Press Releases

BeWildNY Coalition Praises Boreas Ponds Classification, 25,000 Acres of New Wilderness Added to High Peaks Area

For more information:
Willie C. Janeway, Adirondack Council, 518-441-7665 (cell); 518-873-2240 x 107 (ofc)
Neil F. Woodworth, Adirondack Mountain Club, 518-669-0128 (cell)

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE, Tuesday, March 20, 2018

NEWCOMB, N.Y. – A coalition of regional and national conservation organizations and supporters today praised New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s decision to classify a large portion of the recently acquired Boreas Ponds tract as motor-free wilderness, while also classifying other new state lands to facilitate an expansion of the High Peaks Wilderness Area to nearly 275,000 acres.

The expansion would make the High Peaks Wilderness Area the fourth largest east of the Mississippi River, behind only the Boundary Waters Canoe Area of Minnesota (1.09 million acres) and the Marjorie Stoneman Douglas Wilderness (1.3 million acres) in Florida’s Everglades National Park.  The new wilderness would be slightly larger than Rocky Mountain National Park in Colorado and twice the size of Zion National Park in Utah.

“This classification package brings 25,000 acres of new wilderness to the Adirondacks at a time when overcrowding is harming the ecology of the park’s most fragile lands.  So the expansion is very welcome,” said William C. Janeway, Executive Director of the Adirondack Council.  “The State’s compromise package balances the desires expressed by wilderness advocates with those of local officials who wanted greater motorized access to new Forest Preserve lands.”

At Boreas Ponds, for example, the BeWildNY coalition and other wilderness advocates wanted a larger wilderness buffer between the ponds and the last parking lot.

“We applaud the Governor for including the Boreas Ponds in a 25,000 acre expansion of the High Peaks Wilderness area and expect the state to follow through on its commitment to protect Boreas Ponds from invasive species and crowding by restricting  access for lands south of the ponds by cars, trucks and snowmobiles,” said Adirondack Mountain Club Executive Director Neil Woodworth.  “Motorized vehicles should not reach the ponds or be close enough to disturb wildlife or harm water quality.”

“We thank our coalition’s supporters, who turned out by the thousands to comment on these classification proposals, as well as the editors of the 12 upstate daily newspapers who endorsed the BeWildNY Coalition proposal for wilderness at Boreas Ponds including a one mile buffer,” said Peter Iwanowicz, Executive Director of Environmental Advocates of New York.  “Editorial writers recognized how valuable and rare this opportunity is.  It will be our gift to future generations.”

The BeWildNY Coalition said the NYS Dept. of Environmental Conservation has offered assurances that it will adopt “graduated access” to Boreas Ponds, in which parking for the general public would remain in its current location 3.5 miles away from the ponds.  People with canoes and kayaks could bring them closer to the Boreas River, near LaBier Flow, a mile or so south of the ponds.  A ranger at LaBier Flow would operate a gate to allow persons with disabilities to access a final six-car lot about 530 feet from the outflow dam to the ponds.  There would be no automobiles allowed beyond that point.  Roadside parking would be banned (with some exceptions for big game hunting season).

The next step will be to consolidate the High Peaks Wilderness Area with the now-adjacent Dix Mountain Wilderness Area, and to develop a solid management plan for the entire landscape. Once completed, the consolidation will allow the Governor to expand the High Peaks Wilderness Area from less than 193,000 acres to more than 273,000 acres.

“Combined with a new visitors’ center at Ext 29 of the Adirondack Northway, this expansion of the High Peaks Wilderness will take pressure off of the overcrowded trails that start in Keene, Keene Valley and North Elba,” said Richard Schrader, New York Political and Legislative Director, the Natural Resources Defense Council.  “The expanded High Peaks Wilderness Area would start across the highway from Exit 29.  The entrance to Boreas Ponds is just 20 minutes away, down the Blue Ridge Road.”

"In addition to the environmental benefits, the expanded wilderness will bring significant economic rewards to Adirondack towns and villages,” said Marcia Bystryn, Executive Director of the League of Conservation Voters.  “A recent study by the Clarkson University School of Business found that wilderness lands bring a significant premium to their host communities.  Over the past decade, people paid much more for real estate inside the Adirondack Park than for similar real estate outside of the park.  Inside the park, buyers paid 25 percent more to be near wilderness areas than other places, where snowmobiles and jeeps are welcome.”

“Birds that are sensitive to human disturbance and habitat fragmentation will benefit from the wilderness classification of the northern part of the Boreas Ponds tract,” said Michael Burger, Director of Conservation and Science for Audubon New York.  “Minimizing roads and motor vehicle traffic will also help prevent the spread of invasive species that can degrade habitat quality over time.”

The BeWildNY Coalition formed in November of 2015 in an effort to guide the state’s decision on the classification of Boreas Ponds and more than 50 other parcels of state Forest Preserve that had been acquired but not yet classified. 

The groups organized members and other wilderness supporters to attend public hearings and file written comments with the Adirondack Park Agency (APA).  Supporters often wore green “I Want Wilderness” T-shirt to show their support at the hearings, whether they spoke or not.

The groups also produced a short video showing why the Boreas Ponds tract should be protected from cars, trucks, snowmobiles and other vehicles.  The three-minute video is narrated by actress Sigourney Weaver.  The music soundtrack was composed by Michael Bacon. An accomplished composer for television and film, Michael and his actor brother Kevin also perform as The Bacon Brothers and have donated their time and music to the Adirondack Council for a series of public service announcements on acid rain, climate change, forest health, clean water and the Adirondack Park as a national treasure.  The Bacons and Weaver own homes in the Adirondack Park and have been coming to the park since they were children.

The coalition also engaged in a radio, print and digital media advertising campaign to bring attention to the need for wilderness expansion in the Adirondack Park.  The Adirondack Council also hired canvassers to discuss the issue with park visitors on summer days.

Overall, the effort led to a record number of comments for a single project (Boreas Ponds) and public demands for a 30,000-acre addition to the High Peaks Wilderness.

“The coalition thanks all of our partners, including Citizens Campaign for the Environment, for their support and hard work during the classification effort,” said Adirondack Council Director of Government Relations Kevin Chlad.

The Adirondack Park is a six-million-acre mix of public and private lands. Almost half of the park is public Forest Preserve, protected by the NYS Constitution’s “forever wild” clause.  About one-sixth of the Forest Preserve is further protected as wilderness areas, where motors and mechanized travel are banned.  The park’s private lands consist of commercial timberlands, resorts, lands devoted to outdoor recreation and130 small communities.

Total wilderness acreage in the Adirondack Park’s 21 wilderness areas now exceeds 1.17 million acres.  Including the Catskill Park’s four wilderness areas, New York’s total wilderness acreage is roughly 1,288,000.  Only Florida has more wilderness in the East, at 1.4 million acres.  Michigan is third at 278,000 acres statewide.  New Hampshire is fourth with 195,000 acres.

For more information: www.BeWildNY.org.

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