Gov. Andrew Cuomo has just announced finalization of a long-awaited purchase and then land classification of a tract of former timberland in the Adirondacks.
Following a compromise, 11,412 acres of land around Boreas Ponds, which is near the town of Newcomb, will be designated as wilderness, with another 9,118 acres being wild forest, which is a bit less restrictive.
Here are the details:
Governor Andrew M. Cuomo today approved State Land classifications recommended by the Adirondack Park Agency for State Lands inside the Adirondack Park. Classifications were approved for land in all twelve Adirondack Park counties including the final tract of the historic Finch Pruyn & Company land deal – the 20,543 acre Boreas Ponds tract. The Boreas Ponds action completes the State’s unprecedented, multi-year land deal with The Nature Conservancy. Under the leadership of Governor Cuomo, 65,000 acres of globally significant forests were acquired for inclusion into the Adirondack Forest Preserve. This marked the largest Forest Preserve addition in the history of the Adirondack Park.
“The Adirondack Park is a national treasure, and the acquisition of the Boreas Ponds tract is a landmark expansion to conserve the region’s natural beauty and create new economic opportunities for communities in the Park,” Governor Cuomo said. “On behalf of all New Yorkers, I am proud to approve this classification package that strikes the right balance between preservation and access, and I encourage visitors from around the world to explore and enjoy the Adirondack Park.”
Adirondack Park Agency Chairman Sherman Craig said, “The Boreas Ponds classification is a generational opportunity to harmonize wilderness solitude, backcountry recreation and appropriate public access in an exceptionally beautiful location. Our action prioritized natural resource protection and ensures people of all abilities and interests may experience the sense of wonder and discovery which are the defining characteristics of the Adirondack Park. We respectfully extend our utmost appreciation to Governor Cuomo for his efforts to secure this historic acquisition. The Finch transaction, in its entirety, reflects a careful and thoughtful balance of many different points of view.”
Department of Environmental Commissioner Basil Seggos said, “DEC is proud to finalize this amazing addition of one of the most iconic landscapes in New York to the Adirondack Forest Preserve. I applaud Governor Cuomo for his continued leadership in sustaining our natural resources and look forward to working with neighboring communities and other partners to carefully and responsibly protect this vital habitat and ensure that all visitors can enjoy its breathtaking views and outstanding recreational opportunities.”
Adirondack Park Agency Executive Director Terry Martino said, “Governor Andrew Cuomo’s approval, of this Adirondack Park State Land classification package, represents significant protection for critical natural resources while balancing opportunities for outdoor recreation within the Adirondack Park. This is truly a monumental achievement and is testament to the Governor’s commitment to the Adirondack Park.”
The Boreas Ponds parcel is located in the Towns of Newcomb and North Hudson in Essex County. The centerpiece of the tract is the Boreas Ponds. Other outstanding natural features include seven unspoiled waterbodies, 27 miles of pristine streams and the State’s largest high elevation peatland – the 1,200 acre Marcy Swamp. There are three named peaks over 2,000 feet: Boreas Mountain (3,776 feet), Moose Mountain (2,700 feet), and Ragged Mountain (2,677 feet). The tract includes a vast diversity of low and high elevation habitats that support an exceptional array of plants and animals including boreal habitats which are critical to several species of northern birds at the southern extent of their range.
Through the Governor’s action 11,412 acres of Wilderness, 9,118 acres of Wild Forest, 11 acres of Primitive and two acres of State Administrative lands were established in the Boreas Ponds Tract.
The newly classified wilderness lands are now part of the High Peaks Wilderness Area, which abuts the Boreas Ponds tract to the north. This creates a contiguous wilderness zone in the heart of the Adirondack Park that rivals in size national parks such as Rocky Mountain National Park, Mount Rainier National Park and Zion National Park. The public gains a new remote paddling experience and a new southern access point into the High Peaks Wilderness Area. This will enhance the Park’s appeal across the United States, as well as internationally.
The 9,118-acre Wild Forest area includes lands 500 feet north of Gulf Brook and Boreas Ponds Roads, the roads themselves, and the land south of the roads. This area extends east to Elk Lake Road, encompassing Gulf Brook, Ragged Mountain, The Branch River and a beautiful section of the Boreas River. These lands are now part of the Vanderwhacker Mountain Wild Forest. Through the Department of Environmental Conservation’s Unit Management Plan process new recreational opportunities such as camping along Gulf Brook Road, hunting, fishing and new mountain bike, skiing and snowmobile trails may be created on these Wild Forest lands.
The Primitive Area and Wild Forest Corridor will allow the Department of Environmental Conservation to reach and maintain the dam on the southern end of the Boreas Ponds.
Boreas Ponds is the largest of 25 parcels The Nature Conservancy conveyed to New York State between 2012 and 2016 as part of a large scale conservation project. The full 161,000-acre project, undertaken with extensive consultation with local communities and stakeholders, protects more than 415 miles of rivers and streams, 300 lakes and ponds, 90 mountains, and 15,000 acres of wetlands, includes the following:
• 95,000 acres of working forests protected through conservation easements that allow sustainable timber harvest, private hunt club leasing and limited public recreation, including dozens of miles of snowmobile trails;
• 65,000 acres added to the Adirondack Forest Preserve (protected as Forever Wild under the State constitution), including gems like OK Slip Falls, Blue Ledges, Essex Chain of Lakes, and, the crown jewel, Boreas Ponds;
• 1,000 acres dedicated for community enhancement projects in local communities.
With the Boreas Ponds tract, in today’s action the Governor has approved 100 State land classifications totaling more than 50,000 acres since 2011. This has resulted in the establishment of 26,182 acres of Wilderness, 26,698 acres of Wild Forest, 32 acres of Primitive, 111 acres of State Administrative, 75 acres of Intensive Use and 2.5 acres of Historic.
Highlights of Other Approved State Land Classification Action
The MacIntyre West Tract is located in the Town of Newcomb, Essex County. The total area involved is 7,368 acres. The MacIntyre West Tract abuts the High Peaks Wilderness Area. It was classified as Wilderness (7,365 acres) and added to the High Peaks Wilderness Area. A right-of-way mapped as Boulder Alley Road loops through the southern portion of the MacIntyre West Tract and was classified as Primitive (3 acres) and added to a new area named the MacIntyre Primitive Area.
The MacIntyre East Tract is located in the Towns of Newcomb and North Hudson, Essex County. The total area involved is 6,254 acres. Sections of the MacIntyre East tract abut the High Peaks Wilderness Area. A northern section of the tract was classified as Wilderness (4,447 acres) and added to the High Peaks Wilderness Area. A right-of-way runs through a portion of the tract and was classified as a Primitive Area (8 acres). South of LeClaire Brook was classified as Wild Forest (1,799 acres) and added to the Vanderwhacker Mountain Wild Forest Area.
The Benson Road Tract is located in the Towns of Benson and Mayfield, Hamilton and Fulton Counties. The total area involved is 3,896 acres. The Benson Road (aka Tomantown) tract is bordered on the north and south sides by lands classified as Wild Forest. The entire tract was classified as Wild Forest and added to the Shaker Mountain Wild Forest Area.
The Topknot Mountain Tract is located in the Town of Dannemora, Clinton County. The total area involved is 291 acres. This tract abuts existing Forest Preserve Land in the Chazy Highlands Wild Forest. It was classified as Wild Forest (291 acres).
The Peninsula Trails tract is located in the Town of North Elba, Essex County. The total area involved is approximately 44 acres. The tract abuts existing Forest Preserve land in the Saranac Lakes Wild Forest and was classified as Wild Forest and added to the Saranac Lakes Wild Forest Area.
Detailed maps and the Final Environmental Impact Statement describing the approved action are available at the Adirondack Park Agency’s website at www.apa.ny.gov.