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Source: Press Republican

Editorial: Expand Wilderness to protect treasures

Posted: October 4, 2016
Originally Published: October 2, 2016

The Adirondack Council is expecting a fight, and we hope they win this one.

The council wants the state to expand the Wilderness designation to protect about two-thirds of the sensitive High Peaks land in the 20,500-acre Boreas tract.

Protection, in the council's view, means prohibiting motorized use in the most sensitive area while ensuring recreational access.

That doesn't mean communities near those tracts have to suffer; tourism can actually be enhanced by ensuring that some land remains pristine.

Adirondack Council Executive Director Willie Janeway talked about the attractiveness to many people of "walking that last mile, having that peace and quiet, seeing the stars."

In agreement is a coalition of groups that endorse the more moderate of three expected Adirondack Park Agency options. It would allow cars and mountain bikes on six of the seven miles of a road to Boreas Ponds, with parking far enough away to exclude motorboats. Wheelchair access would be available that final mile. The plan includes a snowmobile trail connecting the parcel with Newcomb and North Hudson.

Other supporters are Adirondack Wild, Adirondack Mountain Club, Audubon NY, Citizens Campaign for the Environment, Environmental Advocates of New York, New York League of Conservation Voters and the Wilderness Society.

It is important that everyone who wants to experience this beautiful piece of the Adirondacks has a chance to do so.

But ATVs increase the risk of invasive species being transported into an unblemished area. They also can generate disruption, both through the noise they create and their ability to go off road.

ATV groups will fight for full access, promising that riders will stick to the roads. But they can't guarantee that everyone motoring into the site will abide by their good intentions — trespass has been an issue along other trails over the years.

The Adirondack Park already has 800,000 acres available for motorized access, and riding opportunities on conservation land have expanded.

The balance between providing access and protecting the environment is achievable — if all sides agree that both are worthy goals.

Certainly the atmosphere among environmentalists, communities and recreation groups is far different than it was years ago. Stridency has been replaced with understanding and knowledge.

Where once most environmentalists would not budge in their opposition to any project that would encourage development, they now understand that people need to be able to live and work in the Adirondack Park and that its residents are homegrown stewards.

Where many recreation enthusiasts once thought the forests, mountains and rivers were there mainly for their entertainment, they now understand that preservation and protection are essential to continued enjoyment and that one of the premier selling points of this region is its unspoiled environment.

The Adirondack Council has seen the change and has, under the amiable Janeway, contributed to a willingness to compromise methods without compromising ideals.

"There is really an effort to find common ground," Janeway told the Press-Republican Editorial Board.

"There is still passion and different ideas, but people can disagree without being disagreeable."

We hope proponents of motorized use will agree that adding access in other areas while allowing Wilderness designation at Boreas is the best pathway — for the land and all the people who cherish it.