Skip Navigation
Regional News
APA Deputy Director for Planning Jim Connolly gave much of the presentation at Thursday's meeting in Ray Brook. Photo: Brian Mann
APA Deputy Director for Planning Jim Connolly gave much of the presentation at Thursday's meeting in Ray Brook. Photo: Brian Mann

APA redraws Adirondack Map

Listen to this story
This week, Adirondack Park Agency commissioners are meeting in an extraordinary two-day session that focuses almost entirely on a single question: How should New York state manage tens of thousands of the former Finch Pruyn timberlands now being added to the "forever wild" forest preserve?

Their answer to that question -- which could come as early as next month -- will literally redraw the Adirondack map, redefining public recreation over a vast area of the North Country.

Hear this

Download audio

Share this


Over the last decade the Adirondack Park has changed dramatically, with the addition of roughly a million acres of protected open space in the conservation easement program – and other big additions to the state forest preserve.

That's bigger than the entire state of Rhode Island. Six years ago, the Adirondack Nature Conservancy redrew the Park's map again, buying the massive Finch Pruyn Timberlands.

The Essex Chain of Lakes. The process is now underway to determine what kind of recreation and public use will be allowed. Photo: Carl Heilman, courtesy Adirondack Nature Conservancy
The Essex Chain of Lakes. The process is now underway to determine what kind of recreation and public use will be allowed. Photo: Carl Heilman, courtesy Adirondack Nature Conservancy
"Back in 2007, the Nature Conservancy purchased 161,000 acres," said APA deputy director for planning Jim Connolly at yesterday's APA commmission meeting in Ray Brook.

"Over this five-year period [that's now beginning], the state is expected to acquire 69,000 acres to become part of the forest preserve."

The Finch Pruyn timberlands aren't just big. They also fill in big gaps between existing parcels of state land, creating one of the largest integrated areas of wild land in the eastern US.

Governor Andrew Cuomo (R) with Bill Ulfelder, Executive Director of the Nature Conservancy in New York, signing the Finch Pruyn deal last summer in Lake Placid. Photo:  Brian Mann
Governor Andrew Cuomo (R) with Bill Ulfelder, Executive Director of the Nature Conservancy in New York, signing the Finch Pruyn deal last summer in Lake Placid. Photo: Brian Mann
They also link incredibly beautiful and environmentally sensitive stretches of the Hudson River with wild lakes including the Essex Chain.

"Having large forest matrix blocks like this does enhance habitat connectivity," said Matt Kendall an associate natural resources planner with the APA. "Habitat connectivity is considered one of the most important factors in maintaining biological diversity."

So that's the big picture – this is a huge win for the environment and even many local leaders in the Park who often oppose state land purchases are on board.

But now the Adirondack Park Agency has to come up with the broad zoning plan that will shape how all these parcels are managed.

And the stakes for various interest groups are sky high. One possibility here is the creation of a new officially-designated canoe area that could rival the incredibly popular St. Regis Canoe area north of Saranac Lake.

Paddlers are excited about that possibility. But snowmobilers are also eager to see a new system of snowmobile connector trails built that would link Adirondack towns.

It appears all but certain that specific chunks of the former Finch lands will be classified as wilderness – especially in the Hudson River Gorge.

But many local government leaders, including Fred Monroe with the Adirondack Park Local Government Review Board, want most of the lands classified under the least restrictive zoning designation – known as "wild forest" - allowing more motorized recreation.

During public hearings this spring and summer, thousands of people testified, or sent letters and emails.

Green groups and their supporters generally supported more restrictive classifications – leaning toward wilderness.

"Both sides tromped out a lot of people," said Peter Bauer who heads Protect the Adirondacks. "Our analysis of the public hearing is that it was 4-to-1 in favor of wilderness. Will that carry the day? Probably not."

In this round of review, the APA commission will classify or reclassify roughly 45,000 acres – with more of the Finch lands to be dealt with likely sometime next year.

Given the stakes, one remarkable feature of the debate this summer has been the general tone of civility, with little of the rancor and venom that often shapes Adirondack politics.

APA commissioners will hear more presentations about the Finch lands today in Ray Brook. A final vote on the zoning designations could come as early as next month.

Visitor comments

on:

NCPR is supported by:

This is a Visitor-Supported website.