The Adirondack Park was created in 1892 by the State of New York amid concerns for the water and timber resources of the region. Today the Park is the largest publicly protected area in the contiguous United States, greater in size than Yellowstone, Everglades, Glacier, and Grand Canyon National Park combined. The boundary of the Park encompasses approximately 6 million acres, nearly half of which belongs to all the people of New York State and is constitutionally protected to remain “forever wild” forest preserve. The remaining half of the Park is private land including year-round residents, vacation homes, camps, businesses, and farms.
The Adirondack region boasts over 3,000 lakes, 30,000 miles of rivers and streams, and a wide variety of habitats, including globally unique wetland types and old growth forests. The heart of the Adirondack Park is the Forest Preserve, which was created by an act of the Legislature in 1885 which stated, “The lands now or hereafter constituting the Forest Preserve shall be forever kept as wild forest lands. They shall not be sold, nor shall they be leased or taken by any person or corporation, public or private.” The state of New York owns approximately 43 percent, or roughly 2.6 million acres of land within the Park’s boundaries. The remaining private lands are devoted principally to forestry, agriculture, and open space recreation. The Adirondack Park is unique in its intricate mixture of public and private lands. About 130,000 people live here year round in its 103 towns and villages. The harmonious blend of private and public lands give the Adirondacks a diversity found nowhere else – a diversity of open space and recreational lands, of wildlife and flora, of mountains and meadows, and people of all walks of life.
In order to identify and protect the natural resources of the Park, all parcels and lots of land, in both the private and public sectors, are classified in the Adirondack Park Land Use and Development Plan Map and State Land Map. The largest single category of land (totaling 1.3 million acres) is Wild Forest, where a variety of outdoor recreation activities are allowed. Other categories of State Lands are: Primitive and Canoe areas; Intensive Use areas (such as public camp grounds), and State Historic Sites. The Adirondack Park State Land Master Plan sets policy for the management of the state owned lands. Developed by the Adirondack Park Agency in cooperation with the Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) and approved by the Governor of New York State, the Master Plan was first adopted in 1972. The actual management of the State Lands is carried out by DEC forest rangers, foresters, environmental conservation officers, and other state personnel.
The Adirondack Park Land Use and Development Plan also applies to the remaining 3.4 million acres of private land in the Park. The Plan is designed to conserve the Park’s natural resources and open-space character by directing and clustering development so as to minimize its impact on the Park. Under the Plan, all private lands are mapped into six land use classifications: hamlet, moderate intensity use, low intensity use, rural use, resource management, and industrial use. Guidelines are specified for the intensity of development within each category, based on number of buildings per square mile. Projects of regional significance usually require a permit from the Adirondack Park Agency.