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Not so ‘Quiet Waters’

July 17, 2008
By Robert E. Brown

This guest commentary was written in response to a guest commentary by Dick Beamish, which ran on July 2 in the Adirondack Daily Enterprise, admonishing sportsmen to "calm down" and explaining the Quiet Waters Campaign endorsed by the Adirondack Explorer magazine.

Mr. Beamish did a neat job of deflecting attention away from the sportsmen's angry response to the joint announcement by state Department of Environmental Conservation and the Adirondack Park Agency of a "Quiet Waters Working Group" accurately portrayed by outdoor writer Joe Hackett. I would now like to add a few more facts for the public to digest that were not mentioned in the press releases nor by Mr. Beamish.

It is no secret that former Governor George Pataki added nearly one million acres of state land to the Adirondack Park, either by fee title or via conservation easements. Much of the land added to the Forest Preserve includes waters that were deemed of high value because they could be used to complete new canoe routes. Surely the citizens of Long Lake and Tupper Lake remember how the state crowed when it obtained the "crown jewel" of Adirondack Lakes, the 2,300-acre Little Tupper Lake. Later, the state acquired adjacent Round Lake (740 acres), Bog Lake (565 acres), Clear Pond (75 acres) and portions of the Bog River, all to create a canoe route that we were told would draw thousands of paddlers annually. The traditional and harmless use of motorboats by sportsmen on these waters ended when the entire area was classified as wilderness. No consideration was given by the state for permitting use of electric motors despite the fact that Mr. Beamish is willing to allow such use. Surprisingly, all that new Quiet Water has done little to stimulate the economies of Long Lake and Tupper Lake. Perhaps that has something to do with the lakes being too large to paddle safely upon except on all but the calmest days and in the warmest weather.

Similarly, the sportsmen of Franklin and St. Lawrence Counties can recall the acquisition of the Champion Lands and the subsequent formation of the Northern Rivers Corridors. Again, these "jewels" were purchased for paddlers. Hunting- and fishing-camp lessees who had utilized small motors on the St. Regis River, East Branch of the St. Regis River and Madawaska Pond for decades were ousted. The DEC has closed all the former access points to the rivers once used by the clubs for "safety" reasons and has been "unable" to find new access points. I attended hearings held on these rivers at locations across New York and heard virtually no support for them going motorless. Resolutions and local political support favoring continued motor use by the Franklin County Legislature, former Assemblyman Chris Ortloff and Senator Betty Little weren't exactly ignored by the state....but you won't find anybody using motors on these waters. Now, despite being a neighbor to all these northern rivers, the village of St. Regis Falls has failed to become a boomtown.

Perhaps Mr. Beamish can name other lakes or rivers within the new million acres where the use of motors for the general public has been allowed to continue? I cannot. The state has classified most of its new lands as wilderness or primitive or it leaves them unclassified. In case you don't know, unclassified lands are managed by the state as wilderness. The conservation easement lands offer no new motorboat opportunities either. Most of the easement conditions greatly restrict how the public uses these lands and waters.

So, there has been a decade of new quiet water access purchased by the state with constant loss of motor boating waters. Now we hear of a committee being formed because "there are too few paddling opportunities." The state, now running out of lands to buy and reclassify as wilderness, intends to regulate motors offwaters used by residents and sportsmen for generations.

Mr. Beamish asks sportsmen to calm down about the appointment of an internal committee of selected DEC and APA staffers who will consider all waters in the park for Quiet Water status. The committee will not limit itself to the waters named in the Adirondack Explorer campaign. More importantly, this committee will operate outside of the public review process required for Unit Management Planning. The UMP process requires public hearings and, ultimately, approval by the APA and DEC Commissioners. The commissioners are political appointees and have some respect for the process of how they attain and retain their jobs. However, the agency staffers on the new Quiet Waters Working Committee are not politically beholden for their jobs.... which might be a good thing, except that low-level staffers can be easily overruled by their political superiors. Thus, the new committee is a facade. No political appointees go on record with their stances on a proposed regulation. Why should sportsmen be calm about such a politically unaccountable process?

If the Quiet Waters Working Committee is truly going to be an open process as the DEC and APA press releases claim, AND IF Mr. Beamish is correct in describing how Adirondack communities are going to benefit economically by adding new Quiet waters, then why not model the Working Committee after the Open Space Committee (for state land acquisitions)? That is, let the committee nominate waters for Quiet status, but let local towns have veto power over the nominations? What could be fairer and more open than that?

I challenge Mr. Beamish to accept and promote this improvement to his campaign, but I expect to hear only "Quiet."



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