderness with larger buffers-curbing pollution, etc. At the end of the day, it is difficult to have much hope.
It's been shown that our forests absorb a lot of pollution that would otherwise enter the water, not to mention the amount of carbon they store and lock - far more than Boreal forest per acre.



A silly aside but the coolest exhibit at the Montreal Biodome was the St. Lawrence estuarium. I really want to visit that part of the world some day.
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