Adirondack Wilderness Advocates Issues Boreas Analysis

Headwaters of the Boreas River. Photo by Phil Brown.

Adirondack Wilderness Advocates has sent the Adirondack Park Agency a detailed paper, replete with photos, maps, and charts, arguing for a Wilderness classification for nearly all of the 20,758-acre Boreas Ponds Tract.

The 46-page document also contains recommendations for several other lands recently added to the public Forest Preserve.

The first half of the document is devoted to the Boreas Ponds Tract, the most controversial and largest of the classification decisions facing the APA.

Adirondack Wilderness Advocates was formed last year by Bill Ingersoll, Brendan Wiltse, and Pete Nelson to counter classification proposals from environmental groups that they say fail to adequately protect the tract’s natural resources.

AWA calls for closing in their entirety old logging roads that lead to Boreas Ponds, leaving the lion’s share of the tract motor-free Wilderness. A corner of the tract near Ragged Mountain and the Branch River would be classified Wild Forest, which would allow some motorized access. Under this scenario, visitors would have to hike (or ski) 6.8 miles to reach Boreas Ponds.

BeWildNY, a coalition of environmental groups, supports a proposal that would allow the public to drive to within a mile of Boreas Ponds. The same would be true under proposals supported by Protect the Adirondacks and the Adirondack chapter of the Nature Conservancy.

Meanwhile, the Adirondack Park Agency drafted four classification proposals for the tract, none of which mirrorsof the proposals of the environmental groups. Under three of them, the public could, in theory, be allowed to drive all the way to the ponds. Under the fourth, only authorized officials could drive to the ponds (to maintain a dam).

AWA accuses the APA of failing to fully analyze the environmental impacts of its alternatives or to consider other alternatives, such as an all-Wilderness option, that would be more protective of natural resources.

“The APA has presented the public four classification proposals for the Boreas Ponds Tract that range from bad to unacceptable,” AWA’s report says. “All four do include some token amount of Wilderness, but none imagine the place as a wild landscape, solitary and secluded.”

The group contends that allowing the public to drive or snowmobile all or most of the way to the ponds will lead to overuse, the introduction of exotic species, including bait fish, and noise that will diminish the tract’s sense of remoteness. Among the report’s many illustrations is a map showing that Boreas Ponds is one of the few areas in the Park lying more than three miles from public highways.

“We also assert that no other property in the Adirondack Park will ever likely be acquired with the same intangible qualities of remoteness as the Boreas Ponds Tract,” the report says. Opening the tract to motorized use, it continues, “would be an inexcusable failure on the part of the current generation of wilderness stewards.”

If the public is allowed motorized access, AWA warns that that Boreas Ponds could become a staging area for treks into the High Peaks Wilderness, leading to overuse and destruction of natural resources. It notes that an existing unmaintained trail from Boreas Ponds would provide a shortcut to Panther Gorge and Mount Marcy. “A parking area that is located close to the ponds will also be located close to Mount Marcy, with all of the highly predictable impacts that will cause.”

AWA also warns that hikers would likely create a herd path to Allen Mountain. Allen is now one of the remotest of the High Peaks, but it is only a few miles from Boreas Ponds.

The APA held hearings on the Boreas Ponds classification in November and December. The staff is now reviewing hundreds of public comments. The agency will vote on the classification later this year.

The AWA report can be read in its entirety by clicking the link below.

AWA Official Comments


About Phil Brown

Phil Brown edited the Adirondack Explorer from 1999 until his retirement in 2018. He continues to explore the park and to write for the publication and website.

Reader Interactions


  1. Tyler Socash says

    Closer parking lots and penetrating in-roads usher in the noise, pollution, and the crowdedness that we sought to escape when entering the woods in the first place. With so few remote places remaining in the northeast, Boreas Ponds could be the last magnificent wilderness edition to the Forest Preserve. It’s an opportunity to accentuate what makes the Adirondacks more attractive than neighboring parks – its wildness.

  2. James Bullard says

    One of the reasons given for purchase of the property was to have a Southern access point for the High Peaks in order to relieve some of the pressure on the Northern approaches. Personally, I thought some of the proposals associated with that were overblown but the idea of declaring it all wilderness and shutting most people out is going too far the other way.

  3. toofargone says

    Arguably one of the most, if not the most, beautiful spot in the Adirondacks. Without the road, many people would be denied access and the opportunity to experience this treasure. The road has not ruined it and never will. The issue here is the wilderness groups that want to keep people out, because with the current access, less than a mile over a stone hardened road separates the ponds from the parking area, close enough for paddlers and even cripples to have a go at it. Imagine that, all kinds of people who want to come and experience the magnificent beauty of the Adirondack wilderness, and a group of people who can’t handle that and want to hog it all up.

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