Grant could help Council, state expand wilderness

The Raquette-Jordan Boreal area is being studied by the Adirondack Council as it eyes land purchases that could lead to a new wilderness area in the northwest part of the Adirondacks. (Photo provided — Carl Heilman, Adirondack Council)

The Adirondack Council, a green group based in Elizabethtown, recently received a $45,000 grant that the group hopes could lead to the creation of a new wilderness area within the Blue Line.

For nearly three decades, the Council has been trying to establish, with the state, a Boreal Wilderness Area in the northwestern part of the park, citing the rarity of low-lying boreal wetlands and their associated plant and animal species. This new grant, which was awarded last month, should cover about a third of the background research and analysis that needs to be done.

Willie Janeway, executive director for the Adirondack Council, said in an email that land acquisition is yet to come.

“We advocate for purchases of new Forest Preserve only from willing sellers. These are long-range plans, incorporating our best estimate of the lands that would be needed to achieve full protection for the ecosystems, not a target list for real estate acquisition,” Janeway wrote. “The preservation of the ecological integrity and wild character of the boreal forest region provides clean water, wildlife, wilderness and community economic benefits.”

The grant came from the Conservation Alliance, a collection of environmentally-minded businesses that distributes its annual dues to grassroots environmental organizations to help protect habitats and outdoor recreation.

While there are already state Forest Preserve lands in the area, the Council is working on expanding those lands so they meet the size criteria for a Wilderness designation. Due to the unique characteristics of boreal areas, they are likely to become more endangered and important as the climate changes.

“Since 1989, the Adirondack Council has advocated for a Boreal Wilderness Area in the northwestern part of the Adirondack Park. The region has certain ecological resources considered to be critical on both a regional and global scale. Interconnected public Forest Preserve units and easement lands provide the opportunity to create a Wilderness area containing exemplary boreal ecosystems of sufficient size to ensure the functioning of all natural processes,” Janeway wrote. “In the face of climate change, we now understand that the low-elevation boreal environment and the biodiversity it holds is even more at risk than we understood 20 years ago.

“Expanding the permanent protection of the Raquette-Jordan Boreal area would provide additional climate resilience for rare species, protecting their habitat, and providing additional opportunities for compatible recreation in a remote and ecologically distinct setting.”

Janeway said a timetable for land purchases and eventual transfer to the state are yet to be determined.