Log Bay on Lake George on Monday, July 27, 2015 in Fort Ann, N.Y. (Lori Van Buren / Times Union)
The Upper Saranac Foundation (USF) joined six other Adirondack environmental advocacy groups calling for Gov. Hochul to include $1 million in the Executive Budget for the state to conduct the mandated and long-overdue carrying capacity study for the Saranac Chain of Lakes.
As a requirement in the Adirondack State Land Master Plan (SLMP), regardless of the type of shoreline ownership, the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) and Adirondack Park Agency (APA) are charged with examining carrying capacity and are to develop limits or regulations to prevent exceeding capacities.
It is clear that the SLMP set a legal mandate for carrying capacity studies for the Adirondack Park, and the Saranac Lake Wild Forest (SLWF) Unit Management Plan (UMP) that explicitly calls for a carrying capacity study for the Saranac Chain of Lakes. This study has been required by law for 50 years, but has never been completed for the network of water bodies.
The coalition of environmental advocates requesting funding for the study, along with the USF, includes the Adirondack Council, Adirondack Lakes Alliance, Adirondack Mountain Club, Adirondack Wild: Friends of the Forest Preserve, Protect the Adirondacks, and the Sierra Club. A copy of that letter can be found here.
The SLWF-UMP governs the lakes and ponds throughout the Saranac Chain of Lakes. The SLWF-UMP recognizes that boat use has potentially significant environmental and social impacts including the “introduction of nutrients, petroleum products, effluent, sediment, and invasive species; damage to riparian vegetation; and disturbances to bird nesting . . . . also impacts to the recreational experience caused by use on water bodies. Crowding and conflict impact one’s experience on a waterbody.”
Over the past few years, the USF has actively been requesting that the DEC and the APA fulfill their legal obligation to conduct a carrying capacity study when drafting UMPs, which are created for each unit of land in the Adirondack Park. The USF has provided input on UMPs for the Fish Creek and Rollins Pond Campgrounds and the Saranac Lake Wild Forest, which includes Upper Saranac Lake, Follensby Clear, and Hoel and Lower Fish Creek Ponds. In July, the USF sent a letter appealing to the APA to hold the DEC accountable and direct the DEC to conduct a carrying capacity analysis for the interconnected waterbodies of the Saranac Chain of Lakes. A copy of that letter can be found here.
We are now asking the Governor to provide the funding needed to support the mandatory study. We believe that carrying capacity must be understood to assess the physical, biological, and social impacts of public use of any water body; it’s important to identify the appropriate balance between environmental protection. One way of analyzing changes over time and impacts on recreational users, water quality, and wildlife from increased motorboat traffic is through a carrying capacity study. Carrying capacity analysis determines the amount of visitor use a waterbody can withstand without detrimental impacts to its users and the natural resources. Knowing the answers to “how many people is too many?” or “how much is acceptable?” are important questions that the USF has been advocating state agencies to assess.