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Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Changes planned for Moose River Plains

Map of proposed land-classification changes in Moose River Plains.

Map of proposed land-classification changes in Moose River Plains.

The state Department of Environmental Conservation has two interesting proposals for the Moose River Plains. One should make local officials happy. The other should make environmentalists happy.

The Moose River Plains is now classified as Wild Forest. DEC wants to reclassify twenty miles of dirt road as an “Intensive Use Area,” a designation usually reserved for state campgrounds.

The department does not intend to create a full-out campground, with showers, bathrooms, paved roads, and other modern amenities, but it expects to maintain up to 150 roadside campsites with fireplaces or fire rings, picnic tables, and outhouses.

The Intensive Use classification will allow more campsites than would be permitted under the Wild Forest classification. Without the classification change, in fact, DEC would be forced to close many of the existing campsites in the Plains.

The department also wants to reclassify more than fifteen thousand acres in the Plains as Wilderness, where all motorized use would be banned. As part of this proposal, the Otter Brook Road and Indian Lake Road would be permanently closed to motor vehicles, according to DEC.

The new Wilderness tract includes Little Moose Mountain, one of the Adirondacks’ hundred highest peaks, and Little Moose Lake, a large water body at the base of the mountain. The tract would be added to the West Canada Lake Wilderness.

Last month DEC touched off a controversy when it announced it lacked the resources to open the roads in the Moose River Plains (they are closed in winter). DEC has since agreed to open most of the roads—with the exception of Otter Brook and Indian Lake roads.

Asked why DEC wanted to expand the Wilderness Area, spokesman Yancey Roy replied in an e-mail: “For the overall balance of actions proposed.”

DEC will discuss its plans at Thursday’s meeting of the Adirondack Park Agency, which must schedule public hearings on the proposals.

Phil Brown

Contributor Phil Brown was editor of the Adirondack Explorer from 1999-2018. When he isn't at his desk, he's usually out hiking, paddling, skiing, or doing something else important.

48 Responses

  1. Norm says:

    Keeping the road open to the Otter Brook bridge

    would allow easier access to some of the great campsites along this section of road.

    • I have a book of photos from the 1900’s of little moose lake and my family they went there every summer they had a summer home there. The architect that built what they called Brushwood Camp was Durant I also have a pic of him

      Dawn Cassidy
      480-217-5730

  2. Tom says:

    Just another case of the DEC catering to a the ADK types and locking up another parcel so it’s inaccessable to folks who cannot venture far from their vehicle like the older folks and folks with some disabilities.

    There are hundreds of hiking trails to all sorts of ponds, creeks, waterfalls, vistas with lean to’s etc that hikers can use. Why are they and the state always cut folks off from the woods who want to enjoy it in a different way than themselves.

    I say No, as in NO WAY in Hell do they lock up more behind gates.

  3. Paul says:

    Phil,

    As I understand the documents related to these changes that you can find at the APA website it appears that this proposal basically does three things:

    1. Reclassify 15,225 acres of Wild Forest as Wilderness.

    2. Reclassify 2925 acres from Wild Forest to Intensive use (that will be basically managed as wild forest according to the document)

    3. Reclassify 59 acres of Wilderness to Wild Forest.

    2. Close the 2 roads you have listed. AND

    3. Close 36 existing campsites in the area.

    This sounds to me like something that will only make what you call “environmentalists” happy.

    What am I missing? If this is supposed to be “balanced overall”, where is the balance that DEC spokesman is describing? Why over 15,000 acres of new Wilderness, 2 roads closed, and 36 campsites closed for switching a few thousand acres of Wild Forest to Intensive use that will be managed like a Wild Forest????

    Why will this make the “local officials” happy?

    • Phil says:

      Paul, the dense congregation of campsites in the Moose River Plains violates the State Land Master Plan. Rather than close campsites, DEC has chosen to reclassify most of the roads as Intensive Use, a category that is less restrictive than the current classification, Wild Forest. DEC plans to maintain up to 150 campsites, which I believe is more than exist now. Given the alternative, I think that’s good news for the towns.

      At the same time, DEC intends to close two subsidiary roads in the Plains. Other than that, there will be no change in motorized access.

      So both sides get something, both sides give something.

  4. Paul says:

    Sorry about my odd numbering, that is supposed to be 1-5.

  5. Paul says:

    Phil, If you are thinking of this as “sides giving or getting”, why is one ‘side” getting so much land reclassified as wilderness along with the road closures that would be required when the other side is getting a very disproportionate amount of land re-classified to something that is pretty much the same as what it is now. In fact if you are correct about more sites, it sounds like the campers are going to be more crowded in than they are now. Doesn’t this seem a bit “one sided” to you, it does to me.

    There is also no definitive actions listed in the documents presented by the DEC that indicates that any new sites are going to actually be designated. It does specifically list the action of REMOVING 36 sites now. Did I miss where they listed the action to designate new sites??

    You may be right about the local officials being happy, I guess we will have to wait and see. I don’t think I would be happy if I were in their shoes. But I am not, so they may like this idea.

  6. Phil says:

    Paul, DEC says in the proposed UMP amendment that it would maintain up to 150 campsites. If they are closing 36 sites, I presume they will create new ones.

    This is the first time DEC has used the Intensive Use classification for primitive campsites. They’re doing this to accommodate motorized use in the Plains–in deference to local communities and car campers. So, yes, the towns are getting something out of this.

    Apart from the closure of two subsidiary roads, the Wilderness classification won’t have much impact on existing use.

  7. Paul says:

    Phil, it still seems a bit unbalanced if you ask me. Yes, I would agree the “roads” are the major issue. That is why I see it as unbalanced. If some equivalent motorized access was being newly granted as part of the mix then I think there would be a balance. I think that it is safe to say that there is considerably more Wilderness opportunities (1 million acres plus another 15,000 with this) than there are road access Wild Forest parcels like this. I think this may be viewed as a bigger “loss” to some individuals than the Wilderness “gain” will be for others. Like you said with the exception of the roads once you get in the woods it won’t look much different than it does now. This Wilderness addition is like what a billionaire says he might do with 15,000 dollars he gets: “throw it on the pile I suppose”. The loss of these type of roads when they are so few and far between is a big deal to some people. With all the access lost due to easements and now things like this it seems like a constant chipping away at what many folks have counted on over the years and it really hurts. This type of action will continue to alienated the different factions up there. I think it is a mistake. But if the local community applauds this idea again then the right decision was made. If one side applauds and the other boos it down you know there wasn’t a balance.

  8. Phil says:

    Paul, there is more Wild Forest than Wilderness in the Park. How can you say easements restrict access? The opposite is true. Easements have opened vast amounts of land to the general public. Most of this land is crisscrossed by roads that are open to the public. So the public now has motorized access to hundreds of thousands of acres that it didn’t before.

  9. Paul says:

    Phil,

    On easements that is not really true, at least on the ones that I have experience with, look at the Champion easement lands as an example most of the roads have been blocked with boulders or gated by the state, take a ride up there tonight if you don’t believe me (bring the bug spray!). There are some roads that are now still open but the amount of new access is minimal. The clubs have been, or are, being evicted so even those folks will eventually not have road access. I don’t have a problem with it, it is the landowners prerogative to enter into any agreement he chooses but there is probably less motorized access on the whole on those parcels. The public can hike in there but it basically never happens so that aspect was really a waste of taxpayer money as far as recreational opportunities go. It did stop development though, I can’t argue that point.

    Yes, there is slightly more Wild Forest than Wildness, Primitive, or Canoe Areas, but does that mean that you should have a deal here where you add 5 times as much Wilderness to the mix as Wild Forest to Intensive use (plus the loss of the finite road access)? Again, seems unbalanced to me. Also, like I said it is really road access that is the issue. There are not many roads like the ones they are proposing to close.

    Also, yes there is slightly more wild forest, but it seems like they are starting to turn it into wilderness land, so that might not be true for long. With a very few tiny exceptions re-classifying Wilderness as Wild Forest is almost unheard of. Again is there a balance?

    Phil, what is the amount of road access mileage on Forest Preserve land that has been added added over the last 10 years? That gets to the heart of the matter. It’s got to be a negative number. There is no balance there for sure.

  10. Phil says:

    Paul, I haven’t studied this closely, but I believe many roads on easement lands are open or will be open to the public. That was certainly my impression after reviewing the plan for the Domtar lands a while ago. On Champion, you can now drive to Madawaska Flow–I think that’s about nine miles–among other places. Also, most of the hunt clubs will be allowed to remain on these lands. In addition, the lands are open to the general public for hunting and fishing, not just people who belong to clubs. Snowmobiles and in some cases ATVs are or will be allowed on easement lands.

  11. Paul says:

    Phil,

    On the easement land almost all roads with the exception of a few used to access fee parcels (Madawaska is one example, or that may be on state land the whole way?) are closed to the public, and will remain closed after hunting camps are removed. Even if the Champion camps are “saved”, as is now being proposed by the land owner, all the roads will remain permanently closed to the general public. Also, ATVs are banned from use even on roads within those easement lands. I don’t have a problem with ATV’s on solid roads, but this is the owners call.

    Are there many miles of roads open to the public on the Domtar land? I am not familiar with that land.

    If someone reading is familiar with what is currently going on on the Domtar land, fill us in.

  12. Paul says:

    Phil, I apologize I kind of got this discussion off on a tangent. I have thought about this some more and I think that possibly this idea is not too bad and I may have reacted without thinking this one through.

    What is the mileage of roads being closed? The DEC documents do not really list the road closure info. They should be open about that. It is an important issue to many folks.

    I actually think that there may be some negative effects of re-classifying the Wild Forest land as Intensive use. I think I might be more opposed to that idea than I am about the Wilderness reclassification. It sounds like folks coming here to camp are not really looking for a traditional “roadside” camping experience, but for something other than might be created by increasing the number and density of sites along the remaining roads.

  13. Paul says:

    The bottom line. If the local community sees a benefit to the road closure and re-classification then go for it. If they are opposed than I think the DEC should go back to the drawing board. This ASLMP has really proven to be fly in the ointment lately. Like with the Fire towers there always seems to be some conflict with the “plan” and they way things ALREADY ARE (or were when the drafted the plan). They didn’t have much foresight when they drafted that plan in the 70’s. I think that it was Brian Mann that had a good article in the Explorer that described even the “internal” dissatisfaction with that “plan” at the DEC.

    • Phil says:

      I need to make a correction in my original post. I was told the Otter Brook Road would close, but I spoke with a DEC official this morning who told me it will stay open. So the only road that will close will be the Indian Lake Road (aka as Indian River Road). By closing the road, DEC will make Indian Lake and Squaw Lake more attractive to floatplane operators. As far as the number of campsites … some motorized campsites will be eliminated as a result of this plan, but DEC plans to create new ones. At full buildout, the number of campsites will be equal to the number that exist today.

  14. Paul says:

    Phil,

    Thanks for the clarification. What is the mileage of the Indian Lake Road? It is hard to tell from the map. On the map it looks like there are several roads in that proposed wilderness parcel, but maybe they are already closed.

    So it sounds like the the number of sites will remain what they have now, but they will be at a higher density.

    Phil, where are Indian Lake and Squaw Lake? I don’t see them anywhere on this map that they have with the DEC documents. Anytime you propose an action that would further isolate lakes or ponds on Wild Forest land you will certainly make them more “attractive” for float plane operators so you can’t argue with that comment! Did they ask float plane operators for any input on this proposal?

    Could the existing number of sites, or maybe a few less allow for the area to conform to the SLMP? If that is the case, why not do that? You wouldn’t have to go through any of these public hearings or spend the staffs time and the state’s money on the issue?

    Anyway you look at it the addition of 15,000 acres plus the road closings, plus squeezing the campsites closer together seems like a very one sided proposal to me. I am back to where I was, this sounds like a bad idea.

  15. Paul says:

    Phil,

    I see Indian Lake and Squaw Lake on Google Maps. So the Indian Lake road that will be closed by this action extends beyond the Wilderness parcel is that right?

    Help me out they don’t have any decent description in the DEC documents.

    Also, I carefully read the proposal and it goes like this (see page 31):

    An Intensive use area allows for 150 sites. The current number of sites in the area that will be reclassified as Intensive is 116. Even though with a re-classification you can accommodate 150 sites, for what they call “resource protection issues” they will still be CLOSING 33 despite the fact that they will be in the new Intensive use area. That will leave the number of sites on the reclassified land at 83. Then they go on to say that they will have a yearly monitoring program where they will then decide on site additions, or maybe even further site reductions??

    I don’t get this? They are reclassifying the area, closing the roads, and then despite the Intensive use designation, closing 33 sites, and for what appears to be the “heck of it” designating 15,000 acres of Wild Forest as Wilderness. What am I missing here, I must be looking at the wrong proposal?

  16. Phil says:

    Paul, I believe Indian Lake Road is four or fives miles long. It’s the only road that will close. DEC has wanted to close it for the reasons I mentioned in my post on Adirondack Almanack. It borders a Wilderness Area.It lies outside the 15,000 acres that DEC wants to reclassify as Wilderness.

    I don’t know if DEC has talked to the pilots. There’s a good chance it has, as the department has been working with the pilots to find other lakes on which planes could land.

    As far as the number of campsites, that is confusing. I talked with forester in charge today. He tells me that the region would end up with the same number it has today if DEC creates all the campsites authorized under this plan.

    DEC also intends to move some campsites away from the road to give people a better camping experience. Overall, sites will be less visible and the camping should be improved. You suggest in one of your posts that it would be worsened, but I don’t think that’s the case.

    As I have said, the current situation violates the SLMP, so something had to be done. The Intensive Use Area is less restrictive than Wild Forest. Not only does it permit more sites, but it allows fireplaces instead of fire rings. The idea is that the camping experience will be something in between a state campground and primitive backcountry.

    It seems to me that DEC has given this a lot of thought.

    Bottom line: the Moose River Plains unique camping experience will be preserved and perhaps enhanced and floatplane operators will get more business. The classification of the Wilderness Area will not affect current use. However, the closure of Indian Lake Road will cut off motorized access to some areas.

  17. Paul says:

    Phil, thanks again. So the Indian Lake road is not inside what would be part of the new Wilderness section? I assumed that it HAD to be closed because it fell within the wilderness area. That is why the closure is not mentioned in the draft UMP changes. Closing a road because it borders a wilderness area doesn’t really make that much sense. Many many wilderness areas specifically are delineated on one or more borders by a road.

    If you look at the draft plans you will see that there will be fewer sites after the changes and then yes there could be as many as 150 (so I think that is maybe more than now). That seems like it would be less appealing experience but maybe that is what is best for the area and what these users want. We will have a good idea if that is the case when the local communities weigh in. I still don’t see the justification for reclassification of 15,000 more acres of Wilderness. If you look at the history of the unit, described well in the plan, there has been a slow and steady decrease in Forest Preserve land and an increase in Wilderness land. This action is a very large addition of Wilderness land (this is large enough to be a separate wilderness if it stood alone, or it could be 2 if you wanted to violate the ASLMP like we did with the Jay Mt. Wilderness). Also, I imagine this road closure now will make it easier in the future to add yet additional land within the unit to the Wilderness designation.

  18. Phil says:

    Paul, DEC may someday designate the area just north of Indian Lake Road as Wilderness. It is not doing so now in part because it wants to allow floatplanes to land on Indian Lake, Squaw Lake, and Beaver Lake.

    Granted, roads sometimes serve as Wilderness borders. That is unavoidable. But it is better not to have a road as a Wilderness border.

    The area to be reclassified as Wilderness is quite rugged, with some pretty high peaks. That’s part of the reason DEC feels Wilderness is the appropriate designation.

    There may be something else at work here. In reclassifying the road from Wild Forest to Intensive Use, DEC is lessening the environmental protections of the corridor. This raises SEQRA issues. Under SEQRA, the state is not supposed to take actions that diminish environmental protection. Taken in isolation, the reclassification of the road seems to do that. But if you take the two proposals together–the Intensive Use and Wilderness classifications–you could argue that DEC is enhancing the environmental protection of the larger region. Thus, SEQRA is complied with.

    Btw, the Jay Wilderness does not violate the SLMP. Take another look at the plan.

  19. Mitch Lee says:

    Phil And Paul

    If you were to trace with a transparency paper on a map over the area Known as the Moose River Plains Recreation Area and its boundaries you will find that if you lay it over the High peaks region. You would Enter one end Inlet Limekiln Lake at Downtown Saranac Lake and exit the other end at Upper Jay, Having 150 sites to camp along a corridor that long is not “Density” in any way shape or form. Look at a map we are talking about a long corridao road. So the removal of 33 sites and replacement later to better areas to make way for erosion control or site set back to water or sensitive forest floor cover seems fair. On the whole I embrace the Intensive use “Tag” as it should have been approached during the 2006 UMP version. I would like to see a buffer of Wild forest between Wilderness and intensive use.

    I have read the plan and sent my thoughts on to Keith and Hope that we can move forward to put this to rest. Any movement of the Wilderness lines that limit current usage for all Eco tourists would be a tough sell to the Inlet community. But this recent proposal seems very fair. It allows Mountain bikes to the Little Indian, and Float Planes to Squaw Lake & Beaver Lake. If the intention is to move that line to cover those areas it would be met with stiff resistance.

  20. Paul says:

    Phil,

    I would just like to point out that the DEC spokespeople you are talking to are not being very accurate with their comments regarding this proposal. Either the comments are inaccurate, or the documents provided to the APA are inaccurate.

    Please take a look at the materials here:

    http://www.apa.state.ny.us/Mailing/2010/06/StateLand/MRPWF_Reclass_Action.pdf

    You said that the forester told you: “that the region would end up with the same number it has today if DEC creates all the campsites authorized under this plan.”

    I think if you look at the proposal you will see that there will be 33 less sites after initial implementation and then there could possibly be 34 more sites than now for a total of 150 if they build 67 more sites (including re-building 33 they are removing). So to accurately describe the plan the forester should be telling you that after the implementation of the plan there will be 33 fewer sites, and then they will put in place some kind of “monitoring plan” described in the UMP. Based on that they would add or even remove more sites if it were warranted.

    The quicker comment would be that there could be quite a few more sites in the future or maybe less depending on what happens. Given the budget issues I think any “build-out” would be quite a long ways down the road. So I think from the perspective of the towns in the area they can expect fewer campers for the foreseeable future. That could change in the future but that is an open question for now.

    I am not for or against this idea; I just think that the information people receive should t least be accurate.

    On the Jay Mountain Wilderness it most certainly could be a violation of the SLMP. This issue points out some major problems with these documents, and seriously calls into question what the motivations were when these things were drafted. Below is the text from the plan. Clearly any parcel over 10,000 acres, (even if it’s character is totally inappropriate for a Wilderness could be designated as such). Then like is often seen in a poorly drafted document (the kind that litigation attorneys love) there is a clause that is TOTALLY open for interpretation. Terms like “sufficient size and character” are a bonanza for lawyers. I think that at 7900 acres, and when you consider the “character” of the land, you will find a number of individuals that would both support this area as a Wilderness and many others that would not. Given that it is best to fall back on the more specific terms of the “law”. This area is too small to be a Wilderness and could very well be in violation of the SLMP.

    From the SLMP:

    “(3) has at least ten thousand acres of contiguous land and water or is of sufficient size and character as to make practicable its preservation and use in an unimpaired condition; and (4) may also contain ecological, geological or other features of scientific, educational, scenic or historical value.”

    BTW: I will point out that based on one interpretation of the SLMP Fire Towers are in no way a violation of the SLMP. And that current debate could be a waste of time and money, they clearly have “historic value” to many folks.

    “But it is better not to have a road as a Wilderness border.” Phil, if this is true then perhaps they never should have classified the area bordering the road as a Wilderness? I assume the road predates the Wilderness designation. I will note that ALL the borders of the Jay Mountain Wilderness are made up of roads. Perhaps more reason to believe that it’s “character” is insufficient to warrant this classification.

  21. Paul says:

    Mitch,

    Given your description I agree that the area can probably handle the sites. That is a call for folks like you that know the area.

    This proposal will certainly mean fewer sites for the foreseeable future. It is not clear to me how this “monitoring program” will then make the call for adding new sites. This should be clearly defined, or you may end up with some unforeseen consequences of this action. To start there is certainly going to be fewer sites and adding new ones will cost the state money it may never end up having.

    My guess is that this Intensive use designation will not be allowed unless the road closures and the addition of 15,000 acres of Wilderness is done at the same time.

  22. Mitch Lee says:

    Paul

    What we all have to understand is that this new Draft is a start, a talking point. It is a better place to start than we had in the 2006 Draft. It better serves the area to call it what it is “intensive use.” Any concessions that may be made by the DEC the Local Communities, Special interest users and the impact to the area in the long run have to come from a good “First” draft.

    I approached the 2006 Draft with no real support, because it didn’t fit the SMLP, it limited access for all users and it had no real effort to keep the area in trust to be used as in past practice for future generations. Nothing in a UMP Draft is, I will give you this if you give me that…… I Hope!

    It is my impression that each unit is looked at differently and the scope of use and the impact of users are weighed in order to fit the SMLP and all concerned. If every piece of the Adirondack Park were being used as chess pieces in some bigger game then we are all going to have to take a step back.

    We in Inlet do not see conspiracy or “Them and Us” we never have. All we want to do is look at the UMP for this area and get it written for current usage that is not harmful to the area and keep it available for future use within the SMLP. A Plan through a Draft is the only way to Fund, Outline, Patrol, Upkeep, and Safeguard the area.

    I don’t think we can move forward by saying things like, oh! I see, you want to eventually close off access to this or that and that is why you are doing this. NO NO NO, the plan is for getting things that are current practice in line with the SMLP, for better consistent usage so the area will remain in the character it has had for the last 30 years for the next 100 years.

    So I have to say this in closing, my father was the NYS DEC Forest Ranger for the Moose River Plains for 33 years. I have explored every inch of the MRRA and I love it. I fought to have the 2006 Draft set aside; I fought to get the Tag, Intensive use. I will continue to fight for the area to have all ECO tourists use the space fairly. All of this comes through good talking points and a draft… Like this one which is finally a good start.

    Mitch

  23. Paul says:

    Mitch,

    I am glad to see that you think this draft is a “good start”, as you say. You would certainly know better than I what is needed for this particular area.

    The only point that I would probably disagree on is this “Nothing in a UMP Draft is, I will give you this if you give me that…… I Hope!”. I wish I could agree with this but I am not sure the facts support it. I think this “give and take” is evident by the fact that this proposal does not only address the non-compliance of the campsites with the SLMP. If that were the case than it would only contain the re-classification of Wild Forest land to Intensive Use (or some others solution to the problem with too many sites for the SLMP). But this proposal also includes a completely separate re-classification of 15,000 acres of WF to Wilderness. I also think this is evident in what the DEC has said:

    “Asked why DEC wanted to expand the Wilderness Area, spokesman Yancey Roy replied in an e-mail: “For the overall balance of actions proposed.””

    Doesn’t that sound like “give and take” to you? It does to me. I don’t think that it is a bad idea to consider the big picture as far as keeping a balance of different types of lands in the Adirondacks. This proposal, in my worthless opinion, is pretty unbalanced. But I will not send in any comments for or against the proposal. This is a question that I think should be handled by the folks in and around your neck of the woods.

    I would caution that these days even though these draft proposals appear to be “open for discussion”, there seems to be little that changes in them before they get approved. To “hope” that the DEC can follow through with removing and then rebuilding all these sites as proposed, given staff and budget constraints, seems like a bit of a gamble. I am not suggesting any conspiracy type thing, I am just saying it may be totally impractical to follow through, so the end result may not be what some are hoping for, or worse what is even in the plan.

    I have lots of respect for the folks that work at the DEC and they have always worked hard and have always been fair over the years, but they are now under immense pressure from many factions inside, and many more factions outside the Adirondacks. This pressure I think is beginning to change the way the department does business. Perhaps this “give and take” approach they have adopted is a manifestation of that pressure. That may or may not be a good thing.

    Personally I think the real problem is the rigid adherence to the SLMP, or the total lack of will to change it in a way that makes it more practical. In the “good old days” this wouldn’t even be an issue. So what if there are a few too many camp sites, move a few around if you have to for environmental protection issues, just let sleeping dogs lie! The DEC has always been very good about understanding the needs of different users and handling things without all this bureaucratic red tape. But many people from outside the Adirondacks (and some within) have weighed in. and sadly those days have passed!

  24. Paul says:

    Mitch,

    To put it a different way, what the DEC is admittedly trying to do here is “give” environmentalists (or others supporters of Wilderness classifications) 15,000 acres in exchange for “getting” 3000 acres of Intensive Use area and more campsites, something they would normally never support. Without this they would simply gather their supporters and “lobby” for strict compliance with the SLMP and removal of many of the sites. Just like they are doing in regard to Firetowers now. Phil, don’t you think that pretty well describes the dynamic here?

    The “balance” noted by the DEC spokesperson is just for this reason. They know that without the addition of something supported by environmental groups that this proposal is dead on arrival. Environmental groups call the shots in the Adirondacks, you gotta give them something or you can otherwise forget it.

  25. Mitch Lee says:

    Paul

    To say that Environmental organizations call the shots is very extreme. I agree they weigh in on issues just as our Local Communities do. If that were the case then the 2006 UMP Proposal as it was written would have gone blindly through. When the DEC came to Inlet for the public hearing there were 500 non supporters of a very un-Eco tourism friendly shut down to access and 1 Person from an Environmental “Green” Org. I would say that the some 6 thousand letters to the DEC to change the proposed UMP Draft to make sure it fit the SMLP with a Intensive use label is why we are here today. So no I would say they do not call the shots.

    I love it here in the West Central Adirondacks. We have a unique group of users who all get along and band together for more access. They are stewards of the land as well. We often see mountain bike and hike and canoe users working on trails right along side Snowmobile users. All of these people understand that a good infrastructure of multi use trails is needed to help all get into the Forest Preserve. We have been our own best friend by trying to work very hard to work within the parameters of Temporary Revocable Permits. It takes a lot to share the woods… A lot.

    It takes Planning Hard work and good listening skills to move forward, The DEC listened The staff reworked the UMP through much hard work, I bet that through stewardship much of the restoration of sites and picnic table can also come to fruition. Last year alone in the Moose River Plains some huge projects were done through Stewardship. Hardscaping and bridges were put down for ADA access to Mitchell Pond, Ice House Pond, Helldiver Pond.

    There is no reason to think that these practices will cease.

    I hope it is a group from all backgrounds who bring the best ideas to a table and the DEC to look at the best use that always calls the shots.

  26. Phil says:

    Paul, the Plains violates the State Land Master Plan. Campsites are too close together, they are too close to the water, they have picnic tables, they have fireplaces, etc. DEC could have made the area conform to Wild Forest guidelines, but this would have changed the Plains camping experience. Instead, it came up with a creative solution to preserve that experience.

    I understand that 15,000 acres for Wilderness vs. 3,000 acres for Intensive Use might seem like an imbalance. But use in those 15,000 acres will not change. It’s not motorized now. So the towns are not losing much there.

    As for the closure of Indian Lake Road, the people who stand to benefit most are the floatplane pilots, and I assume you support steps to bolster local businesses.

    Do you have a better plan?

  27. Paul says:

    Mitch,

    You are correct. To say that environmental groups “call the shots” was too extreme. Their influence is substantial, and they will be the first ones to tell you and their supporters that this is the case.

    Phil, as far as an alternative, if someone with Mitch’s background and experience with the area feels that this is the best solution, than I tend to think that I am wrong, and this is perhaps the way to go.

    But it seems to me that the problem lies with the SLMP, which was drafted in a way that made a number of ALREADY existing uses illegal? This problem has come up time and again. We are certainly spending considerable time and taxpayer funds because of it now. Problems with the SLMP, including internal discourse with the plan, were well documented in an Explorer article that was written by Brian Mann a while back. The solution here is one of two things. Either modify the SLMP to allow the use, or remove the illegal use. So my solutions here are to simply reclassify the Wild Forest as Intensive Use or remove the illegal sites. The Wilderness classifications are simply a manifestation of the influence that I describe above and have nothing to do with the problem at hand. Based on Mitch’s comments my first choice would be to go with the Intensive Use re-classification.

  28. Phil says:

    Paul, leaving out the Wilderness component could raise SEQRA issues as I explained in an earlier post. Apart from that, DEC contends that Wilderness is the most appropriate classification for this rugged, more remote section of the Plains. As I understand it, some of these lands were acquired from IP fairly recently; they were not part of the original Gould transaction. I’ll look into the history when I have time. Meanwhile, perhaps Mitch can enlighten us.

  29. Les says:

    I think the entire idea is ridiculous. I have been camping in Moose River for almost 40 years and can remember you were still allowed to travel beyond the indian lake barrier with a car. Last year my 9 year old son and I hiked back to the very campsite (151) I used to stay at with my family when I was his age. It was something I was looking forward to for a long time and something I want to do for many years to come. I also have a 7 year old who wants to come when he is old enough. To think that I wont be able to because of a poor decision by another dysfunctional state agency is appalling. This is something that should be voted on by taxpayers. Let’s remind these people they work for the people!

  30. Paul says:

    Phil,

    If SEQRA issues require the DEC to take only actions that never “diminish environmental protection” than we have a big problem looming in the future. Most folks, including environmental groups, understand that tourism is key to the Adirondack economy. Given that fact the only way for that economy to grow will be to increase use of the park, this is perhaps happening now. Camping in the MRP is just one example. More and more hikers in the Eastern High Peaks Wilderness areas is another example. Both are activities that are leading to degradation of the environment in those areas. So both the Intensive Use designation, as well as the Wilderness designation may, eventually, have a similar environmental effect. As back country experiences become more and more popular they could have greater negative effect on the area.

    Will the reclassification to Wilderness in the MRP “invite” more hikers to that area? Here at the Explorer you are always saying that this is the benefit of more Wilderness areas in the park. Doesn’t closing the roads in an effort to increase float plane use potentially increase the environmental impact on that area of the plains? If so, both actions are SEQRA issues and fall under the same category as the Intensive use change.

    This “park” is one within a days drive of 60 million people the DEC needs to have its policies reflect that reality.

  31. Phil says:

    Paul, I think you’re grasping at straws. If more people do visit the Adirondacks, that wouldn’t trigger a SERQA review as it’s not a state action.

  32. Paul says:

    Phil,

    I think you are misunderstanding my comments. I am sure I wasn’t very clear. From what you had said, I thought that these actions could not “diminish environmental protection”? Weren’t you saying that the reason for the closures and Wilderness additions was to in some way “offset” the Intensive Use changes?

    It sounds to me like moving some of these camp sites away from sensitive areas and better placing the replacement sites is an action that does not diminish environmental protection, but actually enhances it. So why doesn’t it alone meet the SEQRA requirements that you are describing?

  33. Phil says:

    Paul, SEQRA requires the state to look at all the alternatives to the Intensive Use reclassification. One of these would be to reduce the number of campsites to conform to Wild Forest guidelines (as well as move those in sensitive areas). Instead, DEC is proposing a less-restrictive classification and offsetting this with the Wilderness classification. On balance, they no doubt would argue that the region as a whole is better protected.

  34. Paul says:

    I am just saying that it sounds like you can do one without the other and meet the requirements of SEQRA. From your earlier comments I was under the impression that you were saying that the Wilderness reclassification was necessary to meet these requirements. It don’t think that is the case.

  35. Phil says:

    You may be right that it is not necessary, but it makes it easier to make the case that the changes comply with SEQRA. I haven’t talked with DEC about the SEQRA issues, so all this is somewhat speculative.

  36. Paul says:

    The simplest solution, and one that doesn’t require any of this is to spread the sites out and keep the Wild Forest designation. People will get used to the new sites, and I am sure you can make some really nice ones, that would be better than cramming them into the IUA. From Les’s comments it sounds like part of this problem was “created” with some of their earlier road closures in the area. By closing more roads it sounds like they will be further limiting areas where they could spread out the roadside sites.

    Like in Wilderness areas (below 3500 feet), in Wild Forest areas there is really no restriction from camping wherever you like as long as you spread out enough. I have seen folks camping in the High Peaks in some pretty “interesting” spots, it is all perfectly legal.

    Can’t you just camp wherever you want as long as you spread out and keep your tent 100 feet from the water? I know that in the St. Regis canoe area you can legally camp anywhere you want. They have designated sites, but you don’t have to use them. Isn’t the same basically true in the MRP?

  37. Paul says:

    From my comment above I am not suggesting some kind of free-for-all. I am just curious what the rules are in the area.

  38. Paul says:

    Also, I know of some very interesting “outlaw” camps on Wild Forest land in other parts of the Adirondacks. Mitch, your father must have seen some amazing stuff his 30 years patrolling that area. Some of the “season long” campers that are described in the DEC documents sound like legal “outlaw” camps. That is a good idea.

  39. Mitch Lee says:

    Paul

    Yes over the years as the Moose River Plains Changed from Lease camps under Gould Paper to a Wild Forest “recreation area” there were many camps that had to come down. The lease ran out and the buildings were non conforming. I don’t know of in the last twenty years any illegal long term camps any where in the Moose River Plains Wild Forest which is an area much larger than the Moose River Plains Recreation area. The sites that the Department has in the plains have been in use since 1968 and for the most part they have held up very well even in areas that are now deemed to close together. To better enhance the experience moving sites to better fit the SMLP and finding the resources to keep up the Roads, Sinage, Privies, Tables, and Fire Rings – Plus Patrol of the area are really the major issues to deal with here.

    The area once had a fee for entry and two people one housed at either end to collect a fee. It also had a trail crew of four to five that mowed cut brush and took care of the infrastructure. It once had a forest ranger dedicated to the area specifically. All those positions are gone. The Forest Rangers are now in super regions and the Indian Lake shop of Operations has duties in the Plains as well as a large portion of Hamilton County.

    The Idea that the area has been somehow over the years been over used is laughable. The area has a more wild appearance now than it ever has had because the infrastructure has been lagging without a new UMP and budget item for the area.

    So:

    1. People illegally camping for long term in hidden buildings – Non Issue

    2. Over use in certain areas – Non issue

    Issues: Access, Compliance, Infrastructure, A Solid Plan.

  40. Paul says:

    Mitch,

    Thanks for the comments. It sounds like the forest rangers down there are spread as thin as they are in the neck of the woods where I come from.

    Now they are tasked with close to a million acres of easement land as well. They have their plates way over filled.

  41. Paul says:

    Mitch,

    From your comments, and given your understanding of the area, it seems like here we have yet another case where the SLMP simply doesn’t fit with the realities and or needs of a particular area. Why this thing was ever written (or at least enacted) in a way to require the removal of perfectly compatible uses of the Forest Preserve is something that I will never understand. The amount of money and time spent on these issues is just appalling. We will spend more money (like it sounds like we did in 2006) on public hearings and impact statements and the like. We will have to pay attorneys to look over draft documents. Then we will spend more money to shuffle around campsites that it sounds like never needed to be moved. And in the end we will have made a few changes that basically leave the area just as it is now. All this to satisfy a “plan” that appears to have been drafted in a vacuum. No wonder this state is in such dire straights.

  42. Debi says:

    I have to agree with Tom 100%

  43. Monday, August 23, 2010

    NYSMLA.ORG’s letter to APA & DEC Moose River Plains area

    Dear APA;

    As a New York State taxpayer, sportsman and user of the Moose River area I make the following comments on the Moose River Plains Unit Management Plan. As an organization the New York State Muzzleloaders take this issue to heart as they have been a special use group of this area for many years holding their “Primitive Rendezvous” annual in the meadow. If this UMP is not carefully crafted it will become an area which excludes many sportsman and women and while the “Wilderness” moniker is idealistic, it is not practical for the users of these resources. The following comments summarize the changes we support in moving the UMP to approval;

    Support the intensive use corridor and roadside camping.

    Extend the intensive use area from the Red River to the Limekiln Gate, allowing the placement of three to four more Camp sites and securing the entrance to the area.

    Vehemently oppose reclassification of 15, 000 +- acres of wild forest as wilderness. Such action will restrict access for the handicapped and the majority of the public. Leave the area as wild forest and construct recreation corridors allowing access into this area.

    Vehemently oppose the closing and subsequent removal of the Little Indian and Otter Brook Roads that lead Squaw Lake, Muskrat Lake and the Little River. These bodies of water provide some of the best trout fishing opportunities in New York State and have been accessed by the sporting community via motor vehicle for many, many years with no discernable negative environmental impact. The roads are maintainable and provide access for all individuals, including individuals with disabilities and “individuals in the middle” who are not fit enough to hike to these prime fishing locations. It is difficult to understand the thinking behind this recommendation.

    It just plain doesn’t make any sense!

    Oppose any actions that create “wilderness buffer zones”, which essentially restrict access on wild forest lands.

    Oppose the designation of any management areas that restrict access by the public especially those who are physically limited or have special needs..

    Support the float plane access, as outlined in the plan, leading to Beaver Lake, Little Moose Lake, Squaw Lake, and Little Indian Lake. Recommend designation as a special management area that will allow float plane use to be maintained in perpetuity.

    Support ATV access during participation in Department of Environmental Conservation licensed activities such as hunting, fishing and trapping.

    Please take action to modify the plan accordingly.

    Thank you for your time and consideration

    Eric K. Bratt

    New York State Muzzleloaders Assoc / Past President

    1680 Mudge Road

    Delanson, NY 12053

    Posted by BPB at 8/23/2010 09:37:00 PM

    Labels: Moose River Plains Wild Forest

  44. Visitor says:

    Visiter of this area:

    My personal thoughts whether you Agree or Disagree send your thoughts to the DEC, APA and town officials let them hear you so they can  make the right decision based on the majority 

    The Moose River is about to have some major changes done to it,The DEC and APA should leave it as is and its current boundries and just maintain it, It’s original intention was to be a Recreation Area for Everyone to have full access to it,Put the money the DEC is  ready to spend for this major change to its current infrastructure  into managing and restoring what’s already existing it actually cheaper,  It’s original intention when purchased  in 1963 was to be a Recreation Area (Hunting,camping,hiking,,Fishing,canoeing,exploring etc..) for Everyone whether from PA NJ  LI and Local residents  to have access to a real  wilderness experience with out any over development or over crowed campsite’s on top of each other this will change if the state doesn’t get an overwhelming public response to just  restore what’s already existing an do minor improvements where needed

    Thank you 

         Concerned visiter of this area

      

  45. Christopher Amato to leave DEC | says:

    […] to list some of his accomplishments at DEC, Amato mentioned the unit management plan (UMP) for the Moose River Plains Wild Forest, which he described as a model for balancing various uses of the Forest Preserve without harming […]

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