Conservation Archive


January 1, 2018

David Katz

How do you balance people’s desire to experience nature with nature’s desire to be left alone? The national parks constantly have to deal with this question. Closer to home, DEC has to wrestle with a dramatically increasing number of hikers in the High Peaks. With the North Country’s smaller populations, finding this balance might seem to be less of an issue here. But lower people-pressure does not exempt the wild areas in the northwestern Adirondacks from this challenge.

In Summer 2016, DEC solicited comments about the “Draft Amendment to the Kildare Recreation Management Plan of the 2006 Raquette Boreal Unit Management Plan and the Five Mile Interim Recreation Management Plan”. These lands lie east of Carry Falls Reservoir. In plainer English, the proposal, if adopted, will allow motorized use of logging roads on the easement lands and facilitate non-motorized use of both easement and forest-preserve lands. Because it’s hard to get there, these lands do not now see much human traffic. Does the Laurentian Chapter want to encourage more human use of these lands?

On the one hand, the ecosystems can probably accept more human presence without much suffering. On the other hand, rare and endangered species such as the spruce grouse live here, and there isn’t much research into how such populations will be affected. On the other other hand, even with motorized access, human traffic away from the motor vehicle corridors will probably still be light, and we want to encourage hikers, bird-watchers, and other visitors to the woods to view it as “their” woods so they will look out for the ongoing health of the woods. On another hand, won’t this just lead to yet more people visiting the woods, until we love it to death? On yet another hand, when the original management plan was adopted 15 years ago, motorized access was promised and construction funds were allocated.

The Draft Amendment does not adequately address a few questions, such as: How will illegal motor vehicle use be controlled? Exactly where do endangered plants and animals live and how will they be protected? How will damage to adjoining forest-preserve lands be prevented? Last month we submitted comments offering cautious support to the plan, but requested that these questions be addressed before the final plan is adopted and implemented. DEC’s decision is expected in 2018.