Conservation Archive gene

Conservation Report

October - December, 2005

Gene Kaczka

Thanks are in order to everyone who attended hearings and wrote letters to the Adirondack Park Agency (APA) regarding the classification of lands pertaining to the Raquette Boreal Wild Forest and to the DEC regarding policy for ATV use in the Adirondack and Catskill Forest Preserves. The Draft Policy released by the DEC bans most all-terrain vehicle (ATV) use on the Adirondack and Catskill Forest Preserves. However, the policy provides ATV’s access to certain lands under the DEC’s jurisdiction provided that they conform to state laws, rules, regulations and state land plans for the Adirondacks and the Catskills. While few areas in the Forest Preserve are accessible, more than 400,000 acres of conservation easement lands are being considered for ATV use.

The Adirondack Mountain Club has submitted detailed comments on the DEC’s Draft Policy and their position is nicely summarized on page 6 of the September/October 2005 issue of the ADIRONDAC. Chapter member, Neal Burdick’s editorial in the same issue poses some tough questions to the ATV community and is worthwhile reading.

The APA has proposed new classifications for almost 74,000 acres of public lands which could provide some access to snow-mobiles and ATV’s. If approved by Governor Pataki about 39,000 acres would be designated as primitive or wilderness while 32,000 as wild forest where some motorized recreation can be allowed. Approval would appear to remove the barrier to finalizing arrangements for the state to pay International Paper $25 million for conservation easements on 257,425 acres of wilderness. Of immediate local interest, about 10,000 acres of the Raquette Boreal Wild Forest would be classified as primitive, while 3,200 acres in Colton would receive a wild forest designation where motorized vehicles would be allowed. St Lawrence County officials argue that a trails network on these lands would attract tourism business.

The plans still require specific approval from the DEC. In addition, local officials with the support of several snow-mobile and ATV clubs are seeking permission to build a multi-use bridge over the Carry Falls Reservoir. There is concern that such a bridge would carry motorized traffic into the Boreal Wilderness. Low level forests such as this one are generally confined to the sub-artic regions of Canada and Siberia. The Jordan River Valley, where this rare forest exists, lies between the Carry Falls Reservoir and the West Branch of the St. Regis River and is without highways or communities. Even without easy access, ATV trail abuse has already been documented. There is real fear that the proposed bridge would almost certainly increase the volume of illegal traffic and lead to the certain destruction of the wildlife and plants that make the forest so unique. As John Sheehan, of the Adirondack Council, has opined “Unfortunately, the mossy carpet in the boreal forest is inviting to some one with an off road vehicle.”

On another matter, I’m happy to report that progress is being made on developing new signs for the Stone Valley Trails. The original signs, developed by former Laurentian Chapter member Brad van Diver, were predominantly located on the east side trail and identified points of historical and geologic interest. They were constructed of plywood and plastic covered paper and tacked to trees in appropriate locations. The weather and vandalism have combined to take a toll on the old signage. The Raquette River Advisory Council has appropriated a $1,000 for 10 signs to replace them. Sandy Hildreth is designing the replacements which will use Brad van Diver’s information and be placed in locations similar to the originals. The sign construction and appearance conform to the Red Sandstone Trail format. Mark Simon has scheduled a trail work weekend to install the signs on October 15th and16th. He’ll need all the help we can muster, so let’s show up in force to lend a hand.