Director Archive

Director

January 1, 2019

Tom Ortmeyer
tortmeye@twcny.rr.com
315-265-8219

The State of New York has done an excellent job of adding new and important lands to the Adirondack forest preserve. I know many of us have enjoyed visiting these newly open areas as they became available to us over the past few decades—including both the Grass River and Raquette River watersheds in our area, as well as Little Tupper, Boreas Ponds, OK Slip Falls and the Hudson Gorge, Essex Chain of Lakes and others.

However, these additions to state owned lands and easement lands have not been accompanied by a corresponding increase in personnel to manage the resources. Statewide, NYSDEC lists 106 Full time Forest Rangers and 18 Seasonal Rangers to cover 4,944,361 acres in the state. Their responsibilities include wildfire management, search and rescue operations, in addition to protection of the state lands and resources. In 2017 alone, the Rangers performed 345 search, rescue or recovery missions. This compares to 274 of these missions in 2012 and 255 in 2008. By comparison, in 2008 there were 106 Forest Rangers and 31 Seasonal Rangers to cover 4,455,534 acres.

On May 23, the Police Benevolent Association of New York State Law Enforcement, the union that represents Forest Rangers, issued a press release stating concerns specific to the High Peaks area and the High Peaks Draft UMP that was under consideration at that time. While supporting the Draft amendments to this UMP, they also note impacts to the High Peaks Wilderness that may still need to be addressed beyond the implementation of this current management plan. In particular, they compare the 2012 and 2016 years. In 2012 in the High Peaks Ranger District, Rangers patrolled 2,636 interior miles on foot, issued 329 tickets and gave 16 public presentations. There were 62 search and rescue missions that year. In 2016, there were 98 search and rescue incidents, and the interior miles patrolled by the Rangers dropped to 1,834 miles, and they only made 2 public presentations. The release also notes the additional Ranger time spent on parking and trailhead issues were taking a larger portion of Ranger time in 2016. The release calls for additional Rangers in the High Peaks District, including Rangers staffing the Lake Colden and Johns Brook Outposts every weekend.

Clearly, there is a need for education on wilderness hiking for hikers as they expand their hiking capability. And there is a need for the trailhead measures that are being undertaken in the revised UMP. However, there is a strong case being made on the need for additional enforcement efforts in the backcountry of our wilderness, wild forest, and easement areas, in order to preserve the resource while providing safety for those enjoying these areas.