APA opens public comment period on Sentinel Range Wilderness plan

Whiteface Mountain looms over the still waters of Copperas Pond in the Sentinel Range Wilderness Area near Lake Placid earlier this year. (Enterprise photo — Justin A. Levine)

RAY BROOK — The state Adirondack Park Agency board on Friday unanimously approved a public comment period for the Sentinel Range Wilderness Area outside of Lake Placid, but there was some debate over the review process.

The state Department of Environmental Conservation recently submitted to the APA its unit management plan for the Sentinel Range Wilderness Area, which covers about 23,000 acres in the towns of Jay, North Elba and Wilmington. The draft UMP was first released to the public in the fall of 2017.

The UMP calls for rerouting and stabilizing numerous trails, including those up Pitchoff Mountain, and the formalization of several herd paths to popular climbing routes. The plan also calls for the closure of some primitive campsites and the creation of new ones as an offset.

APA board member Chad Dawson said the DEC and APA need to focus on bigger problems, such as carrying capacity, rather than using a “cut and paste” approach regarding the number of users in UMPs. He said he’s considered calling for a moratorium on new UMPs, saying that these issues are similar to a conveyor belt moving too fast for its workers to keep up.

“Will I live long enough to see changes?” Dawson asked. “But I’m talking about what’s required by law, because we don’t know what the managers know, what the planners know. I think the law requires more than that.

“We don’t see it, so we don’t know what’s being monitored, what’s being done. I think it’s time to do more.”

DEC Region 5 Director Bob Stegemann and APA Executive Director Terry Martino each said that while it’s not perfect, the monitoring plans in recent UMPs are a step in the right direction. DEC staff also said a focus group of climbers will be established to determine what to do with fixed anchors on climbing routes, which are currently illegal.

The APA board unanimously approved a public comment period on the UMP for its conformance with the Adirondack Park State Land Master Plan.

The public comment period for the SRWA UMP’s conformance with the APSLMP will run from today through Oct. 11. Comments can be sent to Richard Weber, Deputy Director of Planning, P.O. Box 99, 1133 NYS Route 86, Ray Brook, NY 12977, or by email to SLMP_UMP_Comments@apa.ny.gov.