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Lake Placid: covering the issues

BY LISA DENSMORE

To entice you to attend the 2013 OWAA conference in Lake Placid, I’ve talked in previous OU articles about the rich human and natural history and the many outdoor activities you can do in the 6-million-acre Adirondack Park. However, if you are a journalist who needs to cover issues that have bearing on your neck of the woods or if you’re on the government side of the public affairs, attending the conference will also allow you to see how the Adirondack Park Agency and the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation cope with a number of current tough topics. Here are a few examples as of mid-April 2013:

CROSSBOW USERS LOSE ON EXPANDED SEASON

On April 3, 2013, crossbows were left out of a New York state budget amendment that would have given the NYSDEC regulatory control over crossbows and thus would have allowed crossbows to be used during bow season. Currently, hunting with crossbows is only allowed during the regular firearms deer and bear seasons and during the late muzzleloader deer season.

“It was a stinging defeat for crossbow advocates who had hoped to put the issue into the hands of DEC officials via language within the budget,” reported New York Outdoor News.

Crossbow hunters have a second chance, a pair of bills that would do essentially the same thing. Both bills were previously introduced but must be amended as technically the state’s crossbow regulations expired on Dec. 31, 2012. During 2012, the proposal to include crossbows in bow season was vetoed by Gov. Andrew Cuomo because it conflicted with NYSDEC’s firstever youth deer hunt.

Last year, in a news release issued by the NYSDEC, Commissioner Joe Martens cited the reason for low crossbow license sales was “because they may only be used during the regular firearms season and subsequent muzzleloader season.” Proponents of the two bills point to neighboring states such as Pennsylvania and Ohio which allow crossbows within the regular archery season, adding that it helps to recruit and retain hunters. In addition, those with physical disabilities and older hunters support inclusion of crossbows during archery season.

PROTECTING HUMANS FROM BEARS IN THE ADIRONDACKS

Black bears are the largest predatory beast in the Adirondacks, with the average male weighing about 300 pounds and the average female about 170 pounds. The state record black bear weighed 750 pounds. Backcountry travelers in the eastern region of the High Peaks Wilderness around Lake Placid are required to carry a bear canister. Hanging food, toiletries and trash has proven to be less than adequate bear-proofing around a campsite. The latest question is whether to carry a firearm or pepper spray.

The Adirondack Park is home to the largest bear population in the New York State, 4,000 to 5,000 bears or about 70 percent of the bear population in the state. That said, there have been no recorded fatalities from black bear attacks in the Adirondack Park in over a century. So what’s the fuss?

While protection from bear attacks is old news for western states journalists who have long dealt with the threat of grizzly bears, it’s more top-of-mind in the Adirondacks particularly in light of pressure to have stricter gun control by a certain New York state governor. Some feel that if backpackers and other non-consumptive backcountry users carry a weapon, the woods will turn into the “Wild East.” Others point to pepper spray as a preferable solution (as long as you stay upwind of the spray).

Admittedly, these two issues are interesting if you’re into crossbows and bears. There are bigger issues in the Adirondack Park that reflect more broadly on the rest of the United States, particularly when it comes to land use within the blue line (local-speak for the park boundary), which has a direct impact on the economy of this depressed region. The challenge is how to create jobs in the 100-plus villages and hamlets within the blue line while continuing to conserve the park. Two sizeable projects are the current focal points of this debate:

THE ADIRONDACK CLUB AND RESORT (TUPPER LAKE, N.Y.)

After eight years of review and public hearings, the Adirondack Park Agency, which regulates land use in the Adirondack Park, recently voted 10 to 1 to allow the development of the Adirondack Club and Resort, but the 6,300-acre project is held up again due to a lawsuit filed by a group of ardent environmentalists. Locals in favor of the project are outraged by the lawsuit which will cost taxpayers an estimated $3 million.

The development, one of the most contentious ever in the Adirondacks, includes an existing ski area, a new hotel, lake activities and 706 residential units of various sizes. Its developers promise to create hundreds of jobs and provide a much-needed economic boost to an area with an average household income of only $22,000 and which suffers from excessive unemployment after the summer tourist seasons ends. Those against the project feel the development is too large, and that its owners are more interested in real estate profits than the economic welfare of the region. They also point to concerns about the impact on wildlife habitat and steep slope development.

The following case study provides details about the proposed development, the major players and its environmental impact: http://myslu.stlawu.edu/~pdoty/nevins_ skaggs_sargrad.pdf.

FINCH PRUYN LAND PURCHASE: TIMBERING, OR NOT?

The protection given to the “forever wild” portions of the Adirondack Park under New York’s constitution is among the strictest in the United States, but that law is being challenged as the state of New York attempts to purchase 69,000 acres of former Finch Pruyn and Co. land from The Nature Conservancy and add it to the Adirondack Forest Preserve. During a delay in the acquisition, state Sen. Elizabeth Little, a Republican, whose jurisdiction is primarily the Adirondacks, has presented a bill to the legislature that would allow logging on the tract as well as on future state land purchases. The bill is at the heart of the ongoing dilemma of how to protect wilderness while creating a sustainable economy within the park.

Little argues that timber harvesting has been a traditional industry in the Adirondacks for generations. By decreasing logging opportunities, it not only hurts the timber industry, but also the grocery stores, the schools and communities in general. She voices concern about the “graying” of the Adirondacks where there seems to be less and less to draw young families to the region. Interestingly, when the Adirondack Park was created in the late 1800s, it was in reaction to rampant deforestation by the timber industry, though logging practices are more sustainable and environmentally friendly today.

Opponents of the bill argue it would limit public access for recreational purposes and negatively impact conservation efforts.

For more information on this debate, visit http://www.dec.ny.gov/lands/42077.html.

If the myriad of recreational opportunities in the Adirondack Park are not enough to convince you to come to the 2013 OWAA conference, perhaps some of these issues are. There are more, such as how the Adirondack Park deals with Eurasian milfoil and other invasive species, the effects of illegal fish stocking, and the return of the wolf. And if none of these are relevant to your world, there are likely others that are. But you’ll have to come to the conference to find out more! ◊

A former OWAA board member and an award-winning television producer, writer and photographer, Lisa Densmore is local Chair of the 2013 OWAA conference in Lake Placid, N.Y. Contact her at densmore1@aol.com.

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