Several of the remaining fire towers in the Adirondacks do have friends groups and some contribute money and labor to the cause, but DEC officials caution that over the long-term, the state ends up footing much of the bill.
The three-pronged APA proposal, which is open for public comment, could see the footprints of the towers classified as either historic or primitive.
Under the primitive designation, the towers would not be restored and would not allow public access, but would remain at their current location.
However, if classified as historic, the state would carry a responsibility to restore and maintain the towers in working condition to allow public access.
The third option is no action at all, and would result in the removal of the towers in accordance with the state Land Master Plan.
APA Commissioner Dick Booth said that given the slumping economy, he would like to see a fourth option that wouldn't require the state to make a financial commitment.
"We could put a postage stamp around a historic resource, recognize it's there, the state would not commit resource to managing it," Booth said. "It would become part of the Forest Preserve and eventually deteriorate back into the landscape."
DEC has removed towers that were in compliance with a SLMP designation, citing the prohibitive cost of restoration or maintenance.
Over 85 percent of the public comment received this year by DEC, in written and oral form, expressed support of retaining the fire towers. Proponents of keeping the towers consider them an important part of the region's cultural history. The opposition counters that they are in violation of the SLMP.