For Immediate Release
January 7, 2021
Contact: David Gibson, 518-469-4081
Adirondack Wild & Public Comments Improve Kildare Tract Management Plan
Comments from the nonprofit advocate Adirondack Wild and the public have positively influenced state planning for one of the most sensitive areas of the Adirondack Park, the Raquette-Boreal area. The final plan released by the NYS Department of Environmental Conservation in late 2021 addresses both resource protection and public access to the privately owned Kildare and Five Mile Tract Conservation Easements.
“To DEC’s credit they responded constructively to our strong criticism of their first draft back in 2017 and its failure to assess environmental impacts of opening 16 miles of the dirt road system on the area’s sensitive natural resources – including the critically endangered spruce grouse and its habitats,” said Adirondack Wild’s David Gibson.
The recreation management plan affects private commercial forest lands under a conservation easement, lands intermixed with public Forest Preserve in St. Lawrence County near its boundary with Franklin County. The affected forest is roughly bounded by the meandering West Branch of the St. Regis River to the east, Jordan River to the south and Carry Falls Reservoir to the west.
“It took four years, but DEC has finally taken public comments seriously in order to comply with the State Environmental Quality Review Act and the 2006 Raquette-Boreal Primitive Area and Wild Forest Unit Management Plan,” Gibson said.
“In 2017 we were headed towards a possible legal confrontation with DEC, but the department withdrew that illegal draft. Then, thanks to diligent work over the past four years by their Division of Lands and Forests, Bureau of Wildlife and other parts of the DEC, we can now focus on how to help DEC implement a successful management plan,” Gibson said.
In response to public concerns about new public motorized access to the Kildare Tract, DEC’s final plan has added additional gates, signage, and speed limits to prevent public access into sensitive low-elevation boreal habitats like the Jordan River that lie beyond the industrial forest leased to private lessees. These boreal habitats are not found anywhere else in New York State.
The DEC plan also promises to step up its monitoring of public use and enforcement of prohibition against the use of all-terrain vehicles. Once a new 1.6-mile connector road is improved and opened, only pick-up trucks and cars are authorized to use the approximately 16 miles of private dirt road opened to the public between May 1 and September 30.
Also, the plan states that “this property is to be considered for inclusion in the pilot Adirondack Ecological Monitoring and Scorecard program being developed by NYSDEC and the SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry.”
“Involvement in this program will potentially increase the amount and frequency of monitoring visits, develop ecological parameters and sites of interest unique to the property, increase public education and outreach, and recommend future efforts on public lands with similar conditions. The data collected and compiled into a scorecard can inform future monitoring and be used in assessing the Limits of Acceptable Change (LAC) for the property.”
The 12,500-acre Kildare tract is part of a larger, privately owned, working commercial forest where development is prohibited by a 1988 conservation easement. For over 30 years the forest has hosted commercial logging operations, more than 30 miles of dirt road and about 30 private leased camps with exclusive use rights. Those exclusive rights expired at the end of 2019.
All of area lies adjacent to some of the Adirondacks most ecologically sensitive rivers and low-elevation boreal wetlands found nowhere else in New York State. This stretch of boreal forest is a rare southern outlier of the vast circumpolar boreal woods stretching across Canada and Russia. It includes habitat for the endangered spruce grouse and a number of other sensitive boreal birds. These habitats exist on both public Forest Preserve and private land, 45,000 acres in all, which seamlessly adjoin each other. Impacts on one affect the other. The New York State Natural Heritage Program has identified eleven ecologically notable communities in this area.
“While we want more of this land protected as “forever wild” Forest Preserve, that is not the case today, and we acknowledge that the endangered spruce grouse habitats do not benefit from a strict wilderness condition,” added Gibson.
“What we severely criticized in 2017 was the DEC’s failure to plan, abide by the law and conduct environmental study of these habitats, including spruce grouse, before expanding motorized access and use to the public. DEC has reasonably completed those resource and impact assessments. We also expected DEC to introduce more extensive monitoring of future public use. Their final plan reasonably complies with public expectations and legal requirements that resource protection comes first and that authorized public access be carefully studied, controlled, and monitored.”
“Adirondack Wild will work with DEC and other stakeholders towards successful plan implementation and any necessary adjustments following careful monitoring of resources and evaluation of public access impacts.”
Adirondack Wild: Friends of the Forest Preserve is a not-for-profit, membership advocate acting to safeguard wilderness and to promote wild land values and stewardship. More is found on the web at adirondackwild.org.