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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

APA unveils Finch conservation plan for Adks

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The Adirondack Park Agency plans to vote this week on land classification for thousands of acres of former Finch Pruyn timber land. Details of the proposal were unveiled on Friday.

The APA will hold a historic three-day meeting beginning on Wednesday and expects to make a decision by the end of the week.

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Adirondack Nature Conservancy executive director Mike Carr is architect of the Finch conservation deal. Photo: Brian Mann

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Governor Andrew Cuomo (R) with Bill Ulfelder, Executive Director of the Nature Conservancy in New York, signing the Finch Pruyn deal in 2012 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 in 2012 in Lake Placid. Photo: Brian Mann
After months of negotiations with the state Conservation Department, along with public hearings and a high profile visit by Governor Andrew Cuomo, the APA’s legal and science team is now recommending a classification plan for just over 20,000 acres of former Finch lands, along with the reclassification of roughly 20,000 acres of state-owned land, including a big chunk of the Hudson River Gorge. 

This plan calls for a complex mix of classifications.  The biggest single piece establishes a 20,000 acre wilderness area around the wild upper reaches of the Hudson River.  The proposal would also allow a snowmobile corridor through the area, possibly connecting the towns of Indian Lake, Newcomb, and Minerva. 

The plan has drawn early praise from local government leaders and some environmental groups, including the Adirondack Council and the Adirondack Mountain Club. 

"The Adirondack Mountain club applaus both the establishment of a 10,000-acre-plus motor-free Essex Chain of Lakes and the establishment of the largest new wilderness area in 30 years, centered on the Hudson Gorge," said Adirondack Mountain Club executive director Neil Woodworth, in a statement.

He described the Essex Chain of Lakes, which will be motor-free under a "primitive" classification, as a new alternative to canoe paddlers who now visit the St. Regis Canoe Area.

Adirondack Nature Conservancy executive director Mike Carr is architect of the Finch conservation deal. Photo: Brian Mann
Adirondack Nature Conservancy executive director Mike Carr is architect of the Finch conservation deal. Photo: Brian Mann
Two other green groups, however, Protect the Adirondacks and Adirondack Wild blasted the proposal for allowing too much motorized recreation. 

"[W]e are concerned that the Governor’s office unduly influenced the creation of multiple classifications for purposes of opening high speed motorized uses when natural resource protection ought to be the prime consideration under law," said Adirondack Wild's David Gibson, in a statement.

He accused the APA and DEC of having "compromised their mission by facilitating snowmobiles between the Hudson River and the Chain of Lakes all the way to the Cedar River, which is designated Scenic."

This land classification effort involves only the first phase of the massive Finch Pruyn conservation deal engineered by the Nature Conservancy.

The Adirondack Park Agency issued a summary of the details of the proposal that will be voted on Friday.

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