Emergency Regulations Adopted For High Peaks Wilderness Area

New Measures Aim To Ensure Public Safety and Protect Natural Resources

New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) Commissioner John P. Cahill today announced that emergency regulations for use of the High Peaks Wilderness Area will become effective Friday, May 19, 2000.

These regulations were proposed in the High Peaks Wilderness Complex Unit Management Plan (UMP), which was approved by Commissioner Cahill and accepted by Governor George E. Pataki in March 1999.

"The implementation of these regulations will help preserve public health and safety while protecting fragile ecosystems, preventing wildfire, and ensuring that the public can enjoy the breathtaking beauty of the High Peaks Wilderness for years to come," Commissioner Cahill said. "Adopting these regulations is the best and most expeditious means of ensuring public use of the High Peaks that does not negatively impact this precious resource."

The regulations will:

prohibit camping above 4,000 feet in elevation;
limit all camping between 3,500 and 4,000 feet in elevation to designated campsites;
require all winter visitors to possess and use skis or snowshoes when the terrain is snow-covered;
limit the number of persons per campsite to eight for overnight camping;
limit the size of day use parties to a maximum number of 15 persons per party;
restrict campfire use to safe locations at least 150 feet from any road, trail or water body;
prohibit all campfires in the eastern High Peaks zone and at all locations above 4,000 feet in elevation in the western High Peaks zone;
prohibit the possession of glass containers;
require the leashing of pets on DEC marked trails, designated camp and lean-to sites, in congregated areas, and at elevations above 4,000 feet; and
require mandatory trail head registrations in the heavily-used eastern High Peaks zone.
"These reasonable regulations will ensure that hikers and campers can enjoy the magnificent beauty of the High Peaks without degrading the wilderness quality," said Neil Woodworth, counsel to the 35,000 member Adirondack Mountain Club (ADK). "We are strongly committed to educating the hiking community to follow these rules to preserve the majesty of the High Peaks for future generations."

The Adirondack Park State Land Master Plan sets forth general guidelines for wilderness management. However, portions of the High Peaks have become so popular among campers and hikers that some of these guidelines are not being met.

The High Peaks UMP documents the rapidly escalating amount of use the High Peaks is experiencing. Trail head registrations indicate that the number of visitors to the High Peaks Wilderness Area more than doubled from 1985 to 1998. The number of visitors rose from 67,354 in 1985 to 139,663 in 1998 and DEC expects use to continue escalating.

Peter Duncan, DEC Deputy Commissioner for Natural Resources, said, "The High Peaks Wilderness is the largest, and best-known wilderness area in the Adirondack Park, characterized by many of the highest elevations in the State, steep slopes and thin soil. The combination of these physical traits and the area's popularity have led to the need for these rules. It is critical that we manage this area to protect the physical environment and the wilderness character of the area."

The increased popularity of the High Peaks has resulted in trail erosion, damage to vegetation around heavily used campsites and fragile, high-elevation areas, and, at times, a level of use that is not in keeping with a wilderness setting.

The regulations implement directives contained in the High Peaks UMP. The Department recognized early in the unit management planning process that public participation was essential in managing the High Peaks Wilderness Area.

A 15-member High Peaks Advisory Committee was convened between 1974 and 1977, and more recently, formal public participation in the development of the UMP began in June of 1990 with the appointment of a 26-member citizens advisory group. This advisory committee represented a wide variety of interest groups, local governments, scientists, local businesses and user groups.

The committee held 15 group and numerous subcommittee meetings over a two year period ending in June of 1992. In July of 1992 the committee submitted a detailed report to the DEC, listing 186 recommendations, the emergency regulations among them.

In addition to the use of the advisory committee, outreach efforts included scoping sessions and public comment on the draft UMP through public meetings and written comments. Five public meetings soliciting comments from the public were held throughout New York State. More than 400 citizens attended and the DEC heard oral statements from 107 speakers. Additionally, written statements were received from 397 individuals and organizations.

For more information about the new High Peaks Wilderness regulations visit the DEC website at: www.dec.state.ny.us or call the Division of Lands and Forests at (518) 457-2475.

copy courtesy of :
New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC)