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Quiet waters debates stirs sportsmen

June 14, 2008
Joe Hackett

In the past few weeks, there has been a whirlwind of activity across the region's lakes and ponds. Traffic has featured the usual mix of watercraft, and a listing would have to include anglers, pleasure boaters, sailors, kayakers, canoeists and paddlesport racers.

Brook trout anglers were the first to arrive, as they usually stake out waters to visit immediately after ice-out. They are on the ponds with the first crack in the ice.

They are closely followed by lake trout fishermen who prefer to work larger waters for lakers while the water temperatures remain in the

44-47 degree range.

The Round the Mountain canoe and kayak race in early May brought numerous racers to the lakes, including a mix of guideboats and war canoes.

Not to be overlooked are the numerous contractors, painters, cleaners and other tradesmen and women who use boats to commute to and from work.

While technically this group may not be considered recreational boaters, I'm certain these folks enjoy the journey to work far more

than most commuters.

New York state, with over a half million registered boats, ranks among the top ten states nationwide. This is an impressive figure when considering that several states require registration of all boats, motorized or not.

With the opening of bass season on June 21 and the conclusion of the school year, I expect there will be a significant increase in boat traffic, despite the rising cost of fuel.

Overall, this wide mix of boaters gets along surprisingly well. I don't quite understand it, but there is something about being out on

the water that soothes the soul, calms the spirit and fosters a commonality between folks that may never mix in other circumstances.

Water is an odd environment. If someone is broken down by the side of a road, the majority of motorists will whiz right by. Hitchhikers receive similar treatment.

However, if the same individual is having boat or motor troubles on the lake, it's rare when other boaters won't approach to see if they can help.

Likewise, if someone is stranded upon a far shore, help is usually quick to arrive, hitchhiker or not. Over the years, I've towed a dozen boats back to the dock and helped numerous paddlers out of threatening weather. On the water, we all get along.

For some unknown reason, pavement has an odd effect on people. The friendly folks that wave while passing along a river channel, will be the same guys to "flip you off" for driving too slow on the highway.

I've never understood this unusual juxtaposition of sentiment, where a friend on the water can immediately become an enemy on the road. But I've watched it happen. I've even seen it occur as soon as boats arrive at the boat launch parking lot, while drivers jockey trailers to the ramp.

Despite the rather obvious good natured responses, it seems there is always someone looking to throw a monkey-wrench into the well- oiled machinery.

Thus it was no surprise when a recent joint press release was issued by the Department of Environmental Conservation and the Adirondack Park Agency.

In the release, DEC Commissioner Pete Grannis and APA Chairman Curt Stiles announced the formation of an interagency Quiet Waters Working Group to evaluate lakes, ponds and rivers in the Park for potential designation as "quiet water," meaning that motorized craft would be prohibited.

The term "Quiet Waters" comes from the campaign initiated by Dick Beamish and promoted through his publication, The Adirondack Explorer, which is headquartered in Saranac Lake. The Explorer is, in fact, a mouthpiece for Getting the Word Out, Inc., a nonprofit, environmental advocacy group spearheaded by Mr. Beamish and Dr. Anne La Bastille.

Mr. Beamish is a former spokesman for both the Adirondack Park Agency and the Adirondack Council, and Dr. LaBastille is a former APA commissioner.

You have to wonder how the APA and the DEC came up with such an original name for their proposed "interagency working group."

No floatplanes on

Quiet Waters

The Quiet Waters Campaign claimed its first victory a few years back when the state banned motors throughout the entire Lows Lake/Bog River Flow Complex, even though private inholdings such as the Boy Scouts and hunting clubs retained their rights.

Under the original Bog River Flow plan, floatplanes were also to be phased out by this year. However, a common-sense compromise was eventually worked out between the DEC and the two surviving floatplane operators in the park. The plan was to extend their access for another decade.

The plan, intended to regulate floatplanes through a permit system, would allow the two, second-generation pilots to finish out their careers while still servicing the most appropriate and popular location in the park.

Proving that no good deed goes unpunished, a consortium of environmental advocacy groups, which includes the Residents Committee to Protect the Adirondacks, the Sierra Club and the Society for the Protection of the Adirondacks, immediately brought a lawsuit against the DEC to enforce the initial floatplane ban. The lawsuit is still pending.

It is difficult to determine whether the advocacy groups were emboldened by their prior accomplishments or bitter over the compromise

plan for floatplanes. Whatever the case, the campaign for Quiet Waters now appears to have gained traction among the powers that be.

The request for exclusive use of waters by these groups will continue to polarize user groups.

Sportsmen, increasingly disenfranchised by a number of recent state land-use decisions, will revolt at the concept of closing waters traditionally open to motorized access.

Consider the outrage that would be generated among paddling enthusiasts if the state formed a working group to ban non-motorized users from state waters. Lawyers would be busy. This scenario should provide an insight into sportsmen's concerns.

First, ATVs were banned on Forest Preserve lands, after an increase in registration fees intended to be used to develop a trail system for

their use.

More recently, money generated from an increase in snowmobile registration fees dedicated for trail maintenance was also misappropriated by the state and went into the general fund.

On several of the proposed Quiet Waters, the boat launches that provides access were developed from the Conservation Fund, which is partially funded through license sales and an excise tax on outdoor equipment.

This pattern of misused funds begs the question: How long will New York's sportsmen and women allow the state to continue to misuse their money?

The NYS Conservation Fund Advisory Board has already passed a motion opposing the proposed "Quiet Waters Working Group for the Adirondack Park" because of the severe negative impact on the fishing, hunting, and trapping stakeholders.

The board also passed a motion to send a letter to Commissione Grannis indicating the motion was passed and expanding on it.

The entire "Quiet Waters Working Group" process will foster a growing disenfranchisement of Adirondack sportsmen. At the same time, it will surely stir up resentment among the motorized and non-motorized user groups.

If the process continues unabated, I regret that the familiar wave so often exchanged as boaters passing on a river channel may eventually be replaced by a single digit salute upon future encounters.

 
 

 

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