Adirondack Park Agency

Understanding Critical Environmental Areas

Critical Environmental Areas (CEA's) are the more sensitive features of the Park's natural environment. They are subcategories of the general land use area classifications and are provided extra protection by the law. These Critical Environmental Areas include wetlands, high elevations, areas around designated study rivers, state or federal highways, and lands in proximity to certain classifications of state-owned lands.

CEA's include:

  • land at elevation of 2,500 feet or more (except in Hamlet areas) to protect thin soils and open space;
  • land within 1/8 mile of state wilderness, primitive or canoe areas (except in Hamlet areas);
  • land within 150 feet (in a Rural Use area) or within 300 feet (in a Resource Management area)of the edge of the right-of-way of a federal or state highway;
  • wetlands; and
  • land within 1/4 mile of rivers under study for inclusion in the Wild, Scenic And Recreational Rivers System, except in Hamlet areas.

For more on critical environmental areas, see page 5 of the Citizen's Guide to Adirondack Park Land Use Regulations (pdf 370kb).

Is my land in a CEA?

To determine if a critical environmental area is present for an individual parcel, you should write or call the Adirondack Park Agency office

See FAQ's and the Freshwater Wetlands Regulations Flyer (pdf 14kb) for more on wetlands.

Though we don't suggest starting with this chart due to its complexity, the chart Summary of Adirondack Park Agency Authority Over Land Use and Development and Subdivisions covers issues of jurisdiction over CEA's.