Press Releases

Governor Approves Plan for New Wilderness & Motor-Free Area to Protect Central Adirondack Water & Forests


Towns & Nature Win with New Access, Expanded Recreation
and Resource Protection Plan

For more information:
John F. Sheehan 518-432-1770 (ofc); 518-441-1340 (cell)               

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE, Friday, February 07, 2014

ALBANY, N.Y. – Gov. Andrew Cuomo today established two large motor-free areas on recently purchased public lands in the center of the state’s six-million-acre Adirondack Park.

The lands are part of the “forever wild” Forest Preserve, located in Essex and Hamilton counties, including parts of Indian Lake, Minerva and Newcomb.  They are among the most biologically rich and ecologically sensitive lands and waters ever added to the Adirondack Park’s public holdings.

One of the motor-free areas would be composed of approximately 10,000 acres surrounding and including the Essex Chain of Lakes.  It was recently purchased from The Nature Conservancy, which bought it from papermaker Finch, Pruyn & Co. of Glens Falls in 2007.  The other would protect the Hudson River Gorge with a new 23,000-acre Wilderness Area.  The new Wilderness also includes the Indian River tract and OK Slip Falls parcels that were purchased from Finch by the Nature Conservancy.

“The Adirondack Council supports this plan, which protects in perpetuity 33,000 acres of New York’s most ecologically sensitive lands and waters,” said Adirondack Council Executive Director William C. Janeway.  “This will protect the wild forest character and ecological integrity of the Adirondacks by keeping these lands and waters free from the pollution and the invasive species that motorized recreation would bring.  It also ensures that the five surrounding towns can forever enjoy the economic benefits of these waters and lands.  And, it provides a link to other adjoining Forest Preserve and private conservation easements lands.”

“We applaud the Governor’s decision to establish both a 10,000-acre-plus motor-free Essex Chain of Lakes and the largest new wilderness area in 30 years, centered on the Hudson Gorge,” said Janeway. “Some of these waters and lands are being opened for public recreation for the first time in over 120 years. 

“This classification proposal provides for a motor-free paddling and canoe camping experience, providing a beautiful alternative to the St. Regis Canoe Area. This is good for everyone,” he said.

Janeway noted that the plan is identical to the formal recommendation made in early December by the Adirondack Park Agency (APA).  The Council and others were disappointed that the APA recommended a corridor between the two motor-free areas where a snowmobile trail could be established.  The Council and other environmental organizations had wanted the state to combine both areas into a single Wilderness Area. 

However, the Council said the Governor’s plan balances competing interests.

“The route chosen for a new snowmobile trail was selected based on conservation science,” Janeway noted.  “The route largely follows existing gravel roads.  It traverses upland, hardwood forests rather than wetlands.  It is well away from the Essex Lakes and most of the route is a mile or so from the Hudson River.”

“We had strongly advocated for a 38,000-acre Wilderness designation, believing it would have been better for these sensitive waters and forests, and better for the rural communities that surround them,” he explained.  “However, we also understand and respect that Governor Cuomo’s commitment to balancing the needs of multiple stakeholders and making New York Government work, producing positive results for the people of the State.”

Janeway added: “The creation of two large, new quiet paddling motor-free areas is good for the most sensitive waters and wildlife habitat.  Plus, a classification that permits a snowmobile trail that can only be used in the winter and will not be open for ATVs, provides what local town officials say they need to sustain their economies,” Janeway said.  “This is a new way for Government to work in New York, with benefits for the environment and for Adirondack communities.”

On the Essex Chain and Hudson Gorge, automobile access would be allowed up to the edges of the new motor-free areas, but not inside.  The plan also includes a single road from the north into a lake in the Essex Chain, only for those with a handicapped-access permit.  Float planes will be allowed on First Lake and Pine Lake, via a previous agreement between the towns and The Nature Conservancy.

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