Thursday, January 14, 2010

Groups Sue To Protect SLMP, Wilderness Water Routes

The Adirondack Mountain Club (ADK) and Protect the Adirondacks! (PROTECT), filed a lawsuit Tuesday in state Supreme Court in Albany to force the Adirondack Park Agency (APA) to classify the state-owned Lows Lake-Bog River-Oswegatchie wilderness canoe route in the heart of the Adirondacks.

The move comes on the heels of Governor David Paterson’s signing off on the classification and reclassification of about 8,000 acres (the Lows Lake Primitive Area, a portion of the Hitchins Pond Primitive Area, and additional acres south of Lows Lake) to wilderness their addition to the Five Ponds and Round Lake wilderness areas and also creating a new Eastern Five Ponds Access Primitive Area.

Adirondack organizations had sought to have the water and lakebed of Lows Lake designated wilderness and succeeded in persuading the APA of as much in time for a September vote in their favor. In November, the Empire State Development Corporation, argued that they had not authorized their representative on the APA and were granted a re-vote. During that second vote, three Paterson administrative representatives reversed their votes. Protect! and the Adirondack Mountain Club claim that second vote went against the State Land Master Plan (SLMP).

“We are forced to seek redress in the courts because, despite the best efforts of many different parties, our state agencies failed to settle some important matters regarding implementation of the State Land Master Plan,” said David Gibson, executive director of PROTECT, “We go to court for all state-owned waters in the Forest Preserve, not merely to settle the classification of Lows Lake. Classification drives management direction. We seek better direction about how to manage wild waters in the Forest Preserve for the benefit of people in the central Adirondacks, visitors from all across the country and Canada and many more who may never paddle these waters, but who nonetheless appreciate the way they are managed for future generations.”

According to the Adirondack groups, the Adirondack Park State Land Master Plan, which is part of state Executive Law, requires the APA to classify all state-owned lands and waters in the Adirondack Park according to “their characteristics and ability to withstand use.”

Neil Woodworth, ADK’s executive director, said in a press release that “The state bought Lows Lake a quarter century ago with the express intent of establishing a wilderness canoe route. Both APA and DEC have acknowledged that the waters and bed of Lows Lake are part of the Forest Preserve. Under the law, the waters and bed of a lake that is wholly owned by the state as part of the Forest Preserve must be classified.”

The lawsuit also names DEC, one of the three state agencies with a seat on the APA board, because according to a press release “DEC violated a stipulation in the settlement of a 2008 lawsuit when it supported the proposal to remove Lows Lake from the classification resolution.” ADK, the Sierra Club and the groups that now make up PROTECT sued DEC over its failure to abide by a legal commitment to ban floatplanes on Lows Lake by January 2008. The conservation groups dropped the suit after DEC requested that APA initiate the process to classify the bed and water of Lows Lake as Wilderness.

A pdf version of the petition is available here.

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