Green Groups Applaud Boreas Ponds Plan

New York State has unveiled its long-awaited Boreas Ponds plan and it is being lauded by environmental groups. The plan recommends the Adirondack Park Agency (APA) staff classify most of the 20,543-acre Boreas Ponds Tract as motor-free Wilderness. Since Governor Cuomo announced his intention to purchase the land in November 2015, NYLCV and our partners, including the Adirondack Council and The Nature Conservancy, have been pushing for the highest level of protections for these new parts of the park. The campaign, known as BeWildNY, resulted in more than 30,000 people of all backgrounds and political affiliations writing the Governor in support of a Wilderness classification.

The agency’s staff considered five classification schemes. The preferred alternative, called 2B, would classify 11,412 acres as Wilderness, 9,118 acres as Wild Forest, and eleven acres as Primitive. It is expected that the Wilderness acres will be added to the High Peaks Wilderness. A wilderness designation is the highest level of protection allowed by state law. The APA board is expected to begin discussing the recommendation at its meeting next Thursday and vote on it the next day.

The move aims to continue the ongoing crusade to defend the Adirondack preserve, which is protected by the state of New York, but not the National Park Service. A wilderness designation means these lands have protection from logging, lease, sale, or development under the New York State Constitution. Currently, less than half of the Adirondack Park is public land, and thus not subject to these laws. The proposed classification scheme would unite a number of critical protected spots in the preserve, helping to maintain a diverse and healthy ecosystem.

This strong plan for protecting the park was made possible by the passage of a constitutional amendment to create an Adirondack Land Bank. The Land Bank makes it easier for the people who live in and around the park to attain critical infrastructure upgrades without having to put every chance to voters statewide. With the expansion of the park, this was an increasingly important consideration to maintain both the economic and environmental sustainability of the park and its residents. Environmentalists, having held up their end of the bargain by pushing for the Land Bank, are now seeing the move pay off in spades.

In response, Willy Janeway, Executive Director of the Adirondack Council, praised the move: “National, statewide and local environmental advocates for the Adirondacks support adding the Boreas Ponds to the High Peaks Wilderness Area to realize a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to create 280,000 acres of contiguous Wilderness. This plan gets us most of the way to that goal. We support Governor Cuomo’s goal to ‘leave (the Adirondack Park) even better than before for our children. A wilderness plan for the Boreas Ponds protects pure waters, wild rivers and rare fragile wildlife habitat for future generations as part of the adjacent High Peaks Wilderness Area, as long as the approach to the ponds is managed properly.”

While the end result looks to be a win for all sides, the process by which we got there should also be applauded. Ultimately, this represents a deal where environmentalists, elected officials, small towns and other stakeholders all came to the negotiating table and walked away happy. Others should learn from the success of this effort in future conservation efforts.