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APA Holds Off On Essex Chain Classification

Adirondack Almanack
November 5, 2013

by Phil Brown

When the Adirondack Park Agency board meets next week, it will not be voting on a question that has been the subject of public controversy for months: the classification of 21,200 acres of former Finch, Pruyn & Company lands.

"There will be no action on Finch at this month’s meeting," APA spokesman Keith McKeever told Adirondack Almanack.

McKeever said the agency’s staff is still reviewing comments from public hearings held in June and July and analyzing various classification options. Eventually, the staff will present the board with a recommendation.

"It’s a very time-consuming process," he said. "It needs to be done right, so we’re taking the time to get it right."

The APA’s decision, if approved by the governor, will determine the type of recreation allowed on the former Finch lands, which include the Essex Chain Lakes and the Hudson Gorge. Most of the debate is focused on the Essex Chain.

Environmental groups want most of the property, including the Essex Chain, to be classified as Wilderness, a designation that would preclude motorized use as well as mountain biking. Local officials favor a Wild Forest classification, which would give the state the option of allowing the use of snowmobiles, floatplanes, automobiles, and bicycles.

The state bought the Finch lands from the Nature Conservancy in the past year. They are now part of the forever-wild Forest Preserve. In addition to the former Finch lands, the APA board will be voting to reclassify up to 24,200 acres of adjacent Forest Preserve. In all, the board will be classifying or reclassifying 40,670 to 45,370 acres.

Adirondack Council spokesman John Sheehan said he is not concerned about the delay in a decision. "It’s an important decision, and we want them to be careful about it," he said.

McKeever said it’s possible that the staff will have a recommendation in time for the APA’s meeting in December. If that happens, the board could vote in December or request another month to consider the recommendation.

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