Sunday, December 20, 2015

Peter Bauer: Essex Chain Plan Violates Laws

Full Essex Chain MapNote: This article is the third of three that looks at the widespread violations of public process, state policies, and state laws in the recent approval of the Essex Chain Plan. Part one can be found here and part two here.

In many ways the Forest Preserve defines the Adirondack Park experience. The trails, mountains, lean-tos, campsite and deep beauty of the forests are what the Adirondacks is all about. The Forest Preserve provides the dramatic scenic backdrop across the Park and brings millions of visitors to the Adirondacks. The Forest Preserve also generates tens of millions in school and local tax revenues.

The recently approved Essex Chain Lakes Complex Unit Management Plan (ECCUMP) violates the Wild, Scenic and Recreational Rivers Act (Rivers Act) and its regulations. The ECCUMP violates the Rivers Act in four key ways: 1) Retention of the Polaris Bridge in a Scenic River corridor; 2) Construction of the Cedar River Bridge in a Scenic River corridor; 3) Designation and maintenance of the Chain Lakes Road for motor vehicles within a Wild River corridor; and, 4) Designation and maintenance of a floatplane access campsite within a Wild River corridor.

The Adirondack Park Agency (APA) and Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) employed tactics, aptly characterized by one APA Commissioner as “sleights of hand” and “legal fictions” in order to approve new motorized uses within classified Scenic River and Wild River corridors on the Hudson and Cedar Rivers. Various maneuvers were employed to get around restrictions in the Rivers Act and its regulations.

The DEC and APA aim to retain the Polaris Bridge and build a new bridge over the Cedar River for use as part of a new snowmobile trail that connects Indian Lake and Minerva. The location of the Polaris Bridge where it spans the Hudson River and that where the new Cedar River Bridge is to be constructed are both classified as Scenic under the Rivers Act. Both bridges will be used for snowmobile trails, though public motorized uses are prohibited by the Rivers Act in Scenic River corridors. The APA and DEC also aim to allow new public motorized uses within the Wild River corridors on the Hudson and Cedar Rivers despite even stronger prohibitions in the Rivers Act and its regulations.

The Polaris Bridge was built in the 1990s for forest management purposes. It has never been used for any kind of public access until the state bought the Finch lands. To keep the bridge and use it for snowmobiles, the state needs to get around prohibitions of public motorized uses in DEC’s Rivers Act regulations. The restrictions on public motorized uses within Scenic River corridors are evident in various statements made by the DEC in its Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) promulgated at the time of adoption of Rivers Act regulations (6 NYCRR Part 666 in 1986). In its

“Public Response” section, the EIS states:

The Regulations have been amended to prohibit motorized open space recreational uses in scenic river areas. Therefore, bridges for this use have been prohibited. (Page 57)

The Department agrees that motorized recreational vehicles should not be allowed to operate in scenic river areas due to their relatively undeveloped nature and the concurrent extensive low intensity recreational and other passive outdoor uses which predominately take place within such river areas and conflict with motorized recreational vehicles. (Page 58)

A maximum width of four feet has been established for foot trails. This will assist in precluding inappropriate motorized uses on such trails and prevent designation of roads as foot trails. (Page 31)

In speaking of the Essex Chain Plan, the APA-DEC never publicly discussed these statements. To get around these clearly declarative statements about the intent of DEC’s Rivers Act regulations, the APA-DEC employed two arguments: 1) the State Land Master Plan allows motorized uses in Wild Forest areas, which is where the Polaris Bridge and Cedar River Bridge are located; 2) Public motorized recreational use of these bridges predated the Rivers Act. As we’ll see below, the APA willfully aided and abetted the DEC’s desire to use these bridges.

The APA evaluated the lawfulness of the Polaris Bridge narrowly, taking the position in a staff memo that the State Land Master Plan (SLMP) requires only that Scenic River corridors “be managed in accordance with the guidelines and criteria for lands classified as Wild Forest. In Wild Forest areas, snowmobile trails with bridges are allowed.” This narrow reading of the SLMP stands in direct conflict with DEC’s regulations with regard to allowable uses in Scenic River corridors. Much the same analysis was employed for the Cedar River Bridge.

Two APA Commissioners voted against the APA-DEC interpretation of the Rivers Act in support of these bridges. Sadly, eight others voted to approve these new uses and to support these dodgy legal arguments.

The APA-DEC never acknowledged in public discussion, or in the ECCUMP, a guiding principle in the Rivers Act for how to adjudicate conflicting state agency rules and regulations:

§ 15-2721. Conflict with other laws.

Any section of the state wild, scenic and recreational rivers system that is or shall become a part of the Forest Preserve, the Adirondack or Catskill Parks or any other state park, wildlife refuge, or similar area shall be subject to the provisions of this title, and the laws and constitutional provisions under which the other areas may be administered, and in the case of conflict between the provisions of those laws and constitutional provisions and the provisions of this title, the more restrictive provisions shall apply.

In this case, DEC’s Rivers Act regulations prohibiting public motorized uses in a Scenic River corridor should have trumped APA regulations allowing motorized uses in Wild Forest areas. The more restrictive rule should have carried the day, but it was subverted.

This dictate in the Rivers Act was also handily ignored with respect to trail width. Both the Cedar River Bridge and Polaris Bridge will be part of a class II community connector trail system, which under the APA-DEC Snowmobile Trail Guidance policy allows for 9-12 foot wide trails. The Rivers Act regulations for Scenic Rivers limit trail width to four feet: “ ‘Trail’ means a marked and maintained path or way four feet or less in width, and located and designed to provide for reasonable access in a manner causing the least effect on the local environment” (6 NYCRR Part 666.3 Definitions).

Again, APA-DEC used the weaker standard allowed under the Guidance and not the more restrictive in DEC regulations. It should be pointed out that in any case official state regulations should always supersede an adopted policy. To get around this requirement, the ECCUMP also states that DEC will issue itself a “variance” for the wider trail.

Beyond these efforts to ignore the reality of the Rivers Act, the APA-DEC also make the claim that they are simply retaining historic motorized uses of the Polaris Bridge that predates the Rivers Act. In the ECCUMP, DEC states:

DEC records indicate that a bridge existed at this location previously, and both DEC and the APA issued permits to allow the construction of the existing bridge, which subsequently allowed motor vehicle use for timber harvesting and recreational purposes. Therefore, the operation of motor vehicles, including snowmobiles, on the trail leading to and over the Polaris Bridge is considered an existing land use and is allowed to continue pursuant to the WSRRS Act statute and its implementing regulations.

The “recreational purposes” in this case that provided an “existing land use” was private and exclusive recreational access that was subject to lease payments. It is a legal sleight of hand for the DEC to argue that these former private exclusive rights can be somehow be grandfathered and exempted from the Rivers Act restrictions. Here, state agencies are attempting to “grandfather” land uses that pre-dated the Rivers Act, which would otherwise be prohibited.

Such grandfathering occurs for existing private uses on private lands within a designated river corridor at the time of the Rivers Act enactment, such as a logging road or a private residence or a railroad. It’s a new day when state agencies use grandfathering of past motor vehicle uses to justify continuation on lands once they become Forest Preserve. Long-time Adirondack Park attorneys argued that such grandfathering can only be done on private lands for private land uses.

DEC also states that it will need to issue itself a permit and variance in order to retain and use the Polaris Bridge for snowmobiles:

The WSRRS Act, and its implementing regulations found in Part 666 of Title 6 of the Official Compilation of Codes, Rules and Regulations of the State of New York (6 NYCRR), regulate activities within a Scenic River Area, defined geographically as the river and the area within ½ mile from the river on both sides. The construction of a multiple-use trail within a Scenic River Corridor requires the DEC to issue a permit in accordance with 6 NYCRR section 666.13[E][3] (for the construction of a new trail) and section 666.9 [d] (to allow motorized open space recreational uses). A variance for the width of the trail may also be needed pursuant to 6 NYCRR section 666.9[a][2] because the term “trail” is defined by the WSRRS Act implementing regulations as a “path or way four feet or less in width.” (See 6 NYCRR section 666.3[lll]).

The process for such a permit or variance is straight forward, though the Rivers Act regulations provide various tests, such as that the use is consistent with the River Act, that the activity will not have an adverse impact, that there are no reasonable alternatives, and that these actions will “preserve, protect or enhance the resources and values of designated rivers.” Retention of the Polaris Bridge and construction of the Cedar River Bridge fails on all counts. The tests for a variance are arguably even higher.

The Rivers Act and its regulations provide even greater protections for “Wild River” corridors, which should be managed as Wilderness lands. No motorized uses are allowed. Yet, the APA and DEC approved use of the Chain Lakes Road South for snowmobile use within the Hudson River Wild River corridor. They also approved the location of a special floatplane-only campsite on the north shore of Pine Lake within the Wild River corridor of the Cedar River. Various maneuvers involving “grandfathering” of private uses on public lands, among other things, are being used to justify these decisions.

The public spoke out loud and clear in multiple public hearings on management of the Essex Chain acquisition: 87% called for removal of the Polaris Bridge. The state agencies went another direction and made their decisions. Leading legal thinkers in the Adirondacks pointed out the wrongness of the state’s legal interpretations on these matters. The only recourse at this point is a legal challenge.

 


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 served as Chair of the Town of Lake George Zoning Board of Appeals and has served on numerous advisory boards for management of the Adirondack Park and Forest Preserve.

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




54 Responses

  1. M.P. Heller says:

    Peter, for a guy with so much passion I am continually amazed at how obtuse you are. It’s very clear that you have only a very narrow view of the issues and are incapable of evolving and maturing in order to assimilate both yourself, whatever organization you have bamboozled into paying you a salary, and the ideas and thought processes that go along with this into an acceptable modern paradigm. It’s truly sad that so many people get duped into donating money to PROTECT! under the guise of envionmentalism only to have their hard earned money go to frivolous lawsuits that aim to uphold an idealistic personal vendetta against realistic and responsible progress in the park which is supported by current land management best practices. Practices that have been developed by ecologists, environmental scientists, and other educated stakeholders.

    The arguments that you have presented in your 3 pieces of imagination and bluster are as weak as water. Arguments that couldn’t possibly withstand the scrutiny of the courts, and that first year law students would have a good chuckle over due to their lack of sense and their clear basis in fiction. Undoubtedly, you will swindle many thousands of dollars from unwitting donors to mount a protracted legal assault once again on the DEC and APA. At the same time, you will cost the taxpayers of this state countless more thousands answering your complaint and will encumber the courts with what amounts to nonsense litigation so juvenile and meritless that if there was any justice in the world, you would be held personally accountable for your childish acions and tantrum throwing.

    Might I remind you that you and your organization got smacked down brutally in both the legal courts and the court of public opinion when you needlessly and selfishly kept pushing the appeals process in the NYCO matter. I expect that you will do your worst again on this issue as it seems all that you are capable of. I just wish that the folks who write checks to PROTECT! would wake up and realize that they could donate that same money to the DEC trails fund, or ANYTHING meaningful which would benefit responsible conservation and land management in the Adirondacks rather than to your own personal bully pulpit dedicated to outdated backwards thinking. You truly epitomize the phrase ‘one trick pony’, it’s been tiresome for quite some time and is now becoming a blight on what true conservation and environmentalism really stand for. For a guy who loves to beat his own drum about how he loves and cares for the park it’s really amazing what a detractor from responsible land management you have become. I know you aren’t embarrassed by your actions, but I am embarrassed for you.

    • Todd Eastman says:

      M.P., thanks for your fictional assessment…

    • Tim (another one) says:

      Yikes MP Heller, you wrote a lot without saying anything. You wrote three paragraphs criticizing this guy and his organization but offered no explaination as to what facts he has wrong.

      • M.P. Heller says:

        I don’t get a 3 part series to point out all that is wrong with Peters flawed thinking. If you would like me to write one I will if you can get John Warren to publish it. Otherwise you are gonna have to live with what is already there.

        • Tim (another one) says:

          Please. You could have white one point of fact that he is wrong about in three paragraphs but didn’t. You don’t need a 3 part essay.

          • Paul says:

            Tim is right, I have offered one (the law allows for existing uses to remain it doesn’t say they are required to be “public”). If you give us your reasoning John will be allowing it to be automatically published to his site here so don’t be afraid. Fire away!

          • M.P. Heller says:

            There aren’t any facts in Peters rantings. Just opinions.

    • Tom Payne says:

      Excellent response MP. The only fiction here here is Mr. Bauer’s opinion.

    • joe says:

      Well said MP. Very well said.

      Peter is suggesting the sort of legal behavior that makes people turn away from environmentalists. It turns people off, shuts down their ability to listen, and gives environmentalists a bad name. Peter is known for not caring what people think of him, but I care, because he damages the environmental cause, driving people away from it instead of pulling people into it.

    • Bill says:

      M.P., you say that the writer’s arguments are weak and without merit, yet you don’t attempt to rebut any of it with specific information of your own. Simply saying someone is wrong is not the same as showing that they’re wrong.

      • M.P. Heller says:

        True, but as I said above I haven’t been provided with the pulpit that Peter gets here on the Almanack. Until that happens a proper rebuttal is not possible.

  2. Greg M. says:

    @John Warren: Why are these not titled as opinions/editorials? Eg. “Peter Bauer: Essex Chain….” like has done before. While there are hints of journalism (gathering, processing, and dissemination of events), the accusations made every few paragraphs is Peter’s highly questionable opinion of these events, based on his narrow-minded “research”. This is an advocacy/opinion piece, not news.

  3. Justin Farrell says:

    Another great peice, Peter. Thanks for telling it llike it is!
    Keep up the good work, and fighting the good fight!
    Seems like those of us who want more wilderness areas, and want to ‘preserve the forest’ from the negative effects of those using their recreational machines within the “Forest Preserve” are a dying breed. Especially on this website!
    Perhaps I’m slightly off topic here, but it’s still fresh on my mind that this past weekend I was exploring a popular snowmobile trail in the southern region. The amount of trash along the trail was staggering! I’d hate to see things this to happen to these newly added lands into our “Forest Preserve”.

    • John Warren John Warren says:

      “Especially on this website!”

      The right-wing Local Government Review Board sends most of the Almanack’s stories to it’s mailing list. That’s why they are over-respresented here.

      John Warren
      Editor

      • Justin Farrell says:

        Thanks John.
        I was thinking more in terms of the majority of comments made on these type of issues.
        -Justin

  4. Norman Clancy says:

    The reason why the state doesn’t pay attention to the 87% who called for the removal of the bridge is because the majority of them clearly can’t think for themselves and relied on a form letter provided by Protect. The public comment process is not a popularity contest. Rather, it’s a way the state can gather substantive and original comments, not recited propaganda copied and pasted from Protect’s website.

  5. Boreasfisher says:

    Well said Peter. Let’s hope the wild in wild forest will survive
    this latest round of political mismanagement.

  6. Bruce says:

    Mr. Bauer advocates for a single user group…hikers and other foot traffic, which can also be clearly seen in the Boreas Ponds discussions. Has he ever advocated for motorized or bicycle use on any forest land acquired by the state, where roads were already present?

    It seems to me that if Peter is really all about protecting sensitive forest land, 4′ wide human foot highways would be too much. And what about building boardwalks across wetlands and bridges over streams, as opposed to walking around obstacles as wild game does? A human being only needs a 12 to 18″ wide trail to walk.

  7. Tim-Brunswick says:

    Kudos to MP Heller, Tom Payne and “Gregg M.” for identifying and having the backbone to criticize both Peter Bauer’s “opinions” as fact, yet to be determined in a Court of Law, in addition to the obvious favoritism his articles are given by the ADK Almanac.

    Too many years ago to recall, I was a reporter (Journalist) for a major Capital District newspaper and my City Editor would have rightfully ejected me from my desk in the City Room if my articles were as biased as Mr. Bauer’s. “Gregg M.” is definitely on target….

    Thank you

    Tim-Brunswick

    • mike says:

      This site is not journalism in any classic sense. It doesn’t pretend to be, so far as I can tell. It has an agenda, sort of like Fox news has an agenda. Well, not the Fox news agenda, but you get the idea….it has a strong point of view. Any regular reader knows that, or at least I hope they do (like I hope Fox news viewers know what they’re getting). Modern media…

  8. Paul says:

    Peter, why not get right into the legal nitty gritty here.

    “It has never been used for any kind of public access”

    The Rivers Act doesn’t even mention “public” use. It says that older uses (ones prior to the ACT – like crossing the river on this bridge) are allowed to remain. It says that “new” uses like that are prohibited.

  9. ADKerDon says:

    As usual Bauer is in his dream world. Bravo to the DEC for sticking to a multiuse of these lands, instead of locking everyone out like Bauer insists. It is time to open all these lands for multi-use recreation and to benefit the local economies. Time to restrict the forest preserve lands to those lands above 3,000 feet elevation. Time to ignore Bauer and others who are bent on removing everyone from the Adirondacks.

    • Bruce says:

      ADKerDon,

      Bauer is not locking everyone out (that might be preferred if real forest preservation is the goal). Hikers, their 4′ wide trails, boardwalks over wetlands, bridges, campsites and lean-tos will be allowed under his plan. If you listen to some of the hikers on here, you might think they hold the moral high ground of environmental stewardship. Every user group is capable of behaving in a responsible manner, and just as capable of screwing things up.

      Like me, you’ve probably hiked popular trails festooned with wads of toilet paper, empty water bottles, granola bar wrappers, and worse. One of my favorites are the red, blue, and green plastic trashflowers…the plastic drink cups they are still drinking out of when they get out of the car and start up the trail.

  10. chris says:

    How did we get here? How and why did the people and the sentiment shift to where the agenda is often clearly against the protections that were out in place earlier? Has it been poor local economies? Better organization from the pro development side? A few swings in leadership on both sides?

    It seems there’s been a big shift (here and elsewhere) on conservation rollbacks from decades ago and it would be interesting to see how we got here.

    • Paul says:

      Chris, Where are you getting this narrative from? The Forest Preserve is growing, more and more land is being classified (and in some case re-classified) as Wilderness lands. The Forest Preserve has never been bigger than it is now. This “big shift” just doesn’t exist. This debate is only because we are trying to decide how to turn thousands of acres of industrial timber land into Forest Preserve and tear down camps and close roads. Here we are just talking about how to deal with keeping a tiny portion of some of it open for uses other than hiking. Now if this was about taking previously protected Forest Preserve and somehow over developing it your narrative might make some sense.

    • Bruce says:

      Am I wrong, or have state lands always been pretty much open to foot traffic? Both Essex and Boreas have established roads, previously used by logging trucks. How is allowing these roads to be used for less frequent and lighter traffic considered development? Aren’t 4′ wide hiking trails with their associated bridges and boardwalks a form of development?

      • M.P. Heller says:

        As a 46er I am sometimes appalled by the level of wilderness development I encounter, but these things are never discussed in a public forum. The reasons for that are twofold I believe. First is that not many people get the opportunity to see this development because it is located in places that only climbers who are sufficiently physically capable of reaching these destinations can travel to. Second is that the people promoting and carrying out this type of wilderness development look upon their work as necessary and correct, so there is no debate as to if it is actually proper.

        Examples include the large staircases with many dozen steps on the Orebed Trail to Gothics and Saddleback installed after hurricane Irene. The additional massive staircase installed on the Lake Arnold approach to Mount Colden installed in late 2015. The additional massive staircase planned to be installed on the Lake Colden approach to Mount Colden in 2016, and the fourth one that I know of which was recently installed on Cascade.

        None of these projects conform to wilderness principles as set out in the APSLMP. A 55 step, 4 foot wide staircase built from pressure treated materials hardly evokes ‘untrammled by man’. We don’t hear about these things in the media because it’s always MORE WILDERNESS or those damn people who can’t or don’t hike are RUINING EVERYTHING. Don’t look at what is actually happening in wilderness managed lands though, because you might discover that the things PROTECT! and others complain about ad nauseum might actually be the things that they are allowing to occur when they think nobody is looking.

    • Sally says:

      Paul is right about the growth of the Forest Preserve, but the shift Chris senses is real. I think it is because the idea of preserves has two problems.

      First it sets up a zero sum game…you win, I lose, and often the local people closest to the land lose, and are labeled as bad people who want to ruin a place. Land in a preserve must be protected from them using all sorts of laws. This is hardly a good way to engage the people who know the land best in good conservation management. It leaves them feeling labeled as stupid enemies unable to steward their land, and they are basically run off of it, leases cancelled, ways of life for generations gone.

      Second, there will never be enough money to buy large enough preserves to reach real conservation goals. To reach big goals, you have to include all the land in a region, regardless of ownership. These sorts of legal fights leave a long lasting negative legacy that ruin the ability to reach the larger conservation goals because they turn so many people off. Major funders who know something are turning away from venom spitting legal fights. They want to see more collaborative, cooperative, efforts with much larger scope than a nasty battle over some plot of preserve land. 80% solutions on large landscapes are better than small intense fights to get 100% solutions on small parcels. The environmentalist might win the fight but you lose the war.

      So, Chris, what we have is old style ‘preserve’ conservation with legal boundaries. It has to shift to more inclusive approaches to engage people and programs across large landscapes, beyond preserves. The Adk advocacy groups are way behind on this, far from a model for the world, these are the tactics and approaches of the old guard, old thinking. They just dream of the next land buy. They should dream about the land they will never be able to buy.

      Diversity, equity and inclusion are what we need to make the Park a bigger success as a modern conservation region. Turning tiny localized problems into major legal confrontations is not a path to success. Funders are getting this now, so things are changing. Our region is late to this thinking.

  11. Paul says:

    If longstanding environmental laws have been broken wouldn’t it be better to deal with this in the court of law rather than the court of public opinion?

  12. Smitty says:

    Thank goodness the APA and others have learned the necessity of compromise. Im no fan of motorized users, but before now there was virtually no access except for leaseholders, who could do pretty much whatever they wanted. So why make everyone so upset about what should be perceived as a win-win. Locking out too many users would surely make any future additions to the preserve just that more difficult.

  13. bill says:

    The problem with this legal view of Peter’s is that it reflects the old arrogance of wealthy white city people funding wealthy city lawyers to haul less well off people into court, claiming they are incapable of properly caring for nature outside their rural door.

    It is a class thing, a 1% type of attitude problem. As if we poor dumb rural people have no sense. Long run, it is a losing approach to the Park’s future.

    To use another example, look at the board of the Adk Council. Count the number of local people of regular means on that board. Nice, and well-intentioned as they may be, how can they possibly understand how regular people feel? Same for TNC, and so on. Change those boards and you would see a different, improved, approach.

    There has to be compromise. No longer will the ‘if I don’t win I will sue you’ approach be a winning strategy.

  14. Dave Gibson says:

    I like Sally’s comment. We do need inclusive, collaborative conservation in the Park and always have and always will. The Adirondack Nature Conservancy practiced that in a big way after it purchased Finch, Pruyn’s entire ownership, If the Conservancy had not had the means and will to engage at that moment of crisis, there would have been another kind of zero sum game played by Finch – sell it, and chop it all up. Then, Finch engaged all the affected towns in meaningful discussions about the land’s future, and ways in which each could benefit. No Park advocate complained about that process or its results. But, once the land becomes Forest Preserve there is a legal process to determine classification and then management. It is at those points, especially the management plan that citizens and organizations have every right to hold the State’s feet to the fire.

    • Sally says:

      Dave- You suggest TNC did do an inclusive job is promoting the Finch deal, getting the Towns to agree to it…right! But then you suggest post-acquisition, the arrangement changes to a legal one only.

      So, the promises made when the deal was being organized can now be thrown out? Sorry but the back lash from that will be far from the benefits expected of inclusion and collaboration – more like bait and switch.

      Dave you have the right ideas in your head. But your implementation of them is hypocritical. It is very discouraging actually, undermining trust. You say one thing and do another. Ugh, so sad to see.

  15. Justin Farrell says:

    Legal issues aside, it’s funny how it always seems to be ignored that areas that currently allow motorized access are more often prone to litter, tree cutting, and general misuse and abuse than most designated “Wilderness Areas”. I give kudos to Mr. Bauer for continuing to fight to protect the Adirondack Forest Preserve from these ongoing issues. In the end, it shouldn’t be about the legal issues, or the economic issues. It should be about preserving the forest, not reserving a forest playground for motorized access.

    • M.P. Heller says:

      Your litter comment is a fallacy. Anywhere there is access to a location via trail there is litter. It doesn’t matter the mode of transportation used, if it be by machine or self propelled. There are inconsiderate users in every group and some of them happen to litter. Bushwhackers who leave flagging are littering. Fisherman who leave monofilament are littering. Hikers who leave orange peels and apple cores are littering. Hunters who leave shotgun shells are littering. Campers who ‘thoughtfully’ leave food in lean-to are littering. Snowmobilers who leave monster energy drink cans are littering. The list goes on and on.

      Wilderness areas do not somehow attract a demographic with any more or less considerate participants than other user groups. There is no documentation of such, and in fact the only substantial evidence that exists is that any trail which creates human use will have litter and resource degradation. I have carried out litter from places that are trail-less as well. Places that most have never heard of or would ever consider going to. Like the glass Sanka jar complete with lid on an unnamed peak between Sawtooth #5 and Sawtooth #2.

      The litter argument is a red herring.

      • Bruce says:

        MP Heller,

        Excellent comment. I think you and I both agree that habitat degradation happens no matter what group is allowed to use the resource. You’ve probably noticed that while Mr. Bauer talks about “preservation,” he’s careful to make sure these lands are left open for the unfettered use of his favorite user group.

        Over the time I’ve been reading the Almanack, I’ve noticed that when new areas are opened, hikers start calling for new trails to be cut so they can get to key areas easier and quicker. It’s possible I’ve missed something, but it seems in those cases, I’ve not heard Mr. Bauer voice any opposition.

      • Justin Farrell says:

        Good point, thanks for the reply.
        I don’t think it’s an argument, but I see (and clean up) 10 times more litter, abandoned camping gear, etc in Wild Forest areas than I do in Wilderness areas. You are talking about the occasional empty beer can and orange peel versus piles of empty beer cans and objects that can only be transported by machine. I think it is a valid point that if and when these areas are opened to motorized recreation, it’s only a matter of time before this pattern spreads to these areas as well.

      • Scott van Laer scottvanlaer says:

        My experience over the last 20 years is that there is less litter the farther away you get from motorized access. The camping area on the lake a 10 minute walk from the parking lot has significantly more litter than the one an hours hike away. The location of the access point will have as much affect on the unit as the actual classification.

        • M.P. Heller says:

          Yes. The area within 5 miles of a trailhead is commonly known as the “idiot zone” in hiker parlance. Prime examples would be the former Bear Brook lean-to on the John’s Brook Trail, and the former “party lean-tos” at Marcy Dam. Thankfully DEC management got ahead of the problem in these locations and the issue of trash in these locations is now almost nonexistent.

  16. Charlie S says:

    Justin Farrel says: “it’s still fresh on my mind that this past weekend I was exploring a popular snowmobile trail in the southern region. The amount of trash along the trail was staggering! I’d hate to see things like this happen to these newly added lands into our “Forest Preserve”.

    This is the first time i’ve heard any such reports of trash along snowmobile corridors. Is trash common along snowmobile trails or is this a rare instance? Another reason to be averse to their use in wilderness areas. It is a fact that wherever man has motorized access pollution follows.

    • Paul says:

      My anecdote is this. I spend lots of time on one poular snowmobile trail outside Saranac Lake, the old rail bed that is now called the “bloomingdale bog” trail. It is fun to ski and doesn’t require much snow. I have never seen any trash on it. It is right off the road a mile from the Adirondacks largest town. Easy access, no trash.

      • Boreas says:

        FWIW, If you check the parking access areas for the trail along Oregon Plains Road, you are apt to find mattresses, recliners, tires, rotting deer carcasses, target shooting debris, etc.. But I would call it redneck dumping rather than trail user trash.

    • Justin Farrell says:

      Hi Charlie S,
      Just to answer your question…A few areas that come to mind where I’ve encounter large amounts of trash along certain trails and bodies of water have been within the Lake George Wlid Forest, Wilcox Lake Wlid Forest, Jessup River Wild Forest, Sargent Ponds Wild Forest, Black River Wild Forest, Ferris Lake Wild Forest, and The Hudson River Special Management Area, just to name a few from my own experience.

  17. Charlie S says:

    Justin Farrel says: “Seems like those of us who want more wilderness areas, and want to ‘preserve the forest’ from the negative effects of those using their recreational machines within the “Forest Preserve” are a dying breed.”

    You’re right on the money Justin.We’re living in a society that increasingly needs a motorized contraption or noise to make their lives complete. Recently there were two instances where I saw people going down the roads on 2-wheeled scooters that they stood on as a small motor moved the contraption. Why walk when they don’t have to? It’s not just about ambulation neither! Another common practice nowadays is to have a motorized contraption blow autumn leaves around because a rake is too much work evidently. We like noise and we like convenience and we cannot be whole unless some form of vulgar intrusion is upon our ears. Why do you think so many people walk around with wires leading from a handheld device to their craniums? Why do you think people spend 75% of their free time in front of a mindless television set? Because the impact of the sound waves soothes them,because their obtusenness needs something to feed on.

    Before you know it places like the Adirondacks are going to be places to go to hear less noise,not deep stillness ‘like it used to be.’

    • Boreas says:

      I concur. I lived in Montana for a summer and you cannot get away from motorcycle noise anywhere near Yellowstone or Glacier NPs. I find it maddening. The last place I camped that was totally quiet was decades ago in the interior of Okeefenokee Swamp. Quiet except for the ‘gators that is.

  18. Joe Hansen says:

    There has been interesting and illuminating observations from every commentator but despite MP Heller holding opinions on forest management similar to my own I must protest his personal attack on Mr. Bauer. The article is well researched and the legal arguments are sound. Just because Mr. Heller agrees with the DEC proposals does not mean that they are based on solid legal ground. Personally I would love to see a bridge over the Cedar River but I believe legislation needs to be amended before this should proceed. We are all better served when we are governed by laws not men, it has been a good idea since the Magna Carta.

  19. Charlie S says:

    Justin Farrell says: “Hi Charlie S, Just to answer your question…A few areas that come to mind where I’ve encountered large amounts of trash along certain trails and bodies of water have been within the Lake George Wlid Forest, Wilcox Lake Wlid Forest, Jessup River Wild Forest, Sargent Ponds Wild Forest, Black River Wild Forest, Ferris Lake Wild Forest, and The Hudson River Special Management Area, just to name a few from my own experience.”

    Just imagine how far the right education would get us Justin.Of course we’d have to start a new curriculum soon and we could expect it may take three generations before we start seeing change.That’s too long to wait! You would think the things that really matter,ie..beauty,pureness,good will towards all living things… we would show consideration for. There’s only one earth and you would think we would put more effort into protecting it since it’s the only home we know. If we took a fraction of the money we spend on armaments and put it into the ‘right’ education (for all) we’d have less problems,less violence in the world. I’m convinced of this. It would take some doing but it could be done. We don’t have enough imagination unfortunately so we’ll skip that idea. It boggles the mind how foolish we really are.

    • Justin Farrell says:

      Ok good thoughts, Charlie.
      Thanks for sharing.
      Best wishes for a great holiday season to all.
      Justn