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They're trying to create wilderness on the cheap.

APA creates vast new wilderness, along with snowmobile and bike trails

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State officials are close to approving a new management plan for the Moose River Plains region of the Adirondack Park.

The compromise deal would create more than 12 thousand acres of new wilderness in Hamilton County. It would also establish new trail corridors for snowmobiles and mountain bikes.

As Brian Mann reports, the plan has been more than a decade in the making.

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The Moose River Plains is one of the most popular backcountry regions of the Park – a mecca for snowmobilers, fishermen, hunters, hikers.

The management plan being voted on today was developed over a period of years by various state agencies, along with green groups, local government leaders, and sportsmen.

Walt Link, with the Adirondack Park Agency, says a new snowmobile connector trail will boost the region’s tourism economy.

Actuality One: We belive that when this snowobile trail connector is established between Inlet and Raquette Lake village, Raquette Lake is going to see new business like they've never seen before.

Mountain bikers have also been clamoring for new routes in the Park.  This plan carves out a new biking loop trail that stretches deep into the backcountry.

Actuality Two:  If there's any area in the Park that seems to be ideal for this kind of recreation, the Moose River Plains is certainly one.

The plan also creates a new 14,000-acre wilderness area in one of the least-used parts of the Moose River Plains.

But last summer, state officials came close to closing road access into the region, because of state budget cuts. 

The Park Agency’s Jim Connolly acknowledged some skepticism that this plan – which also includes a new campground corridor – is affordable.

Actuality Three: There were a lot of concerns about state budget cuts and concerns that state facilities might be slated for closure.

Inlet town supervisor John Frey says he’s generally happy with the way the plan came out.

Actuality Four: If you truly want to find balance, like I believe they did, you're not going to please everybody.

Hamilton County chairman Bill Farber agreed, though he said some locals are unhappy about the creation of new wilderness.

Actuality Five: There was obviously a lot of questions about what the impacts are of the reclassification as wilderness.

In a twist, one environmental group also questioned whether the wilderness designation is appropriate.  Dan Plumley is with a new organization called Adirondack Wild.

Actuality Six:  They're trying to create wilderness on the cheap.  They have not provided sufficient investment with the stakeholders to build public support for that new wilderness.

Plumley says the management plan needed more study to determine impacts on wildlife and the region’s ecology. 

He also questioned whether the state has the money to implement this blueprint, which requires new trails and coordination between different management areas.

Actuality Seven:  Last summer, local communities had to pitch in to keep roads open and now we're going to have four different management plans with varying degrees of management control?  It seems to be more complexity when keeping it simple makes more sense.

The DEC is facing another round of deep job cuts and budget reductions that could affect forest rangers and other programs in the Park.  That will likely mean local groups and governments will take a more active role in management of the Moose River Plains.

This plan comes up for a final vote later this morning at the APA meeting in Ray Brook.  It also requires final approval from the Governor's office.

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