Monday, August 24, 2015

New Report: The Adirondack Park at a Crossroad

Crossroad ImageA new report by Adirondack Wild: Friends of the Forest Preserve concludes that “New York’s Adirondack Park faces serious threats due to the failure by State agencies in recent years to protect and preserve the Park’s wild forest character and natural resources. ”

The report, The Adirondack Park at a Crossroad: A Road Map for Action [pdf], argues that APA and DEC are failing to fulfill their legal obligations to protect and preserve the Adirondack Park.  The report outlines what the organization considers “a pattern of state agencies straying from their historical mission of science-based conservation and resource protection.” 

“The Adirondack Park is a unique combination of public and private wildlands that are protected by State law.  However, those protections are meaningless when NYS APA and DEC fail to do their job,” Adirondack Wild’s Acting Chair Christopher Amato said in an announcement to the press. “The Adirondack Park is supposed to receive the highest level of protection, but our report shows that development projects in the Park are now receiving less environmental review than similar projects in other parts of the state.  Equally disturbing is the report’s finding that ecologically sensitive public lands are being opened to motorized uses that are inconsistent with resource protection and the wild forest character of the Park.”

“Our critique also demonstrates that these agencies are allowing increasingly destructive development to proceed with little or no environmental baseline data, only cursory environmental review, and little in the way of avoidance or mitigation of negative impacts,” Amato’s statement said.

The report, which is available on the Adirondack Wild website, includes a series of policy recommendations, including:

  • Reforms to the way amendments of “Forever wild” clause of the NYS Constitution are proposed and considered;
  • Reforms to the way residential subdivision development in the Park is planned and designed; and
  • New programs of scientifically-based analysis of trends in the Park, performance standards, and assessment of cumulative impacts.

Part 2 of the report is expected to be issued later this year and focus on the local communities and landowners.

Artwork by David Kiphuth provided by Adirondack Wild: Friends of the Forest Preserve.

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26 Responses

  1. Tom Payne says:

    The end justifies the means! Lawlessness begets lawlessness. More Albany Skullduggery. More back door middle of the night deals at the NYSDEC and the APA with the environmental lobby. The law, spare us your dribble. The law is broken every day in Albany by the NYSDEC, APA and the environmental lobby. One thing is for sure NYS’s title of being the most corrupt state in the union is oh so true.

  2. joe says:

    Go to the Wild website and you see a button saying “donate to our summer appeal and receive a free copy of our report”.

    Same as it ever was….

    • Dave Nethaway says:

      You do not have to donate to read the report. It is free, at the link provided in the article.

      If you were to donate to their appeal you would receive a printed copy of the report.

  3. Scott says:

    I agree DEC should do better at resource protection in the Adks and on other state lands. I agree the APA should do better. So the first part of the report seems reasonable to me. I do not get the argument of the “equally disturbing” finding that “sensitive public lands are being opened to motorized uses”. DEC doesn’t build new roads. DEC doesn’t allow offroad driving. Opening existing roads already used by vehicles to public vehicle use is what has been happening in some areas. Opening already existing roads that were already being used by logging trucks and camp owner vehicles etc to public vehicle use is not “inconsistent with resource protection and the wild forest character”. If it is already a road and already used by logging trucks or camp owner vehicles, public vehicle use won’t change anything. If we want to declare no vehicle use, that’s fine, but don’t argue allowing public vehicle use on existing roads already used by other vehicles is something radical.

    • Ryan Finnigan says:

      Have you heard anything about the class 2 community connector snowmobile roads and the THOUSANDS of trees that must be cut to build these roads?

      • Scott says:

        Yes, thanks, and if they ever build any of that I will change my opinion.

        • John Warren says:

          Construction of Class II Snowmobile Trails has already been completed across forever wild forest preserve, and more are being built right now – including 40 miles of trail near the Essex Chain Lakes and Upper Hudson.

          • mike says:

            John- Of the 40 miles you mention above, do you know how much of that is following existing roads and how much is actually new trail? I haven’t seen that info, except that it is a mix. Or maybe that isn’t know yet? Thanks.

            • Paul says:

              I think you could figure that out pretty easily from the maps that are with that plan and went out for public comment. Once you figure it out let us know.

              • Dave says:

                If you look at the APPROVED Community Connector Trail Plan & do the math it adds up to approx 18 miles of existing roads & 22 miles of new trails.

  4. Lakechamplain says:

    Reports like this are timely and I feel necessary to try and make people aware of the slow, creeping erosion of protections that were and are meant to preserve the wilderness characteristics of this huge part of NY State, both for us now and for future generations.
    That said, I present to you the dilemmas faced in this task. Firstly, when is the large planned resort in Tupper Lake ever going to get started? IMHO this project has followed the rules, jumped through every hoop and over every hurdle in years of review. I think the overall effect will benefit the Tupper Lake area without meaningful harm to the environment of the ADK’s. Sadly the process has dragged on for so long that potential investors have left the ‘ship’ and others are hesitant because of the incessant litigation. Again, the process has been followed here without other examples of hanky pinky referred to in the report.
    On the other side, speaking of the process being followed, the long-awaited rails to trails project is going to be started soon(he says hopefully) after a long period of analysis and public input and hearings. Let it happen.
    But I agree with the overall negative tone of the report citing a weakening and sometimes downright breaking of many regulations and rules meant to protect the wild in our great wilderness. But the elephant in the room in this whole debate is our current emperor in Albany, aka Governor Andrew Cuomo. The whole DEC involvement in supporting, indeed helping to write, the amendment to allow NYCO to get its ‘deal’ reeks of his heavy iinvolvement in this and many other similar actions in the ADK’s. Essentially this event reflects his classic style: present himself as avid outdoorsman, supporter of the Adirondack wilderness, while behind the scenes applying immense pressure on groups like the ADK Mt. Club and others to support changes in the regulations themselves or the way they are interpreted and enforced.
    It’s time more people put his feet to the fire and held HIM accountable for the role he’s played in these ominous changes in protecting our Adirondacks.

    • Bruce says:

      Lake Champlain

      Somehow I can’t comprehend “slow, creeping erosion of protections”, when there has been a net increase in lands brought under APA protection. The Finch-Pruyn alone added 161,000 acres. Are you saying that the land under APA protection should only increase, or remain static? The Adirondack Park was never meant to be static, or the Master Plan would reflect that.

      Personally, I think the APA is doing a pretty good job considering the pressures pushing from all sides. “You can’t please all the people all the time.”

      I’m not saying I’m for all of the changes being made, especially in regards to housing developments, but change is inevitable, and the dynamic of the AP is going to ebb and flow.

      • John Warren says:

        Hi Bruce,

        Finch-Pruym did not add any acres to the Forests Preserve. The Nature Conservancy sold about 100,000 acres of the 166,000 acres it bought from Finch to a private timber holding company.

        Only about 69,000 acres was (or soon will be) sold to the state to be added to the Forest Preserve.

        So far, they say they created two motor-less tracts, the 23,494-acre Hudson Gorge Wilderness Area and 9,940-acre Essex Chain Primitive Area, including a roadway they classified separately. They include about 20,000 acres of new Finch lands (the rest was reclassified existing lands).

        Neither tract is in fact motor free. They include snowmobile trails, float plane access, and roads currently and for the foreseeable future being used by motor vehicles.

        I suggest that you take all comments here with a grain of salt, they are often simply disinformation – sometimes, as on this thread, by people who are paid to spread disinformation.

  5. Bruce says:

    ” Article XIV, §1 of the New York State
    Constitution reads in part as follows:
    THE LANDS OF THE STATE,
    NOW OWNED OR HEREAFTER
    ACQUIRED, CONSTITUTING
    THE FOREST PRESERVE AS
    NOW FIXED BY LAW, SHALL
    BE FOREVER KEPT AS WILD
    FOREST LANDS. THEY SHALL
    NOT BE LEASED, SOLD OR
    EXCHANGED, OR BE TAKEN
    BY ANY CORPORATION,
    PUBLIC OR PRIVATE, NOR
    SHALL THE TIMBER THEREON
    BE SOLD, REMOVED OR
    DESTROYED.
    It is significant that, although renumbered,
    this exact wording has been a part of the
    State Constitution since 1895. ”

    If the intent were to protect all state-owned lands within the AP from change, why would major portions of the Master Plan contain procedures for making changes, including amendment referendums (public opinion), and why only designate specific areas as “Wild Forest?”

    Having said that, I’m sure politics and money both play a part in some of the decisions. That’s why it is so important to ensure our elected officials are the best which can be had when we vote.

    http://apa.ny.gov/Documents/Laws_Regs/APSLMP.pdf

  6. Tim-Brunswick says:

    So I guess everyone “Assumes” that Adirondack Wild is an authority on these things and if that organization makes a statement that it is “factual” or gee whiz could it just be “opinion” ?……hmmm, I wonder about that.

    Granted NYS DEC isn’t perfect and neither is the APA, but ..hey, wait just a minute….could it be that groups like “Adirondack Wild”, “Protect the Adirondacks”, etc., etc., aren’t perfect either??

    Isn’t it possible that when DEC/APA makes a decision or sets a course that these self-serving organizations don’t like then they immediately cast aspersions upon their integrity and intentions?

    Gotta love it!

  7. Pete Klein says:

    We all have our opinions but one fact remains.
    There is more state owned (public owned) land in the Adirondacks than there was before the APA..

  8. Mike says:

    In the report is there a big thank you to the governor, TNC and the 5 towns for completing the largest addition to the Forest Preserve in 100 years?

    This is a huge deal. They, especially the towns, deserve a big cheer of thanks. To play off your title, the crossroad of getting the towns to approve is probably the biggest shift of recent years and the Governor had a lot to do with that. Without town support it would never have happened. We need to maintain town government support to achieve our conservation goals.

    I know the entire place is not perfect according to Wild, but gee, give some credit to the many good things that have developed. It is far from any kind of disastrous crossroads….that is just fund raising talk. I acknowledge you need to do it, but I don’t agree the Park is on the brink of any kind of disaster. So my funding support will go to the ADK Council and the ADK Mtn Club who seem to have a better understanding of what is going on.

  9. Mike says:

    A few miles of snowmobile trails is a “crossroad” for an area bigger than some nearby states? In my opinion, this is hyperbole and sensationalism.

    • joe says:

      Hyperbole and sensationalism for the purpose of fund raising, of course…see charlie’s comment below. It works, always has. It is akin to political campaigns that use fear mongering about a topic of the moment to stir up people – Donald Trump on immigration comes to mind.

  10. Charlie S says:

    My donation to Adirondack Wild will soon be in the mail.

  11. ADKerDon says:

    There is no Forever Wild in Article IX. It says all forest preserve lands shall be Wild Forest Lands. The state’s current policies are destroying all wildlife habitat, all food, all shelter, and poisoning all waters. The changes needed are to restrict the forest preserve lands to those lands above 3,000 feet elevation; start practicing Sylva culture; start creating wildlife habitat for food and shelter. Time to remove all these wildlife haters, and habitat destroyers. Time to open all these lands to everyone, not just hikers and canoers.

    • John Warren says:

      “The lands of the state, now owned or hereafter acquired, constituting the forest preserve as now fixed by law, shall be forever kept as wild forest lands. They shall not be leased, sold or exchanged, or be taken by any corporation, public or private, nor shall the timber thereon be sold, removed or destroyed.”