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Wilderness advocate carries nearly 2,000 letters to APA

November 23, 2017
By JUSTIN A. LEVINE - Outdoors Writer ( , Lake Placid News

RAY BROOK - A Keene man began hiking Wednesday morning, Nov. 15, from the southern end of the state's recently acquired Boreas Ponds tract of land, but his backpack wasn't loaded with just the normal gear.

Tyler Socash planned to walk all day Wednesday, camp out that night and finish his hike Thursday, Nov. 16, when he arrived at the state Adirondack Park Agency office in Ray Brook. In addition to his hiking and camping gear, Socash was carrying almost 2,000 letters urging the APA to revisit its proposed classifications for the Boreas lands.

Earlier this year, the APA released four proposals for classifying the more than 20,000-acre tract. The options were widely panned for failing to cover a wider range of classifications, and the APA board has since postponed the highly charged question of how to classify the lands.

Article Photos

Tyler Socash, an activist with Adirondack Wilderness Advocates, carried nearly 2,000 letters to the Nov. 16 state Adirondack Park Agency meeting. Socash toted the letters from the southern end of the Boreas Ponds tract up through the High Peaks Wilderness Area.
(Photo provided — Brendan Wiltse)

The APA collected more than 11,000 public comments on what to do with Boreas, and the vast majority called for a full wilderness option - the most restrictive land classification in the Adirondack Park - that would ban all motorized or mechanized forms of transportation, but still allow activities such as hiking, skiing and paddling.

Socash was hiking as a representative of Adirondack Wilderness Advocates, a group that was formed specifically to lobby for the wilderness designation at Boreas. The group, along with a wide array of other Adirondack green groups, inspired many of the 11,000 public comments, and Socash said his hike is geared toward raising the issue of classification with the APA again.

"My goal is to do this walk through the wilderness in 24 hours to prove that Adirondack wildness is already a fragile idea and we have a chance with keeping Boreas Ponds as a motor-free wilderness," he said Tuesday, Nov. 14. "And I'm going to be carrying the 1,800-plus letters of other people who value Adirondack wilderness and want to see the last vestiges of wildness in the Northeast protected."

Socash's journey started at the Blue Ridge Road between North Hudson and Newcomb. From there, he hiked generally north through the Boreas Ponds tract and High Peaks Wilderness Area to arrive at APA headquarters during the monthly APA board meeting.

Socash was born and raised in Old Forge and now works for the Adirondack Mountain Club as that organization's outdoor skills coordinator.

"Adirondack Wilderness Advocates got 37 percent of the 11,200 public comments last January asking the APA to consider a full wilderness option," he said. "That was the original outcry when 37 percent of the original commenters wanted a full wilderness option and 84 percent disagreed with all four alternatives that the APA had on the table.

"So after months of stagnation with no activity or foreseeable outcome from the APA, I decided it was time to do something to remind the APA and Governor [Andrew] Cuomo that wilderness is valued in New York state. I want to see New York's wilderness legacy carried on."

Socash said Nov. 14 that the letters weighed more than 20 pounds, and there were more to be added. He was also carrying gear to spend a cold November night outside.

He said Boreas is "perfect for a wilderness classification, especially since the Adirondacks has a strong history of allowing our formerly marred landscapes to re-wild. I want to see that re-wilding in action; that's why I'm going by the Flowed Lands and Duck Hole."

Both Duck Hole and the Flowed Lands are formerly dammed areas that are returning to their more natural state.

"Having visited Boreas four times, the intangibles of wildness are found there," Socash said. "It is remote. It is isolated. You find solitude. It's silent.

"Our iconic species in the Adirondack Park currently call Boreas home, and in our ever-developing world, I believe we need those bastions of wilderness. Showing a little planetary modesty would go a long way to securing our wilderness legacy for future Adirondackers."

Socash said he thinks the APA should go back to the drawing board and come up with new alternatives for Boreas Ponds. Local governments and accessibility advocates applauded the state's Alternative 1, but Socash said fewer than 75 people - of the 11,000 or so public commenters - supported the other three alternatives combined.

"I think it would be prudent for the Adirondack Park Agency to consider what visitors and residents are asking for, and that's stronger wilderness protections for increasingly rare resources," he said. "There is only one Boreas Ponds, which is New York state's largest high-elevation wetland complex.

"The point is, Boreas Ponds is much more than the ponds themselves. The entire tract is ecologically significant so I want the Adirondack Park Agency to consider a full spectrum of options, and I want them to choose the one that prioritizes the protection of our state resources.

"Even if it takes another year [it's] worth a second look. What you find inside the Adirondack Blue Line cannot be replicated elsewhere in New York. If we preserve Boreas Ponds as full wilderness, we would be gifting future Adirondackers with a crown jewel."



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