The Appellate Division, Third Department, of state Supreme Court issued an order today to uphold an injunction against tree cutting by the Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) on a new 9-12 foot wide snowmobile trail between Newcomb and Minerva in the central Adirondacks.
The DEC cut over 4,000 trees on 2.9 miles of this trail in the fall of 2015, had recently cut over 1,000 more trees on a new 3-mile section, and was about to cut thousands more trees, including many located in old growth forest habitat.
Protect the Adirondacks is currently challenging the legality of these new road-like snowmobile trails in Supreme Court in Albany. Protect has alleged in court that these trails violate Article 14, Section 1 of the New York State Constitution, the “forever wild” provision, due to the enormous amount of tree cutting. Article 14, Section 1 prohibits destruction of the trees on the Forest Preserve.
Efforts to stop tree cutting on other new 9-12 foot wide class II snowmobile trails in 2014 and 2015 were unsuccessful. For the 14-mile Newcomb to Minerva trail, Protect the Adirondacks obtained an independent expert count of stumps of cut trees, and an estimate of the additional trees to be cut, to detail the high level of tree cutting.
In its public notifications and planning, DEC only counts trees greater than 3 inches diameter at breast height (DBH). This spring, DEC estimated it would cut over 1,600 of these large trees over 7 miles of new trail. When trees under 3 inches DBH were added to the tally, Protect the Adirondacks found that over 9,000 trees would be cut on this section.
The entire trail from Newcomb to Minerva would require cutting over 17,000 trees. Prior cases on the constitutionality of tree cutting on the Forest Preserve tallied both large and small trees. Protect the Adirondacks aged the stumps of a number of trees cut down on the Forest Preserve under 3 inches DBH and found many to be 30, 40 and 50 years old, or older.
The temporary restraining order will remain in place until a decision is issued by the State Supreme Court on a motion for a more permanent injunction that will be considered on Monday, July 25, 2016.
Photo provided by Protect: Recently cut and graded sections of the Newcomb to Minerva Class II Snowmobile Trail.