RAY BROOK - In a surprise move, the Adirondack Park Agency has issued a lengthy response to a widely published letter to the editor recently authored by Adirondack Local Government Review Board executive director Fred Monroe.
APA spokesman Keith McKeever penned the three-page rebuttal and refutes several of Monroe's claims - labeling many of them as bold-faced untruths.
"Statements that the state owns or controls 75 percent of all the land inside the park are grossly inaccurate," McKeever writes.
"Recreational pursuits on state lands help sustain the outdoor recreational and tourism industries which have been significant components of the Adirondack economy since the 19th century and represent a major economic growth opportunity."
Both sides agree that the state directly owns about 43 percent of the land inside the Blue Line. But control of private land is a major point of disagreement.
Monroe and dozens of local officials argue that when all state easements on private lands are factored in, the state controls about 75 percent of in-park land.
But McKeever uses Monroe's own data against him, citing the Adirondack Park Regional Assessment Project - that was largely sponsored by local governments - and states that only six percent of privately owned lands are under public easement.
"These private lands were previously off limits to the public for centuries but are or will become accessible for public recreational opportunities motorized and non-motorized uses," McKeever said.
In his letter, Monroe blasts the agency for attempting to reclassify the lands and waters of Lows Lake. He argues that the total ban on motorized vehicles in lands under the most restrictive Wilderness designation limits use to only the most able-bodied outdoor enthusiasts.
"Wilderness is by its very definition is not easily accessible and is intentionally managed to provide important opportunities for solitude and remoteness," McKeever said.
Local officials have long argued that that state's ever-increasing amount of publicly owned land is limiting the ability of the park's communities to remain economically viable, while simultaneously limiting access to state lands to only certain kinds of outdoor activities popular among specific demographics.
For his part, McKeever doesn't agree with this interpretation or Monroe's representation of land-use data.
"Last year, the agency rendered a SLMP interpretation that actually allows for the potential increase of snowmobile trail mileage by 15 percent over current levels," he said. "There is an ongoing need for accurate representation of the facts, regardless of opinions, to facilitate a positive and constructive dialogue to ensure outcomes that are beneficial to the Adirondack Park's people, communities and environment."
The agency Board of Commissioners is expected to vote on the Lows Lake reclassification this coming Friday.