The Adirondack Park Agency (APA) is taking up the issue of formal classification of the first phase of the 65,000 acres of new Forest Preserve lands in the process of being purchased by the State of New York from The Nature Conservancy (TNC). Governor Andrew Cuomo announced this historic purchase last summer. Lands will be purchased over the next four years. These are lands formerly owned by Finch Paper in Glens Falls. Last December, the state bought the first parcel of 22,000 acres surrounding the Essex Chain Lakes and lands including 7 miles of the Hudson River and 5 miles of the Cedar River. The state will shortly complete the purchases for lands at the confluence of the Indian and Hudson rivers as well as the inholding around OK Slip Pond.
This historic purchase provides a tremendous opportunity to create a new Hudson Headwaters Wilderness Area. This new 40,000-acre Wilderness Area (see map on front) should be fully evaluated as part of the APA’s formal Forest Preserve classification process now underway. We need to show the strong support for Wilderness across New York and beyond for this exciting proposal.
Local government leaders and others are calling for motorized uses, including floatplanes, on the Essex Chain Lakes and access for motor vehicles on the roads around the lakes. As part of the state's acquisition, floatplane access was guaranteed on 1st Lake and Pine Lake. There should no additional floatplane access to the other lakes, but they should be managed as Wilderness. Floatplane use will undermine the core values of the Essex Chain. The Essex Chain should be managed like other wilderness destinations such as Little Tupper Lake, Round Lake and Lake Lila.
The Hudson Headwaters Wilderness is a balanced and appropriate proposal. Of the 160,000 acres of former Finch Paper lands were purchased by The Nature Conservancy, 95,000 acres were sold as conservation easements, where logging will continue in perpetuity. Of the 65,000 acres being sold to New York State for Forest Preserve, the DEC is recommending that 60% be classified as Wild Forest and opened to a variety of motorized uses.
In recent years, land protection by the State of New York has been overwhelmingly conservation easements. New Forest Preserve, such as the 22,000-acre Lyon Mountain tract in Clinton County, have been classified as Wild Forest. Today, there's 1.3 million acres of Forest Preserve classified as Wild Forest, Intensive Use or Historic -- classifications that allow a wide variety of motorized uses. There's 100,000 acres less of motorless Forest Preserve areas as 1.2 million acres are classified as Wilderness, Primitive and Canoe areas.
The creation of a new Hudson Headwaters Wilderness Area will help to bring a better balance to state management of the "forever wild" Forest Preserve.
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