INDIAN LAKE - One of the most complicated land-management planning processes in the history of the Adirondack Park Agency took a last minute turn Nov. 18 as commissioners opted to split up a 14,700 acre region in an attempt to avoid setting a precedent.
For more than five years, agency and state Department of Environmental Conservation staff have struggled with the best approach at managing the extremely popular Moose River Plains Wild Forest.
Of particular interest are two aspects of the most recent proposed management plan that would see over 84,000 acres remain Wild Forest, while just under 15,000 acres would become Wilderness.
The DEC plan would have seen the southernmost 14,700 acres transferred into the West Canada Wilderness.
But that wilderness would have been bisected by the old Otter Brook Truck Road, which would remain open to mountain bikers and other non-motorized forms of recreation. The truck road would have constituted a wild forest corridor running through a wilderness area.
And setting such a precedent didn't make State Lands Chair Dick Booth very comfortable.
"I think it's a great idea; using what was a road for a bike corridor," he said. "But it raises some hard question about future decisions regarding wilderness decisions. What it amounts to is a wild forest corridor through the West Canada Wilderness. That will be the result."
Booth proposed a change to the plan that he said would change the legal aspect of the plan but not its actual implementation. His plan would see two separate wilderness areas created.
"A wild forest corridor between two wilderness areas is conceptually a different thing than a wild forest corridor running through a wilderness area," he said. "But on the ground they will be the same thing."
The amended Moose River Plain proposal unanimously passed state lands.
But the increased complexities of Booth's proposed changes didn't set well with everyone - especially Dan Plumley of the green group Forever Wild.
Plumley argues that the increased management requirements due to the change aren't realistic.
"On the day when pink slips are being distributed to all DEC regions throughout the state, when we have not even one full-time ranger watching the Moose River Plains Wild Forest, we now have one unit being divided into four state land units," he said.
As proposed, Moose River Plains would also feature an intensive use area corridor along the Limkiln-Cedar River Road running through much of the wild forest.
The road is a favorite annual destination for thousands of roadside campers. The plan would also allow continued float plane access to three of the ponds in the massive state holding.
And Plumley argues the state is paying too much attention to the user groups and not enough to the environment.
"No one is speaking about the need to protect the natural resources. There has been no discussion about invasive species or wilderness issues," he said.
But not all environmental groups are as unhappy with the Moose River Plains proposal. The Adirondack Council, for example, has expressed some concerns with the plan, but said it wasn't going to fight it.
Local governments are largely pleased with the new plan for Moose River Plains - especially considering the much more restrictive plan first proposed in 2005.
Inlet Supervisor John Frye expressed his support.
"I think it is a step towards compromise. Obviously, it's not what everybody wants, but that's not a possibility," he said. "As far as the town of Inlet, local government or the user groups, it's an appeasement step."
The state received some 750 comment letters addressing all aspects of the proposal.
As part of the creation of the management plan state regulators reached out to local governments, green groups and representatives from numerous outdoor recreational communities, like mountain bikers.
And although saying it isn't perfect, Indian Lake Supervisor Barry Hutchins said his concerns were heard and considered.
"I believe I was actually listened to on this one," he said. "It's a nice change."