Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Peter Bauer: The Unbearable Wrongness of Will Doolittle

Moose River PLains Road Signs (Dave Gibson Photo)Will Doolittle’s column in the Post Star (“Protecting their Preferences” February 28, 2013) gets a lot of things wrong – really wrong.

We all know that Doolittle is antagonistic towards Adirondack Park environmental groups, but this column sets a new standard for careless editorializing.

Doolittle chides Protect the Adirondacks and Glens Falls environmental attorney John Caffry for following a “conservationist agenda” and trying to “block recreational access and activities.” He says, in essence, that PROTECT and Caffry litigate in favor of one type of recreational use over another. He writes “It’s personal taste, not concern for the environment, that goads groups like Protect the Adirondacks! into filing lawsuits against snowmobile trails while praising the expansion of paddling trails.”

According to Doolittle’s thesis, environmentalists work to selfishly protect our favored recreational pursuits and attempt to eliminate the recreational pursuits of others that we do not favor.

Doolittle also charges that since our objectives are selfish we actually care nothing about protecting the environment. He writes “Personal preference is the driving force of the land use conflicts in the Adirondacks. What is good or bad for nature has nothing to do with it.

These are remarkable statements, but they’re flat out wrong.  Doolittle is entitled to his own opinions, but not his own facts, to borrow from Senator Moynihan’s famous debate rejoinder. Below, I will show the ways that these statements are false, but let’s start first with how Doolittle backs up his charges.

Here’s Doolittle’s evidence to support his thesis: 1) Caffry successfully defended Adirondack Explorer editor Phil Brown when he was sued for exercising his right to recreate on a navigable waterway and PROTECT cheered their victory, while at the same time PROTECT is suing the state over snowmobile trail construction and grooming; 2) Caffry successfully represented a group of residents near West Mountain against a commercial paintball park proposed in their backyards; 3) Caffry and the Residents’ Committee to Protect the Adirondacks (RCPA) sued the state over its plans for expansion of the Gore Mountain Ski Center and linkage to the Front Street resort development at the North Creek Ski Bowl; and 4) Caffry successfully represented PROTECT and the Adirondack Mountain Club (ADK) in forcing the state to manage Lows Lake as Wilderness and prohibit certain floatplane and motorboat uses there.

Doolittle sees in these actions a fact pattern from which he concludes that PROTECT and Caffry are pro-canoes/anti-snowmobile, anti-paintball, anti-downhill skiing, and anti-floatplanes. Doolittle asks rhetorically “Why does the environmental community rally behind canoe and kayak penetration into the wilderness, but against other recreational uses?

Doolittle’s analytics leave a lot to be desired. Like Glenn Beck drawing circles and arrows on his chalkboard, he jumps to conclusions based on the most superficial of connections without bothering to look into the facts and the real issues and motivations behind these actions.

Where to start?

Doolittle says John Caffry is a Queensbury attorney, but Caffry moved to the City of Glens Falls in 1987, some 26 years ago. Caffry has not had a law office in Queensbury since 1991. This is a good illustration of Doolittle’s fact checking skills. Finding out where somebody lives is pretty easy. Finding a business is even easier.  All that he had to do was pick up the phone book or search on Google.  But as we’ll see later on even though Doolittle gets Caffry’s address wrong by a mere 26 years, that’s a lot closer than he is on the majority of the statements in his wildly erroneous column.

The first issue of substance is Doolittle’s analysis of the meaning of Phil Brown’s recent successful defense of public navigation rights. To repeat, Doolittle asks “Why does the environmental community rally behind canoe and kayak penetration into the wilderness, but against other recreational uses?”

Yes, PROTECT cheered Phil Brown’s victory. John Caffry successfully represented Phil Brown and together they affirmed, very importantly we believe, public navigation rights.

But Doolittle misses the point of this lawsuit. It was not about a canoe and kayak wilderness route, it was a case about public navigation rights. It had nothing to do with the type of vessel Phil Brown was using to navigate. Doolittle tried to make this case into some kind of wilderness canoe route victory, but that’s simply not what the case was about.

It should be pointed out that Brown’s case is part of string of public navigation rights cases. Another important one was the Salmon River case, which dealt with the public navigation rights of fishermen using motorboats. The issue here is not the type of vessel used on a waterway, but the fact that the public has the right to use certain waterways under certain conditions. The important thing here is that if you start your trip on public land and end your trip on public land and don’t have to get out of your boat too much in between, then the public can navigate the route, even if it passes through private land.

Each case that affirms public navigation rights is important to cheer. Now we have Phil Brown’s case, the Salmon River case and the Moose River case – three victories for pubic navigation rights.

In PROTECT’s web post that cheered this decision we stated “This decision is a milestone in affirming the public’s recreation and navigation rights.”  So, yes, PROTECT did cheer. PROTECT was not a party to this lawsuit, but we’re proud of one of our Directors, John Caffry, for his hard work to help affirm the public’s navigation rights.

To somehow conclude that the lawsuit against Brown, which affirmed public navigation rights, is somehow about favoring one type of recreational use over another makes no sense. Doolittle is on weak ground here trying to force Phil Brown’s victory to fit his own false narrative. PROTECT simply cheered public navigation rights, not canoe travel.

Doolittle also repeats the specious claim that the plaintiffs’ main concern in suing Brown was the introduction of invasive species. Since the waterway at issue flows through state land both upstream and downstream of their property, allowing the public to navigate through their property would have no effect on the risk of this occurring.  Rather than research the details of this case, Doolittle just repeated a specious argument to support his intended narrative.

Last, Doolittle wrote about Brown’s case, “An earlier ruling had found waterway recreation qualifies as a commercial use.” He’s referring here to the Moose River case, but if he had bothered to read the case he would see that “commercial use” was not the primary issue – navigability was. And the Moose River decision quite clearly states that both commercial use and recreational use can be proper evidence of navigability. That’s an important point in navigation law, though it’s lost on Doolittle.

So, let’s recap. Doolittle couldn’t be bothered to check his facts about where John Caffry lives. Doolittle failed to understand and report accurately about what the Phil Brown lawsuit was all about. And, Doolittle couldn’t be bothered to actually read and accurately report on the meaning of the Moose River case.

But, there’s lots more nonsense in his column.

Next, let’s dispense with the paintball stuff. Doolittle chides Caffry because he represented a group of neighbors near West Mountain in Queensbury “who fought to stop the opening of a paintball park there.” Doolittle is trying to use the paintball park controversy near West Mountain to show that Caffry represented environmentalists who objected to paintball players.

Doolittle’s analysis is simplistic. Caffry’s representation here had nothing to do with the environment or public recreation. It was about landowners trying to protect their suburban neighborhood from what they saw as an unwelcome commercial development in a largely residential area, one which threatened the safety of their families. It simply stretches credulity to try and link this case to larger Adirondack Park environmental or recreation issues. So, again, Doolittle makes an unfounded leap.

(In the interest of full disclosure I played paintball at a commercial paintball park as part of a friend’s bachelor party. I had welts all over my body for a month. I wonder if Will Doolittle is a paintball player. I do not know if John Caffry has ever played paintball.)

Now, let’s look at the Gore Mountain issue and Doolittle’s implying that our actions somehow show a bias against downhill skiing. Doolittle believes that the lawsuit brought against the NYS Olympic Regional Development Authority (ORDA), APA and DEC by Caffry and the Residents’ Committee to Protect the Adirondacks (RCPA), a predecessor organization of PROTECT, shows that we’re anti-downhill skiing.

Note that this lawsuit concerned the state’s failure to conduct proper inventories and assessments, namely to look at the cumulative impacts of ORDA’s plans to link together Gore Mountain, the North Creek Ski Bowl, and a private 200+-unit luxury resort development (Front Street). The lawsuit largely concerned the impacts from the development.

Note too that the RCPA had supported Gore Mountain’s major expansion in the late 1990s that developed Bear Mountain, built new trails on the Gore Mountain summit as well as the lower mountain, and upgraded and added new lifts/Gondola. I think that action put us squarely on the side of downhill skiing at Gore Mountain.

As for anti-skiing bias, John Caffry has skied at Gore since it opened in the mid-sixties.  At the time of the lawsuit, both Caffry and I were regular skiers at Gore. Today, we both still ski at Gore. We both also cross-country ski. I am also the proud father of a high school downhill ski racer, as is Will Doolittle, and we were both at the same races this winter.

It should also be pointed out that for many years the RCPA office in North Creek saw extensive volunteer activity in winter months from people who skied at Gore Mountain all morning and then came to the office and stuffed envelopes all afternoon. In those years, I often skied at Gore on my lunch break; it was great. Other RCPA (and now PROTECT) Board members are season pass holders at Whiteface.

So Doolittle’s conclusion that RCPA’s lawsuit against ORDA’s expansion plans to the North Creek Ski bowl, largely to enable a large private luxury resort developer, somehow makes us anti-downhill skiing is yet another faulty leap made because he couldn’t be bothered to do any actual research or fact checking.

Two other points about Gore Mountain. Firstly, the lawsuit was about trying to make state agencies comply with the law. We were successful because the lawsuit forced ORDA undertake a supplemental environmental impact statement (SEIS) on the cumulative impacts of its plans. In the long run though, we never gained any traction with the state, or the local media, about our numerous complaints that ORDA’s multi-million dollar expansion to link Gore Mountain to the North Creek Ski Bowl was an immense public giveaway to a private corporation. The luxury resort developer Front Street plans to build a variety of houses and townhouses among the new lifts and ski trails at the Ski Bowl (Little Gore). There is now a fully constructed connection of trails and lifts, which cost millions of dollars in taxpayer money that will allow patrons of the Front Street development to ski directly to Gore Mountain. The generosity of state taxpayers in this case was an immense boon to a private developer.

Doolittle has railed against public subsidies of the Global Foundries project in the Luther Forest project in Malta to help private companies, but he was ever so mum about the significant public support for the Front Street project. Perhaps Doolittle is showing his “preferences” between public giveaways; “yes” for private luxury resort developers, but “no” for computer chip makers.

Last point on Gore. I could rightfully be accused of being a downhill ski area lobbyist. Before ORDA took over management of the Ski Bowl from the Town of Johnsburg, state legislation had to be passed authorizing ORDA, a state authority, to do so. The Assembly, no fans of ORDA, balked at this idea. At that time, the RCPA supported the upgrading of the Ski Bowl as part of the initial expansion of Gore to Bear Mountain, etc. We saw the Ski Bowl as an auxiliary ski area that could be outfitted for night skiing and as such would be an improved community asset. I brought Bill Thomas, who was then the Johnsburg Supervisor, to Albany and we made visits to a number of offices, especially in the Assembly. Suffice it to say that the entree provided by me to the Assembly helped move that bill ahead. This was done behind the scenes, like the majority of our good advocacy work, so I don’t expect Will Doolittle to know anything about it, but it makes his argument about being anti-downhill skiing even more absurd. (Note that at this time Front Street was not part of the picture. The RCPA would not have supported expansion of the Ski Bowl for the purpose of mixing it in with a private development.)

Doolittle’s entire claim about our involvement with Gore Mountain is pure fiction.

So, I think a pattern is emerging here. It’s plain to see that Doolittle seized upon an action by Caffry/RCPA/PROTECT, did not bother to research what the action was truly about, undertook a shallow analysis based on superficial connections, reached a faulty conclusion, and typed all this up into a Post Star column.

But there’s more.

Now let’s look at Lows Lake. The issue here was the law. State law was violated by the APA and DEC in continuing to allow public motorized uses on Lows Lake. The Adirondack Park State Land Master Plan and the relevant unit management plans stated in black letters on white pages that public motorized use was to be phased out on Lows Lake. Not only that, research by ADK proved that APA had classified the lake as Wilderness (where planes are prohibited) two decades earlier. The APA and DEC did not adhere to any of these legal requirements.

Of the four cases Doolittle used to make his case about PROTECT’s hostility to motors, the Lows Lake case, I admit, is the easiest to misread as simply a case simply about one recreational choice versus another. But, while there was clear conflict between motorized and non-motorized users on Lows Lake, the lawsuit was also about state agencies obeying the law.

Note that on Lows Lake floatplane operators basically took over campsites and stockpiled supplies on shore, including drums of gas and other materials, deep in the Forest Preserve. People who canoed for hours and made a carry found campsites occupied by groups that had flown in. People that had canoed for hours and made a carry, hoping to get deeper into the wilderness, had to contend with floatplanes landing and taking off as they ferried supplies and people.

In the Lows Lake lawsuit, PROTECT and ADK, with Caffry as the attorney, were clearly defending what was supposed to be a wilderness area, but was not being managed as such.

Here’s what one commentator wrote about another Adirondack motor vs. non-motor debate “The right to use public land has to be limited by the necessity of preserving the wilderness, and the recognition that noisy machines like ATVs spoil one of the most wonderful aspects of the forest – its serenity.”  The same is clearly true for floatplanes on wilderness lakes.

To me, this commentator makes a pretty clear expression of an anti-motor preference.

The quote above was written in 2003 by Will Doolittle. So, today we’re being criticized by Will Doolittle for our actions on Lows Lake that basically applied the Doolittle standard for wilderness protection, that motors ruin one of the most wonderful aspects of a wild place – its serenity.

But there’s more. Not only did Will Doolittle ignore his own past position in his rush to try and discredit PROTECT, but he once again failed to do his homework and report the whole story of PROTECT’s position on floatplanes. It’s important to note that PROTECT’s position on floatplane use goes beyond Lows Lake, though we’re often pigeonholed for that successful lawsuit.

It should be noted that in PROTECT’s current advocacy on the classification of the former Nature Conservancy/Finch  lands that the state is buying calls for a new Hudson Headwaters Wilderness Area that includes the Essex Chain Lakes and the 22 miles of the Hudson River, but supports floatplane access to Pine Lake and First Lake.  We drew our proposed Wilderness boundary around these lakes to preserve the fly-in access. We also support snowmobile trails on the Gulf Brook Road near Boreas Ponds, as an important North Hudson-Newcomb connection route, and support dozens of miles of roads being opened for motorized access. We’ve tried in good faith to accommodate a wide range of recreational options across these new state lands being purchased from The Nature Conservancy.

Nothing from Doolittle about that, because that would have meant he would have had to actually do a bit of research, read some webpages, click a few links, maybe even dial some phone numbers. And, these positions by PROTECT would not have fit his narrative.

Before we move on, let’s recap again.

  • Doolittle can’t be bothered to do basic fact checking and figure out where John Caffry lives and maintains a law office.
  • Doolittle failed in his attempt to use the legitimate concerns of people to protect their residential neighborhood as a statement about environmentalists’ recreational preferences.
  • Doolittle doesn’t know what Phil Brown’s court victory was all about.
  • Doolittle misstates the importance of the Moose River case.
  • Doolittle’s attempt to show a supposed animus towards downhill skiing in the Adirondacks is laughably wrong.
  • Doolittle chides PROTECT and others for our defense of Wilderness on Lows Lake, where floatplanes were clearly changing the character of that lake, by excoriating us because we acted to “stop the way that noisy machines spoil one of the most wonderful aspects of the forest — its serenity” – when he himself has advocated these same sentiments against other motors in wilderness.
  • Doolittle couldn’t be bothered with basic journalistic due diligence to look into PROTECT’s other positions on floatplane use where we do support it.

But there’s more.

It’s important to note that Doolittle omitted two other important lawsuits by PROTECT’s predecessors that were all about doing what’s good for nature and protecting the environment.

To reiterate, Doolittle wrote “Personal preference is the driving force of the land use conflicts in the Adirondacks. What is good or bad for nature has nothing to do with it.

Either Doolittle did not know about these earlier lawsuits or did not cite them because they did not fit his narrative.

First, RCPA sued the APA and DEC twice in the years before we sued ORDA at Gore Mountain. RCPA sued over the state’s destruction of the Bear Pond Road on the Forest Preserve in the western Adirondacks and sued the APA and DEC over allowing ATV use on roads in the Forest Preserve. Both involved widespread damage to the environment.  Both lawsuits were strong and both were advantageously settled with significant Forest Preserve management reforms won.

Doolittle claims in his column that PROTECT cares nothing about the environment, but is fixated on motors. This is just false.

On the Bear Pond Road the state had widened the dirt road through the Forest Preserve to 50-100 feet and destroyed thousands of trees. Wetlands were damaged. The settlement was all about remediation of the environment as well as policy. Motor vehicle use was never the issue. We never disputed the legality of the road. Our legal action was about protecting the environment.

Why did Doolittle omit mention of this lawsuit? Maybe he did not know about it. But, more likely he didn’t bother to look. He certainly never called us to get any information. Again, just poor reporting because he failed to tell the whole story.

On the ATV lawsuit, there was clearly widespread damage to the environment caused by ATVs throughout the Forest Preserve. RCPA published an expose titled Rutted and Ruined: ATV Damage on the Adirondack Forest Preserve, which helped to close dozens of roads to ATV use. Many of these roads, and areas connected to these roads, were damaged by ATVs. The lawsuit that followed this report was all about environmental damage and the way that one particular recreational use – ATV riding – damaged the environment.

As shown above, back in 2003, the damage wrought by ATVs was too much even for Will Doolittle. In writing about the RCPA’s work on ATV abuse back in 2003, Doolittle stated “the right to use public land has to be limited by the necessity of preserving the wilderness, and the recognition that noisy machines like ATVs spoil one of the most wonderful aspects of the forest – its serenity.”

So, why didn’t Doolittle write about the RCPA’s actions in regards to ATVs in his February 2013 column? Clearly he knew all about PROTECT’s action.  He even wrote about it. If he can reach back almost a decade to dredge up a paintball park controversy, he surely could have reported on these two lawsuits.

We can only conclude that this chapter of our work did not fit his narrative.

So, as shown with the Bear Pond Road and ATV lawsuits, PROTECT (by its predecessor organization) has clearly shown that it is concerned about damage to the environment.

Note that somehow PROTECT’s work to build the Park’s largest water quality monitoring program in partnership with Paul Smith’s College, or our sustainable forestry work, or our work on combatting invasive species were never mentioned by Doolittle. All programs in defense of the environment, but again, they did not fit Doolittle’s narrative. These are all projects Doolittle has been made aware of with press releases.

So, we’ve shown that Doolittle was wildly off the mark and just plain wrong in his column. He didn’t do much research, if any. No investigation. No phone calls. Hardly probing journalism. The really funny thing here is that in his excitement to string all these actions together to dump on PROTECT, Will Doolittle couldn’t even be bothered to consult Will Doolittle.

But, this is not the end of the litany of errors and poor analysis in his column.

He wrote in his column “Protect the Adirondacks! … is now fighting to halt state construction and grooming of snowmobile trails in the Adirondack Park.”

This has to do with our new lawsuit challenging the APA’s and DEC’s violations of state law and the state Constitution.

Here too, he gets it wrong.

Doolittle completely misses the point of this case. It involves two things. The first is that our constitutional challenge to a 12-acre clearcut through the Forest Preserve, where the land has been flattened and ground up, rocks removed, 2,200+ trees over 3 inches DBA removed, thousands more trees less than 3 inches DBA removed, side slopes bench-cut, trail bed hardened with gravel, bedrock cut away, etc., is all about damage to the environment. In short, these lands were not “forever kept as wild forest lands” as required by Article 14 of the State Constitution.

Here, PROTECT is clearly trying to protect the environment. The case is not about banning snowmobiling. It’s about protecting the environment from a state government that wants to build many more over-sized snowmobile trails and holding state agencies accountable for complying with the Constitution.

The second focus of the lawsuit is about the illegal way that the state grooms snowmobile trails – NOT that these trails are groomed. Doolittle says PROTECT is fighting to “halt grooming of snowmobile trails.” Dead wrong.  The suit opposes the type of grooming, but not the work of grooming.

If all trails were groomed by a snowmobile pulling a drag, that is allowable under current law. We’ve said this clearly. PROTECT does believe, however, that grooming on trails with bull-dozer-sized, several-ton, tracked groomers such as snowcats violates current law and is not allowable. Why is this important? Because the new Seventh Lake Mountain class II community connector snowmobile trail was built to road-like standards, causing damage to the environment, not to less intensive trail standards, so as to facilitate large tracked groomers, well beyond what’s needed by snowmobiles.

There’s no excuse for a journalist to get the facts of this case wrong. PROTECT posted the lawsuit papers on our website. We put out a press release to make it clear what this suit was about. We posted on our website and the Adirondack Almanack to clarify the intent of this lawsuit. It seems that actually doing any homework was far too much for Will Doolittle to undertake.

So, from beginning to end, Doolittle’s piece was sloppy and wrong.

For emphasis, here are the two of the most objectionable and far-fetched Doolittle statements, which have been shown to be positively false:

It’s personal taste, not concern for the environment, that goads groups like Protect the Adirondacks! into filing lawsuits against snowmobile trails while praising the expansion of paddling trails.”

For all the reasons shown above, this statement is stunningly false. PROTECT clearly values the wide array of recreational opportunities that the Adirondack Park and the Forest Preserve offer.

Personal preference is the driving force of the land use conflicts in the Adirondacks. What is good or bad for nature has nothing to do with it.”

Again, stunningly false. What is good and bad for nature and Adirondack communities is the primary issue that motivates PROTECT to act.

The Adirondack Park is a big place. The Forest Preserve is a big place. The greatness of the Adirondack Park and the greatness of the Forest Preserve is that a wide array of outdoor recreation and general rural experiences are offered day in, day out, month after month, year after year, here for the taking. PROTECT celebrates this.

And this great array of experiences can be had in all manner of different ways, some involving motors, some involving human power, some involving boats, from cabin cruisers to 10-pound Hornbeck canoes, some involving bikes, some snowmobiles, some skis, both downhill and cross-country, some hiking with heavy boots and others who hike barefoot, some by people who savor each peak, some by people who bag many peaks in a day, some involving ropes and carabineers, some involving walking sticks and pack baskets, among much, much more.

And, Protect the Adirondacks cheers all that!

So in the end here’s Will Doolittle’s and the Post Star’s exceedingly poor day’s work:

  • Doolittle can’t be bothered to do basic fact checking and figure out where John Caffry lives and maintains a law office.
  • Doolittle failed in his attempt to use the legitimate concerns of people to protect their residential neighborhood as a statement about the recreational preferences of environmentalists.
  • Doolittle doesn’t know what Phil Brown’s court victory was all about.
  • Doolittle misstates the importance of the Moose River case.
  • Doolittle attempts to show a supposed animus towards downhill skiing in the Adirondacks that is laughably wrong.
  • Doolittle chides PROTECT and others for our defense of Wilderness on Lows Lake, where floatplanes were clearly changing the character of that lake, by excoriating us because we acted to “stop the way that noisy machines spoil one of the most wonderful aspects of the forest — its serenity” – when he himself has advocated these same sentiments against other motors in wilderness.
  • Doolittle couldn’t be bothered with basic journalistic due diligence to look into PROTECT’s other positions on floatplane use where we do support it.
  • Doolittle omitted, largely because it didn’t fit his false narrative, legal actions by PROTECT’s predecessor groups that were clearly founded on environmental protection. If he can reach back to a paintball park controversy in a suburban neighborhood from a decade ago, he clearly could have reached back to these other actions. But he omitted them (he even wrote about one of the lawsuits so he knew all about it) because they did not fit his quick-and-dirty analysis.
  • Doolittle omits mention of other PROTECT programs that unambiguously work to protect the environment.
  • Doolittle gets the purpose of PROTECT’s current lawsuit about snowmobile trail construction and grooming completely wrong.

It’s truly stunning just how wrong Will Doolittle was in his February 28th Post Star column.

Photo: A road junction in the Moose River Plains. (Courtesy David Gibson). 

Peter Bauer

Peter Bauer

Peter Bauer is the Executive Director of Protect the Adirondacks.

He has been working in various capacities on Adirondack Park environmental issues since the mid-1980s, including stints as the Executive Director of the Residents' Committee to Protect the Adirondacks and FUND for Lake George as well as on the staff of the Commission on the Adirondacks in the Twenty-First Century and Adirondack Life Magazine.

He lives in Lake George and Blue Mountain Lake with his wife and two children and enjoys a wide variety of outdoor recreational activities throughout the Adirondacks.



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53 Responses

  1. Paul says:

    Wow what a long article. Peter, defending a common law clearly designed to make sure that commerce is unrestricted, even if that commerce is in many cases in the form of large numbers of canoes and kayaks (right like you say you are also defending the use of barges and tankers on pristine waterways that flow through private land) seems contrary to the mission of your organization. It obviously makes it more difficult to be a good “steward” to the land if you have to manage commercial traffic on the easement that runs through your property. one of his point, not made well in your opinion, may be that your groups support of this increase in commercial traffic on these waterways seems at odds with your groups mission. Can you explain how it does square with the mission of Protect?

    Well-loved. Like or Dislike: Thumb up 10 Thumb down 3

    • joenxr says:

      Posted private lands are probably the best protected landscapes in the park. Opening streams in private lands does raise issues.

      Like or Dislike this comment: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 4

      • John Warren John Warren says:

        Once again a misstatement of the facts. No one is “opening streams in private lands” – that is completely and utterly false. The private landholder here was closing public lands to the public.

        Hot debate. What do you think? Thumb up 3 Thumb down 5

        • Justin says:

          John, perhaps you can explain how this stream is a public highway under the common law, but according to New York’s highest court, the Raquette River running through Potsdam is not.

          Like or Dislike this comment: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

          • John Warren John Warren says:

            Justin,

            If you have a point to make about a hundred year old case on another matter in another river and it’s relevance to this one – make it. You don’t need to keep asking others to make it for you.

            Almost no one knows what you’re talking about or cares. If you want to change that, then start a blog, write about your concerns and if people feel they are warranted, you will get the attention you crave.

            Until then, stop trying to hijack every post with your singular concern.

            John Warren
            Editor

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        • joenxr says:

          If you point was so obvious there would not be a continuing string of lawsuits on this issue, stream-by-stream. Granted you hold a different opinion, which is fine.

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        • Paul says:

          So far “navigability” alone has not been sufficient to determine “navigability in fact” yet by a court. This was not really an open and shut case. If they had not used this waterway to transport supplies to their camp I do no think that it would have been ruled NIF. Important point made by their attorney (well done for Phil). So there is a fine line. If the waterway did not have a history of that sort of use and was not navigable in fact based on that then posting it would have been perfectly legal. Nor would I say that this case is done yet. An appears court could rule that that kind of use (transporting supplies to the camp) is not akin to “transporting goods to market” and in turn could say that this cannot be used as a measure of NIF.

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  2. Charlie says:

    It took me almost half an hour to read this. We are very fortunate to have people like Peter and organizations such as Protect the Adirondacks out there to fight for this magical place’s protection so that future generations can find a haven away from the exploding urbanism and all of the noise and misery that comes with it. I suppose i could start donating to your organization Peter. Keep up the good work.

    Hot debate. What do you think? Thumb up 11 Thumb down 13

  3. Charlie says:

    I forgot to mention the sign in the photo.I know that sign well as i pass it whenever i go to one of my favorite places to camp in the Adirondacks.

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  4. Mike says:

    Phew, seems to me personalization of these issues is what we don’t need. It does generate page views and/or print sales and donations….ugh,like Fox News in the ADKS?

    Will- you should do better fact checking and pay more attention to the details.

    Peter- Protect’s style, using lawsuits as it’s main form of participation, turns people off, creating a backlash. Don’t be so dismissive of everyone else, listen more, with a smile, even when you know more than anyone in the room, learn from listening. Lawsuits cut the public out of the process, moving it to a court room.

    Just saying….

    Well-loved. Like or Dislike: Thumb up 17 Thumb down 4

  5. Justin says:

    Peter, how exactly will increased recreational use enhance the ecological integrity of the area? Has PROTECT bothered to ask the property owners how they think public use could adversely impact the area? Has PROTECT or anyone else conducted an environmental impact statement? Will any threatened or endangered species be impacted? How many other wetlands in New York might be affected by the ruling you cheer? Which ones?

    Well-loved. Like or Dislike: Thumb up 8 Thumb down 3

  6. Ellen says:

    I’m so tired of FOX News-like comments made by people who distort the facts to support their argument. Thanks for taking them on.

    Hot debate. What do you think? Thumb up 6 Thumb down 5

    • Dude says:

      I’m so tired of MSNBC-like comments that go on for pages and obscure the basic argument in a torrent. None of the above rebuts the idea of aesthetics vs environmentalism, private management vs public distribution. The main point was completely washed over in a fact-check character assault, so Doolittle must be right about something to garner such abuse.

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  7. AdkBuddy says:

    Obviously Peter Bauer is feeling some heat. That is good.

    Hot debate. What do you think? Thumb up 7 Thumb down 8

  8. twinrivers says:

    Seems like an awful lot of energy telling the “choir” what we aleady know. Taking Will’s (predictable) bait and venturing into a public, testosterone laden ****ing match is a waste of time better spent on other things (lawsuits included).

    Well-loved. Like or Dislike: Thumb up 8 Thumb down 2

  9. Tom Philo says:

    Great and very necessary column – Thank you Peter. Iwas dismayed and angry when I read the Will Doolittle editorial. It is something that one expects of Fox News. Is that what the Post Star is trying to emulate?

    Hot debate. What do you think? Thumb up 6 Thumb down 3

  10. Dale Jeffers says:

    Mike, I think that an explanation of the American system of jurisprudence is in order. Lawsuits are a remedy of last resort, coming after ALL public participation in the administrative action has come to an end, administrative remedies have been exhausted and the governmental action is final and closed. Since a lawsuit is a remedy of last resort, public harm from an improvident government action will occur unless a lawsuit is brought and a judge determines that the action is illegal. Lawsuits do not exclude the public as Protect practices transparency by posting its legal documents on its website. Properly motivated members of the public could also intervene in the lawsuit. Unless one has an unusual amount of faith in government, one should be grateful that an organization stands up for the Adirondack Park.

    Like or Dislike this comment: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 1

    • Mike says:

      Dale-

      You say “lawsuits do not exclude the public ….because PROTECT posts its filings.” OK, well if reading the filings is a form of public participation, then you are right. But that is pretty weak involvement.

      I doubt any regular citizen has any idea how to participate in a lawsuit they are not party to, even if “properly motivated” as you suggest.

      PROTECT represents a extreme portion of the public. It has a lot of aggressive lawyers, and money. That’s the way it goes. It isn’t about the public.

      Like or Dislike this comment: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 2

  11. Paul says:

    In reading some of the stories about the Bob Woodward/you will “regret” this thing last week I saw a good comment. One senior white house reporter said that once you have them mad then, as a reporter, you know you are onto something.

    This is the case here with Peter and Will.

    Like or Dislike this comment: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 2

  12. Pablo says:

    Peter doth protest too much, methinks.

    PROTECT (is that an acronym or do they just like overcapitalization?), Adirondack Council, Lake Keeper, etc. all seem to exist to get their way by either threatening or filing lawsuits.

    Hot debate. What do you think? Thumb up 4 Thumb down 4

  13. Ok. A few responses starting from the top.

    Paul: Barges? Tankers? Really? I don’t think you understand the issue of public navigation. If a barge or tanker can ply a river, it’s clearly navigable. I’m unaware of any river in NYS plied by barges and tankers where public access to the river has ever been disputed. Also, there are no such rivers in the Park. As to the type of watercraft, the character of the river, state and local laws will set the use of the river.

    Joenxr: PROTECT believes that a great Park provides a wide array of public recreational opportunities.

    Mike: Just trying to correct the record. Falsehoods freely bandied about should not be allowed to go unchallenged. As to the role of lawsuits, Dale J said it best.

    Pablo: Lawsuits are a matter of last resort. This snowmobile lawsuit followed more than 10 years of task force work/numerous meetings, advocacy, and imploring responsible agencies to adhere to current law.

    Like or Dislike this comment: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 1

    • Paul says:

      Peter, I was just pointing out that you are cheering a common law was designed to make sure that a private land owner could not place restrictions on this easement. In most cases it is specifically for these other commercial uses which you also obviously must support. One good recreational example would be things like fan boat use in some of these lower water water bodies. Really. The state cannot ban motorized craft from waterways that pass over land that is not owned by the state.

      Like or Dislike this comment: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

      • Paul says:

        I should add that the private landowner cannot place restrictions on navigation based on this common law either. You can’t tell the barge captain to please turn off the engine. These laws that you cheer are all about “progress” as defined way back when.

        Like or Dislike this comment: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 1

  14. Paul says:

    Peter, on the snowmobiling issue you have pictures at your website where you show the damage that can occur from a poorly designed snowmobile trail (for example where there should be better bridging across wetlands) and then you sue the state when it tries to build and design better trails? Building trails in the Forest Preserve is not illegal. Have you ever sued the state for building bridges in Wilderness areas for hikers? Have you ever sued the state for allowing hikers to destroy sensitive alpine vegetation? Of course not, Will is right, your efforts are targeted at other types of recreation that your members do not like. Nothing wrong with that but don’t get all worked up when someone calls you out?

    Well-loved. Like or Dislike: Thumb up 11 Thumb down 1

  15. Peter says:

    Wow. I love fishing, and this is a great fishing story: a young man working for the Post Star, trolling the deep waters of environmental advocacy, waiting to hook the big one, dangling a nice enticing bit of bait, and rowing the lake with the patience of an old Adirondack guide. And then he feels the tug on the line, sets the hook, and watches as the fish surfaces, arching above the surface of the lake and flashing desperately in the sun. In a panicked frenzy, the fish pulls and pulls in an exhausted and futile effort, swimming back and forth against the pressure of the line, until exhausted, exposed for its weakness, it enters the net and is hoisted into the boat. I hope it’s catch and release because otherwise it’s not good news for PROTECT, an organization that should be above such Poststarian nonsense.

    Like or Dislike this comment: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 1

    • Paul says:

      Like I said above when they are mad then maybe you know you are onto something.

      When a 375 word comment letter gets an almost 5000 word rebuttal you have certainly riled the feathers.

      Will I wouldn’t be too upset. This is what actually got me to read your piece. Modern day internet marketing.

      Like or Dislike this comment: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 3

  16. I do like being called young. Thanks Peter. As for the rest, I do regret the error of saying Mr. Caffry is from Queensbury when he’s from Glens Falls. I apologize to him and will correct that.

    Hot debate. What do you think? Thumb up 2 Thumb down 7

  17. Charlie says:

    Dale says: “one should be grateful that an organization stands up for the Adirondack Park.”

    >> Me says:Amen brother!

    Mike says: PROTECT represents a extreme portion of the public. It has a lot of aggressive lawyers, and money. That’s the way it goes. It isn’t about the public.

    >> Me says: Corporations,developers & people of like mind,ie…people with money who see dollar signs only,not beauty in nature,not sacredness in the solitude of the pristine Adirondacks… they generally have lots more money and it is sure as heck a difficuilt battle trying to fight them off.Their tactics are to keep coming back with their lawyers and heaps of money if they lose with the hopes that the public will have given up fighting,which is sometimes the case.You will be seeing some donations from me soon Protect.

    Pablo says: Peter doth protest too much, methinks.

    >> Me says: Protesting too much is better than sitting idly by (like most of the sheep do) while the things that are dear to our hearts (dear to some of our hearts) crumble around us.

    Like or Dislike this comment: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 2

  18. TiSentinel65 says:

    Whether or not you agree with Will’s stance, a feeling many Adirondackers would agree with, Peter’s rebuttal is just a reflection of what many of PROTECT’s members feel. Whether or not you agree with the ruling in favor for Phil Brown, the courts have not settled the matter outright. This is also the case in other matters of land use and rights of way.Adirondack League vs. Sierra, McCulley vs. DEC comes to mind. McCulley sued succesfully just as Phil did to reestablish rights of way that were technically, never gone. DEC and other private entities (Brandreth) felt they were in their right to to deny access and use by the public, only to be rebuffed by the courts. When it comes to cases like these, groups like PROTECT have sided with DEC to deny access (McCulley) and sided with DEC to protect access,( Phil Brown). It is their right to seek redress of grievances that they perceive, in the court of law. My greater concern is this. How many other places in the state is DEC or private clubs and individuals blocking access? I know of one instance in the town of Hague where DEC still maintains signs blocking motorized access to a town road. This road was never abandoned by law. When DEC was contacted about said signs, they played ignorance and dragged their feet with an answer. I am still waiting for one. What about other bodies of water? I have raised this type of issue before and have gotten many answers pro and con. It is good that Phil Brown and James McCulley took their cases to court, but why does the state seem to want to stone wall in some cases yet champion the torch in others? Could they not review their own policies and find out where they erred? To me, DEC with the blessing of environmental groups like PROTECT seem to want the public to take them to court on a case to case basis. In this way it will cost people time and treasure for an uncertain result. Many people do not have the resources to battle against the AG’ of the state of NEW YORK. Is it any wonder why Will Doolittle wrote his article.

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  19. L. Simms says:

    Peter, once again you got it exactly right! Thanks for reminding us of the the facts (they can’t speak for themselves when they aren’t presented). And, thank you for caring enough about the Adirondacks, the law and the truth to take the time to set the record straight.

    Like or Dislike this comment: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 2

  20. Dale Jeffers says:

    Sentinel, among the possible explanations of inconsistent governmental actions is that weaker state agencies sometimes are inappropriately subjected to political influences. It didn’t take much to speculate that political influence was involved in the lack of DEC/AG action in the Salmon River case. Sometimes these lawsuits are needed to help the agency do its job under circumstances where another organization takes the heat.

    Like or Dislike this comment: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 1

    • Joe says:

      You say… “these lawsuits are sometimes needed to help the agency”. Hmmm, maybe that is the pattern.

      This sounds like Protect, with the help of disgruntled agency people, is subverting the public input process.
      It does seem like years of public process go by, then, at the last minute, Protect jumps on the agency with a lawsuit, taking it out of public discussion leaving it to moneyed people with lawyers. It doesn’t smell right.

      Protect shouldn’t be providing cover for anyone.

      Like or Dislike this comment: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 1

  21. TiSentinel65 says:

    I agree with that assessment. I must say that Joe Martens as commissioner is doing a good job at trying to keep the approach to many issues, including Adirondack issues balanced and fair. He seems able to bring consensus where it was lacking.

    Like or Dislike this comment: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  22. Jimmy says:

    Doolittles drivel on this and all topics Adirondack should be no surprise to anyone who knows he has spent the better part of his 20 years writing for NY papers (I will NOT call him a journalist) trying to avenge his daddy’s battles with the APA in the 1970s as the head of the ADK Enterprise. I see by a comment above that Bill Doolittle weakly rises again.

    Like or Dislike this comment: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 3

  23. Fisher says:

    Mr. Bauer does an lengthy article about anothers “Fact Checking”.
    Mr. Bauer states in his article “It should be pointed out that Brown’s case is part of string of public navigation rights cases. Another important one was the Salmon River case, which dealt with the public navigation rights of fishermen using motorboats.”
    I don’t believe the fishermen we using “Motorboats”. Maybe he should check his facts!

    Like or Dislike this comment: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 1

    • John Warren John Warren says:

      This is the kind of petty semantic nonsense comment that really make me question the value of allowing anonymous commenters. The fishermen in the Salmon River case were using boats – did they have trolling motors, outboard motors, or were they motorboats without motors attached that day? It hardly matters. The boats were in fact large enough to require anchoring. The point has absolutely nothing to do with Peter’s assertion which is made clear in the NEXT sentence that this petty and disingenuous commenter left out of his quote “The issue here is not the type of vessel used on a waterway, but the fact that the public has the right to use certain waterways under certain conditions.”

      The comment by “Fisher” – who, for all we know could be one of the private land owners involved in the case – is a good example of the kinds of distortions that seem to be the stock and trade of those who have no reasonable argument to make and only wish to slander, annoy, and confuse the facts for their political ends. The commenter himself admits HE DOESN’T KNOW – he only “believes” – but that doesn’t stop him from making a straw man claim based on his belief that attempts to simply cast doubt on the veracity of the Peter’s actual point by point argument – that Will Doolittle, a professed “professional journalist”, fails to adhere to professional or journalistic standards.

      Like or Dislike this comment: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 1

  24. Paul says:

    Peter says this:

    “Doolittle gets the purpose of PROTECT’s current lawsuit about snowmobile trail construction and grooming completely wrong.”

    Here is the only mention of the lawsuit in the article by Doolittle.

    “It is now fighting to halt state construction and grooming of snowmobile trails in the Adirondack Park.”

    From what Protect is asking the court:

    “Plaintiff seeks to enjoin the Defendants from
    constructing certain new snowmobile trails in the Adirondack Forest Preserve, and to obtain a declaratory ruling that the creation of certain new snowmobile trails in the Forest Preserve;”

    Peter, what did he get wrong in the one statement he made regarding these snowmobile trails?

    Also, on an unrelated note.. this part of the lawsuit really jumps out. What do you mean by this exactly:

    “9. Plaintiff’s members use the Wild Forest lands of the
    Forest Preserve more than most other members of the public.”

    Like or Dislike this comment: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 1

    • Joe says:

      That last point, #9, is not true, just on the face on it, and no proper judge would believe it either. It fact, a good judge would take that statement as cause to disbelieve other parts of this suit.

      It is typical of Protect to take on the role of ‘defending the public’ when, in fact, public input all goes against them.

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      • Paul says:

        Makes no sense. Maybe Peter can help us out.

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      • John Warren John Warren says:

        You guys are hilarious. Of course Protect’s “members use the Wild Forest lands of the Forest Preserve more than most other members of the public.” Most members of the public don’t even know the Forest Preserve exists.

        It is common sense. Forget the state’s 20 millions of the general public, Protect’s members probably use the Forest Preserve more than RESIDENTS of the Forest Preserve counties! I have lots and lots of neighbors here that never use the Forest Preserve. Like most Americans, they don’t take part in outdoor sports of any kind, and if they do, it’s likely to be at a non-Forest Preserve lake, beach, or campground. If 50% of Protect’s members use the Forest Preserve in a year (that’s a sample of people who give money to Protect the Forest Preserve), they probably use it far more than locals. Throw in a neighborhood who mostly doesn’t even know the Adirondacks exists, let alone the Forest Preserve – Chinatown for example – and it should be clear to you that Protect’s members use the Forest Preserve at a higher rate (more than most!) the general public.

        I can’t believe that needed an explanation.

        Like or Dislike this comment: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

        • joe says:

          I guess it depends upon the definition of “the public”.

          The thing I was objecting to is the idea that Protect somehow fully represents the public with respect to the Park. It does not. It represents a certain small group, maybe 2000, which is pretty minor in the context of the public as you define it – the State “20′s millions”.

          And there are surely some 2000 the reject Protect’s positions.

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        • Paul says:

          I am sure that Protect also has members who never use Forest Preserve land as well. It just seems like a silly sort of statement. Peter’s explanation makes some sense.

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          • Nicholas says:

            I’m going to have to agree with Joe on this one. 2000 people in the general public is like an ant to us, if that.

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  25. Paul and Joe:

    PROTECT’s allegation is that the new class II community connector snowmobile trails are being built to support bull-dozer-sized groomers, not just snowmobiles. The SLMP does not allow groomers on snowmobile trails, only on roads, which sometimes double as snowmobile trails. No objection to large groomers on roads.

    So, the SLMP specifically only allows one kind of motor vehicle on a designated trail – a snowmobile. Large tracked groomers, called snowcats in the SLMP, are differentiated in the list of SLMP motor vehicles from snowmobiles.

    Why does this matter? Because if the Seventh Lake Mountain Trail had been designed to be groomed by a snowmobile pulling a drag it would have been a very different trail and DEC would not have had to do nearly as much tree clearly, grading, flattening, bench cuts, etc.

    The new class II community connector snowmobile trails are built road-like to facilitate large multi-ton groomers. The issue is the type of trail, not that DEC is building trails. The issue is how the DEC is grooming trails, not that that snowmobile trails are being groomed.

    The other issue of use is simply to prove our legal standing to bring this action. We have many members who use the Forest Preserve several times a week. It’s simply a legal requirement that one must have standing to bring a lawsuit. PROTECT not only intervenes on Forest Preserve policy, etc., but we also use it. Standard stuff in a lawsuit.

    Like or Dislike this comment: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 0

    • Paul says:

      Peter, On the snowmobile trails, yes I understand the basis for the argument. The point that Will simply made was this: “It [Protect] is now fighting to halt state construction and grooming of snowmobile trails in the Adirondack Park.”

      That is what he wrote, a direct quote with my addition in brackets. Don’t see how that is completely wrong?

      In fact you have said in some earlier comments that your group won’t even come out and say that it supports ANY use of snowmobiles on Forest Preserve land. I believe you said you have not taken a position or something like that. It is fine to say that you think snowmobiles on Forest Preserve land is a bad idea. Frankly as an environmental organization it seems like you should be opposed to their use.

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    • Paul says:

      Peter, thanks on the second point. It seems to me that you should not have to show personal recreational use of Forest Preserve land to have standing to want to bring suit to protect it. Even a person stuck in a bed in NYC has a stake in public forest issues. Even though I think this suit would mean more environmental damage to some areas if trails cannot be designed and maintained properly I can appreciate your intent.

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  26. Charlie says:

    TiSentinel65 says: March 7, 2013 at 6:56 pm
    “I agree with that assessment. I must say that Joe Martens as commissioner is doing a good job at trying to keep the approach to many issues, including Adirondack issues balanced and fair. He seems able to bring consensus where it was lacking.”

    > I dont know much about Joe Martens but i’ve been seeing his name pop up here and there relative to certain issues,ie.. hydrofracking,etc… and I just feel there’s something fishy about the man. Maybe i’m wrong but my intuition is usually right.I’ve been under the assumption that the money people have gotten to him,that he is pressured to lean their way. I hope i’m wrong but it feels that way.

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  27. W Smith says:

    LONG WINDED AND SHRILL…READ ELEMENTS IF STYLE

    Like or Dislike this comment: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 1

    • John Warren John Warren says:

      I believe the title you’re referring to is Elements of Style. Also, YOUR’E SCREAMING!

      Thanks for your contribution to the discussion?

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  28. [...] Peter Bauer’s response to Doolittle [...]

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