To the Times of Ti:
Your editorial about Boreas Ponds – part of the coming Finch Forest Preserve acquisition - is notable for its relative moderation and thoughtfulness when compared with those who see “motorized” as a necessary descriptor of “access.” Such views are very limiting not only in the types of wilderness access, but in the public values, including but not limited to economic ones, that underlie this acquisition and the stewardship of the land that follows. You rightly do not support motorized uses around or on Boreas Ponds, but I suggest there are other reasons for your position that could persuade you that this area should be managed as Wilderness by stopping motorized access at some reasonable distance, still allowing auto and pick-up access to that point, and then requiring muscle-power to reach the ponds and points beyond it, incorporating the ponds within the High Peaks Wilderness Area.
If Boreas Ponds and environs are viewed as a wilderness benefit, the lodge itself detracts from the wilderness values, attracts motorized uses (including invasive species), must be maintained and serviced at considerable cost, and thus the feasibility of relocating it to another place in North Hudson close to Rt. 28N where it can serve as a small business catering to wilderness and other recreationists should be studied.
As to persons with disabilities, study after study across the country shows that they value wilderness as much as able-bodied people do, and have no more desire to spoil wilderness by allowing motorized access right up to it and through it than anybody else. Further, they expect no special treatment to access wilderness that is unavailable to anybody else. There are a handful of organizations in our region which specialize in bringing persons with varying levels of disabilities to experience wilderness areas safely without use of motors of any kind. Those organizations and businesses can be encouraged, even expanded by this acquisition. We are all aging, and we are all going to experience diminished physical capacity. That does not mean that wilderness is any less popular even among those unable to physically reach it.
Not only would year-round motorized uses all 12 miles from Rt. 28N to Boreas Ponds result in much public debate, as you correctly predict, such uses would also destroy the very wilderness that people across the state, the nation, Canada and other countries, including the governor, seek, celebrate and deem a highly rare and vulnerable resource in our world. That wilderness resource not only attracts attention and visitation from those whose travels demonstrate that the Adirondack Park has something – wilderness on a large scale – that has practically vanished outside of Alaska, it provides unique economic advantages to the region as a whole not available elsewhere in the northeast. Yes, the State will pay taxes on Boreas Ponds for all purposes. But forest-related tourism in the Adirondack Park exceeds $500 million in direct spending each year; a decade-old study of hikers, cyclists, kayakers and canoeists in the Adirondacks showed that they spent on the average $22 – $31 daily during their trips in the Park, and spent $211 – $342 annually (Omohundro 2002). They spent money on food and lodging during their trip in the Adirondacks and used gear purchased in the Adirondack Park which was worth $75 - $115.
Updated studies may soon reveal even more direct as well as significant indirect local and regional spending, especially if North Hudson, Essex and Hamilton counties and the state coordinated their efforts to encourage and promote wilderness tourism, guiding, and other businesses, including local lodging. What if North Hudson worked with Newcomb, Long Lake and Indian Lake to market wilderness visitation and business development reliant upon wilderness for the entire 65,000-acre Finch acquisition? The whole is greater than the sum of its parts. What would people be willing to spend to protect and preserve places like Boreas Ponds even if they never had a chance to physically reach such places? These figures are estimated to dwarf the actual direct and indirect spending. What if New York State placed a value on the carbon that will be sequestered from these protected forests forever, and that these economic values reached the local level? There are many opportunities to be seized at Boreas Ponds and other Finch lands if there is a vision and a level of collaboration among local, county and state governments that seems as rare as the wilderness resource itself.
I think if you view the wilderness at Boreas Ponds, and its connection to the High Peaks Wilderness comprehensively, and stretch your vision of the many economic and non-market opportunities that fall under this Adirondack wilderness brand, you could reach the conclusion that this precious area should be managed as Wilderness.
David Gibson, Ballston Lake
Editor’s note: The writer is a partner in the non-profit organization Adirondack Wild: Friends of the Forest Preserve