Thursday, January 28, 2016

DEC Seeks Enhanced Snowmobiling in Black River Wild Forest

BRWF mapThe state Department of Environmental Conservation is seeking public comments on a proposal to create new snowmobile, hiking, and ski trails in the Black River Wild Forest.

The main goal is to improve snowmobile connections between communities in the southwestern Adirondacks by building new trails and reclassifying existing trails. At the same time, DEC plans to close to snowmobiling some trails in the interior of the Forest Preserve.

Overall, the mileage of snowmobile trails in the Black River Wild Forest would decrease to 60.1 from 67.5 miles—a net loss of 7.4 miles. Yet DEC says the plan will make it easier and safer for snowmobilers to travel from Woodgate to Old Forge and from McKeever to Nobleboro.

The proposal also calls for the construction of five miles of foot trails that would be incorporated into the North Country National Scenic Trail, which when completed will stretch more than 4,200 miles from North Dakota to the Adirondacks.

The Adirondack section of the national trail enters the Black River Wild Forest from the west and then trends northeast through the Adirondack Park to Crown Point on Lake Champlain.

In the Black River Wild Forest, the national trail will for the most part follow existing trails. The new trails would fill in gaps between the existing trails. They would connect the Stone Dam Trail to the Little Woodhull Lake Trail and the Sand Lake Falls Trail to the Grindstone Creek Trail. A third trail would lead from the North Branch Trail into the West Canada Lake Wilderness. The precise routes of the new trails have not been determined.

DEC also is proposing to build a loop trail for cross-country skiing and hiking near Otter Lake, with a five-car parking lot. The loop will begin on the Otter Lake Outlet Trail, one of the trails that is being closed to snowmobiles.

Under the proposal, more of than half of the snowmobile routes (33.6 miles) in the Black River Wild Forest would be classified as “community connectors” – trails that are wide and smooth, designed for speedy travel between hamlets. This mileage does not include Forest Preserve roads that are open for snowmobiling.

Peter Bauer, executive director of Protect the Adirondacks, is unhappy with the plan despite the decrease in mileage of snowmobile trails. “Though there’s a net reduction, this counts many snowmobile trails that have not seen a snowmobile in years,” he said.

And Bauer said newly cut community-connector trails have entailed the cutting of more than 1,500 trees per mile.

“So, what we’re left with is a massive expansion when you look at the boost in community-connector trails that are nine to twelve feet wide, graded and leveled, all understory, rocks, stumps, etc., removed,” he said.

DEC’s proposal, he said, “is another major step in the largest expansion of motor-vehicle use in the history of the Forest Preserve. Motorized access to the Forest Preserve is the top Forest Preserve priority for Governor Cuomo and DEC Acting Commissioner Seggos.”

In the proposal, DEC says that the Black River Wild Forest area “is one of the most popular snowmobiling destinations in the country and the economic impact of this form of recreation is vital.” At the same time, DEC says natural resources will be protected.

The proposal is a draft amendment to the unit management plan (UMP) for the Black River Wild Forest, which comprises 121,000 acres, mostly in Herkimer County. The UMP also covers the J.P. Lewis Tract, lands near North Lake protected by a conservation easement.

Public comments may be submitted through February 29 via email to They also may be mailed to Michael Marsh, Senior Forester, NYSDEC, 225 North Main Street, Herkimer, NY 13357.

Click the link below to read the draft amendment.

BRWF proposal

The map is from the draft amendment to the UMP. The yellow dotted lines are the proposed community-connector trails. The solid yellow lines are Forest Preserve roads that would be part of the community-connector system.


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Phil Brown is the former Editor of Adirondack Explorer, the regional bimonthly with a focus on outdoor recreation and environmental issues, the same topics he writes about here at Adirondack Almanack. Phil is also an energetic outdoorsman whose job and personal interests often find him hiking, canoeing, rock climbing, trail running, and backcountry skiing. He is the author of Adirondack Paddling: 60 Great Flatwater Adventures, which he co-published with the Adirondack Mountain Club, and the editor of Bob Marshall in the Adirondacks, an anthology of Marshall’s writings.Visit Lost Pond Press for more information.

32 Responses

  1. kathy says:

    I will never see the sense in cutting down so many trees for snowmobiling or any recreational group. Are there not enough trails for sleds already?

    • roamin with broman says:

      No, we would like more.

      • Running George says:

        Kathy, no matter how many trails are provided for snowmobiling the entitled motorized crowd will demand more.

        Oddly, they will also demand that they are wider, smoother, straighter, more road like and less trail like.

        Having a destination with a “mahogany ridge” is the usual goal in my experience.

  2. Bruce says:

    Has Mr. Bauer ever come out against cutting trees for more hiking and ski trails, even those in Wilderness areas? Cross country ski trails can be as wide as some snowmobile trails. Are his objections about cutting trees or snowmobile use?

  3. Paul says:

    Phil I think you may want to edit this:

    “At the same time, DEC plans to close to snowmobiling some trails in the interior of the Forest Preserve.”

  4. Paul says:

    These stories where there is some info then some comments only from the head of one environmental group seem to be sort of super one sided. They certainly paint a negative picture which perhaps is the purpose.

  5. Running George says:

    “Safer and easier”? Make that faster to the connecting bar rooms. This is cutting highways through the Park forest for the ability to sell more beer and chicken wings for Andrew’s version of “economic development.”

    Apparently the DEC fails to take climate change seriously as they are encouraging the recreational use of fossil fuels. Motorized recreation is a poison to the woods and the atmosphere. DEC= Department of Environmental Contamination.

  6. Boreas says:

    I have more of a concern about use during the other three seasons. Will ATV use be permitted? If not, will the prohibition be enforced by anything other than a gate?

  7. Tom Payne says:

    Is that like the keggar parties in high peaks?Drinking from hut to hut. More of same from the Bauer fabrication machine. Funny wild forest is now considered wilderness classification?

  8. Tom Payne says:

    You are correct, Mr Bauer never holds to the same standard when cutting trees on hiking and cross country ski trails. And both are done by NYSDEC personnel. More of his and the organization he represents double standard. Where is the outrage of the illegal hiking trails?

  9. M.P. Heller says:

    Mr. Bauer likes to enjoy the lifestyle his 2 homes and 6 figure salary afford him, but obviously has no cares for anyone who doesn’t share his political views as to what is best for the park. He regularly engages in hateful behavior directed at those who don’t share his vision. He manipulates data, ignores facts, and spreads misinformation. On the one hand I have to applaud his ability to continually pry funding to sustain this behavior from unwitting donors who fall for his ruse, but on the other hand I have no choice but to despise him for the lies and deceit he continually uses to advance his personal crusade. A crusade that completely ignores the impacts of some user groups in order to cast a poor light on other groups. His behavior amounts to discrimination. The same type of discrimination that was once used against blacks and jews in the Adirondacks. It’s absolutely no different. Identifying a group that you don’t like for whatever reason and then taking action to prevent them from experiencing the same or similar level of enjoyment that you enjoy because of the mode they choose is reprehensible. Mr. Bauer’s influence on the process of managing public lands must end. He should not be viewed as an advocate for public lands, but rather as a radical with an agenda that is diametrically opposed to reasonable management of public spaces. Unfortunately his misguided altruistic view of how things should be runs counter to public interests, and the science of reasonable and responsible land management. PROTECT! needs to be run out of the Adirondacks for good. It’s simply a mechanism to divide the public while supporting Mr. Bauer’s million dollar lifestyle. When will the public wake up and see PROTECT! for the scam it is? There are other worthy organizations to support. The Council is at the top of that list. ADK comes a close second. Even ADK Wild is a fairly decent organization when compared to the lunacy of PROTECT! and Mr. Bauer. Stop sending money to PROTECT! and media types, stop giving this mad man a voice.

    I applaud the DEC plan for BRWF. It’s a move forward towards better management of this Wild Forest tract and towards shoring up the very shaky economic conditions along the western route 28 corridor. The detractors are just making noise.

    • roamin with broman says:

      Hear hear!!!

    • mm says:

      Well said Mr. Heller. I support the DEC plan. Compromise and share the resource. Broaden the support for the Adirondacks beyond a few elites.

      • Running George says:

        “Shoring up” economic conditions is not the job of the DEC especially when the issues involved will detract from the long term viability of the Park as a preserve and not a playground.
        The rest of Heller’s diatribe is a lesson in false comparisons, for example comparing the demands of motorized users to the treatment of blacks and jews. Really, get a grip. This type of comment is devoid of intellectual substance and is really just falsely claiming the role of victim. Based on Heller’s diatribe I would suggest that in his quest for denying a media voice to “mad” men, a look in the mirror should be his first option followed by the self application of the necessary amount of duct tape.

        • Bruce says:

          “Shoring up economic conditions” is perhaps an inaccurate term. It IS up to all state agencies involved with recreational use of the Park to provide recreational opportunities, and if those opportunities result in positive Park economics, so much the better.

          Of course, not all recreations can be made available in all places, that would be just as irresponsible as advocating that all newly acquired lands be locked up as Wilderness, open only to foot traffic.

          According to the map provided, there is no place in the Black River Wild Forest free from noise pollution from roads or snowmobile trails
          because only the very center of some parts are more than 3 miles away, and if there are no trails into these few areas, few people will be using them, especially in winter.

          As I have stated before, the APA’s mission is a difficult one at best, and I believe they are doing a credible job.

        • Jeff says:


    • Woody says:

      M. P. Heller, whose full name is Michael Heller, is an Adirondack restaurateur with a history of assuming that people who disagree with his political points of view are morally flawed individuals. Rants and diatribes are pretty commonplace, because plenty of people have contrary opinions to Mr. Heller. Of course all these people MUST be drunken pedophiles who never visit their mothers on Christmas, because that’s the only type of person who could possibly disagree with our friend Michael.

      Look up the user name “Diamondpoint” on the various Adirondack forums to see more of Michael Heller’s pearls of wit and wisdom.

      I’ve learned that he’s a troll, and as such it’s best not to feed him.

      • Jim S. says:

        Would it be beneficial for a restaurateur to promote snowmobile trails?

      • Boreas says:


        Opinionated people of all sorts visit this forum. That is kinda the point of the site. But I don’t feel MP Heller is any more of a troll than I am. I may not agree with him very often, but I can’t condemn anyone for stating their opinion on an opinion forum as long as it is somewhat cogent and isn’t cut & pasted numerous times on different threads.

      • Paul M says:

        I agree that MP Heller is a troll but I take issue with you calling him a “restauranteur” as it didn’t take him long to run the Hardtimes Cafe into the ground in Eagle Bay. Used to be a decent place.

        • Woody says:

          I’m glad someone said it! I’m rolling on the floor here.

          The Hard Times Café was even located on a main snowmobile trail, too. It must have taken skill to kill that business.

  10. Tom Payne says:

    Well said Mr. Heller!

  11. Scott says:

    Most of the existing trails and DEC roads in the Black River Wildforest are very curvy so even if these are upped to Class II snowmobile trails, they won’t be very speedy trails. Speeds on Class II trails always becomes an argument. How about including a lower speed limit like they have in Moose River Plains.

  12. Todd Eastman says:

    Some more poor-snow winters will take care of the sno-mo problem…

  13. Shawn says:

    Many of us snowmobilers prefer narrow “Adirondack” type trails, however they are not as safe for snowmobiling when they are less than 10′ in width as that only leaves 2′ between snowmobiles when they meet on the trail. More recreational activity opportunities in the Adirondacks is exactly what NYS needs. Speed Limits on these trails would be great as many of us enjoy connecting through the Adirondacks to actually take in the winter scenery and eat lunch and dinner at a local restaurant. How much money are hikers bringing into the Black River Wild Forest Region Annually? Lets face it Manufacturing is not coming back to NYS anytime soon… so why is everyone so against utilizing one of our best resources (SNOW) to create jobs and bring more money into our own hometown’s?

    The emissions argument is basically obsolete as well since today’s sleds meet strict EPA standards and are just about as efficient as the Subaru’s most of you are driving around.

    • Running George says:

      The standards for sleds by the EPA are not that strict. They emit far beyond autos. In a time when climate change should be on the top of the state agenda pushing motorized recreation is shameful.

    • TrailOgre says:

      If you slow down and take it easy there should be no problem with narrower trails………………….You don’t have to drive 100mph!!!

      Some thing most Snowmobilers don’t realize

      They want to drive around whole park in 2 hours

  14. brvcf says:

    Peter Bauer, Protect The Adirondacks, and groups like that will say and do anything and use any reason, whether valid or not, to oppose snowmobiling anywhere. A decrease trail mileage from 67.5 to 60.1 miles is a net loss of about 11% in this UMP. There is nothing that will satisfy them except elimination of all snowmobile trails.

    What does it matter if some of the trails “have not seen a snowmobile in years”? How does he know that anyway? Some of these trails most closely resemble the “character of a foot trail” description that the environmental groups keep bringing up. They should be happy that they are lightly used and that they get free clearing and maintenance by the snowmobile clubs.

    There are undoubtedly hiking trails and informal herd paths that have not seen a hiker in years, but no one is calling for them to be closed.

    The fact is that most of the community connector trails particularly in this area are on old logging roads which were cleared to way more than 9 feet 50 or 100 years ago. The fact is that the snowmobile trail width limit is 9 feet except on corners and hills where required for safety. The average trail width is much closer to 9 feet than 12 feet. By the way, there was no specified limit on trail width before the new Adirondack snowmobile plan, which was pushed for and agreed to by the environmental groups. This plan was a definite compromise on the part of snowmobilers.

    “Character of a foot trail” is ambiguous anyway. I can show you many “foot trails” that are nothing but a wide deeply eroded eroded rocky muddy mess, and I can show you corridor trails that in the summer you wouldn’t even realize are snowmobile trails unless you looked closely.

    As far as tree-cutting on “newly-cut” community connector trails, some of these and some other “new” trails have been or will only be required because of the call for reconfiguring the trail system to remove existing connector trails from the “remote interior of wild forest lands.” That is not something the snowmobilers asked for or wanted. That is something the environmental groups pushed for.

  15. Tom Payne says:

    Funny, now US EPA standards that the manufacturers have to comply are loose. I suppose you have documented proof of the US EPA has loose standards. I believe the speed limit is 55 mph on trails unless otherwise posted.

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