"For a moment, the hand of man is stayed…
and he neither destroys nor constructs.
He has left time behind him."
—Paul Schaefer


Adirondack Wild Comment:

Alternative Actions under Consideration under the Adirondack Park State Land Master Plan Related to the Fire Towers in the St. Regis Canoe Area and the Hurricane Primitive Area

August 25, 2010

Curt Stiles, Chairman and Agency Members James Connolly, Director of Planning Adirondack Park Agency P.O. Box 99 Ray Brook, New York 12977

Dear Chairman Curt Stiles, Jim Connolly and Park Agency Members:

As complement to the testimony of David Gibson in Albany and myself in Keene Valley on the hearings for the above matter, I write to offer additional perspective and recommendations on behalf of Adirondack Wild. I also write from my own experience as a resident of Keene since 1987 who has climbed to the Hurricane summit and tower site at least six times that I can recall; most recently with my wife back in 2008.

As a matter of State policy, I assert that the Adirondack Park Agency’s primary duty is to abide by the Adirondack Park State Land Master Plan’s (APSLMP) call for removal of both the Hurricane and St. Regis fire towers which, heretofore, has been unequivocally supported by both the public process and findings under the Hurricane Mountain Primitive Area Unit Management Plan (UMP), as well as the Department of Environmental Conservation’s own multi-year parkwide Adirondack study of fire towers and fire tower policy.

While much has been made of the relatively recent and local public interest expressed in “saving” the fire towers for these two peaks, it appears that the Agency’s considerations of the four alternatives wholly fails to respect the overwhelming statewide backing for the towers removal under the State Land Master Plan, as well as the prior publicly supported process and hearings for the unit management plans already in place.

As laudable as efforts truly are to recognize the fire towers and “save them,” as per the later day interest in their possible retention, at the end of the day it is required of the Park Agency to effect a decision that fulfills the greater commitment to the People of New York in carrying out the APA land use plan for State lands, as well as the direct recommendations of the APSLMP and the UMP’s, not to mention DEC’s own extensive analysis.

Nor can “balance” be found in spot zoning .25 acre foot prints under the towers as “Historic Areas” surrounded by what are lands that are to be managed essentially as Wilderness lands in both the St. Regis Canoe Area and in the Hurricane Mountain unit. While an historic designation might be suitable for the fire tower itself, the inordinate juxtaposition of such a structure spot-zoned in the very center of wilderness lands would make a mockery of the APA Act and the nearly 40 year implementation of the State Land Master Plan as it is unquestionably clear that from within mere meters (or inches) from the towers’ proposed footprint, the surrounding wilderness classification would be severely compromised by the site of these 4 to 5 story man-made steel structures that are clearly in contrast to wilderness, primitive and canoe area criteria.

This is not an aesthetic issue – it is a matter of fundamental wilderness policy under the Adirondack Park State Land Master Plan – that these lands provide for wilderness conditions, untrammeled, where man and his structures (and non-conforming uses) do not remain. At the summit of these peaks, it is impossible to experience wilderness solitude as high winds sing, whistle and rattle through the fire tower guy wires, tower steel beams and the cabs. Their existence, their effect on the scenic environment and experience of impacting otherwise natural wilderness vistas, as well as their audible intrusion on any days with winds (most) make them an anathema to wilderness solitude and experience by virtue of the Agency’s own policy criteria, findings and provisions under the APA Act, the APSLMP and the area’s two UMP’s.

Spot zoning or reversing their definition to “conforming” would seriously degrade the Adirondack Park State Land Master Plan, as well as the true statewide intent and public support for the very foundations of wild land policy as embodied by the APA Act. This fact leaves alternative actions 1 and 2 moribund, ineffective and dangerous precedent if chosen. Likewise, spot down-zoning as contemplated in alternative 3 under a lesser “primitive” classification would back-track on 37 years of commitment under the APSLMP, (page 26) to “recognize…the ultimate goal is clearly to upgrade the area to wilderness…”

Another critical recognition must also be understood were the Agency to choose alternative actions 1, 2 or 3. In essence, the Agency, by reneging on its law, polices and practices of 37 years under very specific call for these tower removals in the APSLMP and the unit management plans for the St. Regis Canoe Area and Hurricane Mountain Primitive Area, would truncate, if not decimate, its own Towers Policy for the entire park for the private lands. And that could prove the most horrible of precedents after all.

Were the Agency to sanctify such tall steel man made structures as conforming and legitimate at the very heights of land as the summit of Hurricane and St. Regis Mountains, than how could the Agency in good mind, suggest that similar high towers such as metal communication or industrial wind towers to be placed on lower mountain ridge tops or peaks on private lands would cause an undue adverse impact under the Act?

While you might be able to attempt to justify your action, its precedent of calling tall fire tower metal structures (and seriously deteriorating at that) at the tops of these wilderness peaks as appropriate, non-impacting and conforming within direct view of wilderness lands would turn completely fascicle opposing arguments by the Agency for preventing such private land structures as communication and wind towers.

The Agency would – on its face publicly and most likely and worrisome before a judge - have delegitimized the park land use and development plan and the Tower’s Policy across the board. Only mayhem and lawsuits would follow and the integrity of the APSLMP and land use and development plan would be irreparably harmed

I urge respectfully that we not go there, and fortunately we do not have to. We can both “save” the fire towers and safeguard the integrity of the APSLMP and your Act in addition to carrying out the will of the People of New York State under the UMP’s by safer, more prudent means.

Adirondack Wild believes that Alternative 4 be chosen and amended as follows:

Add to the 2nd sentence under Alternative 4, as following in underline: “Under this alternative, the fire towers would be removed of relocated from their current location as non-conforming structures in Canoe and Primitive Areas and provided to their respective towns for establishment as historic cultural structures that can be placed on town or private lands as interpretive landmarks of community value and tourist interest.”

By choosing such an action, the Agency can “save” the fire towers as well as sustain the critical integrity of the Adirondack Park State Land Master Plan, unit management plans, and the integrity of the APA Act and land use and development plan and wilderness, as well.

Moreover this concept has already gained the support of the Town of Keene in that the Town Board recently passed a resolution noting their willingness to store and care for the tower structure if it were to be taken down from Hurricane Mountain. And following the Keene hearing, I spoke with several boosters for “saving the fire tower” including the elders of that recent movement who agreed with me that many thousands more people would be able to learn the history, culture and lore of the former Conservation Department fire wardens in an in-town setting than ever before.

These two fire towers would be more than historic sites, they would be tourism, economic and unique education draws for the great legacy of our NY State fire wardens and forest rangers whose primary role was never to protect the fire tower, but to preserve and safeguard for perpetuity the wonders of our “forever wild” wild lands and wilderness in the Adirondack and Catskill Parks.

On that note, I would be happy to meet with staff along with town officials and other supporters of how these recommendations could be faithfully implemented to the benefit of the town’s involved and the wild land resources we all care truly to protect

I trust you will consider these concerns and recommendations in your deliberations. Thank you and the expert Agency state lands and planning staff for their hard work, and that of the Department of Environmental Conservation which has rightly called for the towers’ removal

Adirondack Wild is truly appreciative of the efforts to empower public comment and involvement in these important decisions.

Thank you.

Dan Plumley Partner, Adirondack Wild

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3] Posted 10/07/10
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10/21/10 Adirondack Wild, Fire Towers and Wilderness  read more >

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10/07/10 Comment: Moose River Plains   read more >

10/07/10 Comment: Public Hearing, Fire Towers on St. Regis and Hurricane Mountains  read more >
10/07/10 Comment: Alternative Actions for Fire Towers on St. Regis and Hurricane Mountains   read more >
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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.

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