Boreas classification a win for sportsmen

Alas, more than a year after going through the public hearing and comment process, the Adirondack Park Agency (APA) has finally made a decision on the classification of the scenic Boreas Ponds tract in Essex County.

After its staff had earlier recommended what was known as Preferred Alternative 2B, the APA board voted 8-1 in favor of that option, which nearly splits the classification between wilderness and wild forest.

In both the Adirondack and Catskill state parks, these classifications determine what type of usage can take place. Wilderness is the most restrictive and does not allow motorized access, including snowmobiles, and even mountain biking is off limits. Wild forest does allow for these, but often with limitations.

The Boreas Ponds tract, along with the Essex Chain Lakes, is the cream of the crop of over 90,000 acres of former timber company land in the Adirondacks acquired incrementally by the state in recent years. It is 20,758 acres in size and sits on the southern edge of High Peaks region. The lake and part of its shoreline offer spectacular views of the surrounding mountains.

The debate from the start was if access would be permitted via the seven-mile Gulf Brook Road, which leads to the ponds. In the end, the road is part of 9,118 acres that will be classified as wild forest. This will pave the way for a snowmobile connector trail between the towns of North Hudson and Newcomb, and depending on decisions made by the Department of Environmental Conservation in the Unit Management Plan process, could allow anglers and paddlers access to the ponds and provide hikers and backpackers another option for accessing the High Peaks region.

An 11-acre primitive area was approved to allow DEC to access and maintain a dam at the southern end of ponds. The remaining 11,412 acres, including the area around the ponds themselves, will be classified as wilderness and added to the adjacent High Peaks Wilderness Area.

This is all good news for the sporting community. The hope is that anglers and paddlers will be able to at drive within easy launching distance of LeBier Flow, a small pond south of the main Boreas Ponds. This would involve a portage of less than a half-mile to the ponds themselves.

Big- and small-game hunters alike can disperse along the road in a region very popular for snowshoe hare hunting, while snowmobilers and the towns of Newcomb and North Hudson, standing to benefit from a connector trail, are perhaps the happiest about the classification.

And while some of the more mainstream environmental groups actually endorsed the plan, there are others who are disgruntled that all of the tract was not classified as wilderness. However, they should be popping a cork, too, because along with part of the Boreas Pond tract, the East and West McIntiyre tracts (13,400 acres) and a key 1,450-acre Casey Brook tract are also being added to the High Peaks Wilderness Area.

The Casey Brook tracts connects the High Peaks and Dix Mountain Wilderness Areas, and it appears these two tracts will be combined to create one wilderness totaling nearly 275,000 acres. This would not only be the largest wilderness tract in the Northeast, but one that rivals some of the nation’s biggest national parks.

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