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Green groups have long celebrated environmentalist Bob Marshall
Green groups have long celebrated environmentalist Bob Marshall

Group says western Adks should be called "Bob Marshall Wild Lands Complex"

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An environmental advocacy group, the Adirondack Council, says it wants to help promote the western Adirondacks as a destination. The group unveiled a map yesterday in Old Forge highlighting an area it describes as the "Bob Marshall Wild Lands Complex."

That name isn't official, but state and local leaders who attended the meeting say they think the Council's proposal could draw new visitors to the Park. Joanna Richards reports.

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Joanna Richards
Watertown Correspondent

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A couple of decades ago, environmental groups proposed creating a massive new 400,000-acre wilderness preserve in the Adirondacks. It would stretch from the Stillwater Reservoir to Cranberry Lake and from Route 30 not quite to the edge of Lewis County.

Environmental groups wanted to name the wilderness after the environmentalist Bob Marshall, who grew up in the Adirondacks and became a founder of The Wilderness Society.

The area proposed includes a lot of private land and small communities, and John Sheehan, with the Adirondack Council, says it's important to recognize that the private lands will remain that way for a long time.

"Rather than forestall forever our idea of working in this area to try and improve the recreational opportunities, we felt that it would make some sense to work with both private landowners and wild forestlands, where motorized recreation is allowed, to try and create a large recreational complex that would reflect both wilderness and non-wilderness attributes," Sheehan said.

The new concept, unveiled yesterday, is the Bob Marshall Wild Lands Complex. At news conference in Old Forge, the Adirondack Council released 5,000 copies of a new, free waterproof map that identifies the region for tourists.

It also links backcountry activities to two dozen small gateway communities that ring the area, promoting them along with the forest lands.

"In putting this map together one of the things that we wanted to be sure to do was to try and include information about each of the communities around the exterior of it, so that people would have an easy way to find out: what's in Wanakena?" Sheehan said. "What am I gonna find if I go to Inlet? What's down in Old Forge and what am I gonna be able to get to from there?

"So on the back of this map you're going to see that each of the communities has been highlighted in some way with the addition of some websites or other places that people can go for additional information so that we can help to be sort of a clearinghouse for how to get into the backcountry from each of these communities."

The Adirondack Council's effort to promote local communities is good news to local government officials like Bill Farber, chair of Hamilton County's Board of Supervisors.

"We need to remember that advocating for the Adirondacks is not just advocacy for the Forest Preserve, it's advocacy for the communities. I think this map does a great job in starting to bring those two forces together," Farber said.

"It really starts to create opportunities for the communities, it starts to market the communities, it starts to connect the communities to the economic benefit that can be derived from the Forest Preserve, from this area we live in. And that oughta be more of what we do."

The Adirondack Council still sees promotion of the Bob Marshall Wild Lands Complex as a step in the direction of its long-term goal of creating a huge unified wilderness area.

That would almost certainly limit recreational uses allowed on public land in the area. Many local officials oppose that and no one beyond the Council has officially adopted the Bob Marshall Wild Lands Complex as a name.

State officials do say the idea of promoting the region as a unified destination for tourists is a good idea. Judith Drabicki heads the Department of Environmental Conservation in Region 6.

"I'm really pleased to be here and to have this recognition of the western part of the park because I'm with Bob, I have a bias toward this side. This is where I'm responsible. And I think what the Adirondack Council has done is really shine a light on this part of the park and of a community that all you are a part of and I really appreciate that effort," Drabicki said.

The Adirondack Council says it plans to help market the western Adirondacks as one of the wildest regions in the Northeast.


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