“A commitment to wildeness forever by non-Native Americans
is a core commitment to claim, at long last, this marvelous
continent as our home place in perpetuity.”
— Ed Zahniser


Wild Lakes Collaborative
by Dan Plumley, Partner



The Wild Lakes Collaborative is an informal Adirondack initiative working together to highlight, inventory and consider the conservation of wild, heritage or high quality “reference” lakes in the Adirondack Park. These are lakes which appear to exhibit negligible direct human impacts and little to no history of pollution, or significant change in chemical or faunal composition from obvious human impacts to the shoreline or watershed. These lakes are very rare even in the six-million acre Adirondack Park and “Forever Wild” Forest Preserve. These lakes may be as wild as they come!

All share the knowledge that it is practically and scientifically impossible to characterize a lake in the Adirondacks as being completely “wild” and free of man’s influence. However, that knowledge does not dampen in the least the group’s enthusiastic focus on finding and characterizing lakes which are as wild as possible, enabling valuable conservation work, comparative research and study of how these lakes may change over time.

Early Stages: The collaborative is in its early stages, and in addition to Adirondack Wild presently consists of graduate researchers from Queens University in Ontario, research and teaching staff from the State University College of Environmental Science and Forestry’s Adirondack Ecological Center, and faculty from Paul Smith’s College.

First Meeting: In mid-July, 2011, the collaborative met at the Adirondack Ecological Center in Newcomb to share data and findings from at least three heritage lakes on the 15,000-acre Huntington Wildlife Forest in Newcomb. There was a commitment to share data, integrate collaborative research, gain funding support for new research, and further the cause of heritage lake understanding.

The collaborative learned much from Kristina Arseneau of Queens University about colonial chrysophytes, which are algal forms whose history in a lake can be read with proper equipment, and which tell quite a bit about a lake’s chemical history. She and her research interns are intensively studying 30 reference lakes in the Adirondacks. There was good discussion between the scientists about the value of cross-validating of their data sets, combining for example temperature and chrysophyte (that algal form, again) research, and adding in Prof. Curt Stager’s (Paul Smith’s College) research of the history of shoreline tree species, such as northern white cedar. There is also great interest among the group for identifying climate change indicators.

For Adirondack Wild, I spoke up for the conservation, understanding and safeguarding of wild lakes systems in the Adirondacks. Where do they exist? What are their features? By what means and policies can we help to safeguard them in the future? I view the collaborative as an excellent opportunity for dialogue, and for involving students in methodically identifying and documenting our Park’s most unique and rare, or threatened wild lakes. These bodies of water may become keystone markers of Adirondack ecological integrity in the future.

Next Steps:

  • There is an openness to share field work opportunities by all parties
  • Adirondack Wild will foster continued dialogue, and help others grapple with the concepts and definitions needed for a wild lakes initiative
  • There is interest in broadening the collaborative to include organizations like the Paul Smith’s College Adirondack Watershed Institute, and others
  • The collaborative hopes to place itself on the agenda for next May’s Adirondack Research Consortium conference
  • The group will stay in touch through the summer and consider future meetings this fall.

Concluding the meeting: I concluded by reading a poem called “Mountain Pond” by noted Buryat poet Bair Dugarov. The collaborative then took to the water on Arbutus Lake to sample, and later analyze some lake bottom core samples using techniques demonstrated by Kristine Arseneau and her student colleagues from Queens University.

Many thanks to Stacy McNulty, Associate Director of the SUNY ESF Adirondack Ecological Center for hosting our first wild lakes gathering and discussion!

Notes on the photographs:
Dan Plumley joined with research and teaching staff from the College of Environmental Science and Forestry's Adirondack Ecological Center, Paul Smith's College, and Queens University to discuss collaboration required to inventory, undertake research and conservation of Adirondack lakes which are as free from human-induced change as possible. The informal collaboration is known as the Wild Lakes Collaborative, and its first meeting was on July 19, 2011 at the Adirondack Ecological Center in Newcomb. After the strategy meeting, the team worked together to take bottom core samples from Arbutus Lake, part of the 15,000-acre Huntington Wildlife Forest in Newcomb. These cores are a persistent record of annual layers of sediment which settled in the lake hundreds and thousands of years ago. The cores tell a lot about the history of the lake. The layers are dated and then analyzed to determine types of algae, diatoms and pollen from plants living in the lake or along its shoreline during those times.

Posted 07/25/11
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The mission of Adirondack Wild: Friends of the Forest Preserve is to advance New York’s ‘Forever Wild’ legacy and Forest Preserve policies in the Adirondack and Catskill Parks, and promote public and private land stewardship that is consistent with wild land values through education, advocacy and research.

Top left, © Ken Rimany; Ducks ©Ken Rimany

Peter Brinkley, Honorary Chair
Terry Jandreau, Chair
Kenneth J. Rimany, Partner
David H. Gibson, Managing Partner
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Adirondack Wild: Friends of the Forest Preserve    Founded 1945   PO Box 9247 • Niskayuna New York 12309 | ©