A justice of the Appellate Division, Third Department, of state Supreme Court issued an order on Friday that halted 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.
According to a survey commissioned by Protect the Adirondacks, the DEC cut over 4,000 trees on 2.9 miles of this trail in the fall of 2015, had recently cut thousands of trees on a new 3-mile section in June and July 2016, and was about to cut thousands more trees, including many located in old growth forest habitat.
Protect is currently challenging the legality of these new wide, roadlike snowmobile trails in Supreme Court in Albany. The organization 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 timber on the Forest Preserve
As part of this lawsuit, Protect the Adirondacks made a motion seeking an injunction in State Supreme Court last week and the court scheduled a hearing on July 25th. Expecting that the DEC would cut thousands more trees before the 25th, Protect the Adirondacks made a separate motion to the Appellate Division, Third Department to halt the tree cutting until then.
Protect the Adirondacks has asked the courts to issue an injunction against any further tree cutting pending a final decision on the constitutionality of the DEC’s tree cutting on the Forest Preserve. A trial in the case is scheduled for early 2017.
Efforts to stop tree cutting on other new 9-12 foot wide class II community connector snowmobile trails in 2014 and 2015 were unsuccessful. For the 14-mile Newcomb to Minerva trail, Protect the Adirondacks had an independent expert count the stumps of cut trees, and estimate the additional trees to be cut, to detail the large numbers of trees being cut.
In its public notifications and planning, DEC only counts trees greater than three inches diameter at breast height (DBH). This spring, DEC estimated it would cut over 1,600 of these large trees over seven miles of new trail. When trees under three 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 according to the estimate provided Protect. 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 on the Forest Preserve under three inches DBH and found many to be 30, 40 and 50 years old, or older.
“Protect the Adirondacks is grateful that an Appellate Division judge has intervened to stop the cutting of thousands more trees on the Forest Preserve. We believe this level of tree cutting violates the forever wild provision, Article 14, Section 1, of the State Constitution and believe that the Department of Environmental Conservation should be barred by an injunction stopping all further work on these 9-12 foot wide trails until the courts have made a final decision,” said Peter Bauer, Executive Director of Protect the Adirondacks, in a statement sent to the press.
The Appellate Division, Third Department justice’s order enjoined the DEC from “cutting or otherwise destroying trees in the Adirondack Forest Preserve for the construction of Class II Community Connector snowmobile trails and from otherwise clearing, grading, scraping, excavating or filling the land for such trails or otherwise changing the terrain of the so-called Minerva Newcomb North Hudson Class II Community Connector snowmobile trail.”
On July 20, 2016, the Appellate Division, Third Department will decide whether to continue the temporary restraining order until a decision is issued by Supreme Court on the motion for an injunction that will be considered on July 25, 2016.
Unlike other trails built on the Forest Preserve, new “class II community connector snowmobile trails” are excavated with heavy machinery to remove large boulders and stumps, utilize bench cutting along trail sides, grade and flatten a wide trail surface area, remove thousands of trees (often replacing the native understory with a grass mix), open the forest canopy, fracture and chip away bedrock, utilize large bridges often equipped with reflectors, built to handle operation of motor vehicles at high rates of speed.
No other recreational activity in the Forest Preserve, outside of Intensive Use Areas such as ski areas or campgrounds, requires such tree cutting, terrain alteration and destruction of natural resources. Protect the Adirondacks believes that this planned network of hundreds of miles of class II community connector snowmobile trails violates Article XIV, Section 1 of the NYS Constitution.
Photos provided by Protect: Recently cut and graded sections of the Newcomb to Minerva Class II Snowmobile Trail.
Kudos to Protect. Thank goodness there are people willing to stand up and save our precious forests.
Thank God ! This should have been stopped a long time ago !
In a way, this is an argument for keeping the Adirondack Scenic Railroad intact, and even for going for full restoration.
(Warning, what will be construed as controversial comments follow.)
I like to say a railroad treads lightly on the land. That sounds counterintuitive to most people, what with large, heavy, often loud locomotives.
But look at a railroad from the air, or in a satellite photo. Very often the railroad is hard to see compared to the wide swaths of rivers and the broad ribbons of highways. It is not unusual to have to look for a railroad indirectly, looking instead for the rows of trees on each side of it, in a line that doesn’t quite look natural. One person has told me that he and a pilot, following this particular railroad from the air, had “lost” it, and had to circle around until they found it again. Even major bridges across rivers or deep ravines are understated, thin and dark, compared with the wider and lighter colored bridges of highways.
A railroad can also be quieter overall than a road as well.
This is in spite of a locomotive being capable of producing over 90 decibels at 100 feet away at full power, and the horns can be at 110 decibels at the same distance. For comparison, diesel trucks can also be at about 90 decibels, but at only half the distance, which means the truck is quieter than the locomotive.
Against this we must consider the frequency of the sound in terms of how often it comes around. The railroad might run two to four trains per day, but a highway with any level of traffic roars most of the 24 hours in the day. In that respect, the railroad is quieter than a highway. The choice of which is less objectionable—occasional noise from a train vs. nearly continuous noise from a road—is up to the listener.
It’s also worth noting that the sound is different in its “timbre.” That’s a musical term, defined as “the quality of a tone distinctive of a particular singing voice or musical instrument”—in other words, what makes a guitar sound like a guitar, a violin like a violin, a trumpet a trumpet—or what makes a train or car or truck sound the way they do. Most of us just ignore traffic noise, but trains for many of us don’t sound bad at all.
Perhaps the best way to illustrate this is to recall a story a man told me about his son, who was about five years old at the time. He had taken this boy alternately to a drag race and to the Strasburg Rail Road in Lancaster County, Pa. The boy didn’t like the drag race at all; he asked his father, “Daddy, why are those cars so angry?” The visit to the steam-powered Strasburg Rail Road was a different matter. From his description, the locomotive was No. 90, the largest engine the Strasburg owns. The father said his boy was not afraid of this large, black, loud, and hot machine, going up to it and touching it. His father said this massive, tall, machine, of steel and steam and coal and fire, had the character of “a large, friendly horse.”
There is a good reason we called steam locomotives “iron horses.”
I am not the only one to say a railroad treads lightly upon the land. The railroad writer and former editor of Trans magazine, the late David P. Morgan, once wrote:
“Deface the land? Rubbish! To assert that a railroad mars the pastoral scene is to question the entire influence of man upon nature. A barn, a plowed field, a crossroads, a fence? Are all these versus beauty, too? A railroad is, considering the work it accomplishes, quite economical of space. Moreover, it is built and maintained with a wholesome respect for nature for both employ a balanced approach. Finally, as a railroad ages, so does it tend to blend with its surroundings.
“Shall we prove the point?
“There are hundreds of vistas in America which are unthinkable without the railroad. Harpers Ferry minus Baltimore & Ohio would be like American history without old John Brown. And what is Southern Pacific across the Sierra Nevada but happy evidence that the nation is unified, that the invention of man has overcome the natural handicaps that the defeated the Donner party in the same mountain pass through which the railroad runs? Pittsburgh without rails becomes just another bend in the river; the New River Gorge returns to an inaccessible, unexploited passage of potential commerce; the Dakotas and Oklahoma and the unending Southwest revert to the Indian.
“Oh no; rails do not crease, they bind.”
What more can we add, what more can we say?
Strasburg Rail Road No. 90 on freight service, which this railroad also operates. She and the railroad she runs on seem as much a part of the landscape in the Amish country of Lancaster County as the Amish themselves.
David, the rail line is massively underused – has been for DECADES – others want to get rid of the tracks and use it! Even if the rail is fixed to be good-as-new, with magical free money, the riders aren’t there!!
Just for the record, more people rode on the rails of the Adirondack line last year than ever in its’ history, and ridership continues to grow. Nationwide, passenger rail ridership has risen about 80% over the past 20 years
Thank you David
This article is not about the railroad .
Perhaps not – directly. But, the way the state went about getting the decision they wanted on that reinforces bad behavior on all decisions.
“In a way, this is an argument for keeping the Adirondack Scenic Railroad intact, and even for going for full restoration.”
I think that would be a stretch…
How about all the tons of chemicals you spray on the entire width over the whole length of the railroad corridor that kills all vegetation trying to grow, is that good for the environment, is that forever wild ?
I suppose magical trail fairies will pluck all of the weeds out once the trail is built? No? Ah, but you reveal your true agenda: Wilderness Forever, no rail and no trail, since you know as well as anyone that weed control and brush trimming will be necessary for a trail as well as the railroad.
Yes, maintenance will need to be performed on any corridor but the use of chemicals for this purpose is a choice, not a necessity. The bike trails I have used are simply mowed when the weeds get too high. What will the RR do?
The RR mows the ROW today using brush cutting equipment on a machine that runs on the rails. The chemicals used by NYS are chosen to do minimal damage to the environment. They are used within the width of the sleepers that support the rails.
Not sure where Scott describes is happening — perhaps along the ROW owned by the major Class 1 RRs? Not in this travel corridor within the blue line.
This is an interesting passage:
“Unlike other trails built on the Forest Preserve, new “class II community connector snowmobile trails” are excavated with heavy machinery to remove large boulders and stumps, utilize bench cutting along trail sides, grade and flatten a wide trail surface area, remove thousands of trees (often replacing the native understory with a grass mix), open the forest canopy, fracture and chip away bedrock, utilize large bridges often equipped with reflectors, built to handle operation of motor vehicles at high rates of speed.”
It’s obvious that the snowmobile community holds sway with the state government and the only way to stop them is through legal means. That holds true for this and other trails along with the railroad vs. trail situation. They are never satisfied.
You realize chemicals – no matter where they are sprayed wash to other places when it rains right? Go ask around in Florida or on Long Island. So called “weed control” is an outgrowth of chemical warfare. Now people are just trained to think we actually need it. People maintained trails all over the world for centuries before these chemicals were used.
People took care of railroads, too, prior to the introduction of those chemicals. We have to remember that railroads have been around for about a couple of hundred years now.
Use of chemicals in NO way is necessary. It’s just lazy. Lazy and damaging.
Where is the old growth?
Are these new trails for the sole use of snowmobiles? How can they ,in any good conscience , ride such a trail of destruction or even be as a group in favor of destroying so much nature?
They could be used for hiking, skiing, possibly biking and horses. But with the length of the trails and lack of attractive destinations, they likely wouldn’t see a lot of use.
Now come on. Boreas, those towns these trails will connect probably consider themselves as very “attractive destinations”!
This is very good news. I have my fingers crossed for future rulings. It’s amazing it has gone as far as it has, since the breaking of law and past practices is so blatant.
This is much needed good news. These proposed trails have never been subjected to serious judicial review and it is a tribute to Protect that they have gotten the discussion and evaluation this far.
Enough with ruining the forest for the sake of lousy snowmobiles!! With only 121,400 registered sleds (in 2014-2015 year, which includes out of state sleds) how many damn trails do they need? WHY is this happening for a total of .062% of the NY population? It’s not worth it. Contrary to sled supporters numbers, they do NOT contribute that much to the economy. How could they with such few numbers of them? Gas? Lodging? Food? Maybe. But that’s it. This is easily offset with the cost of making these trails and maintaining them. There’s no money to be made except by the people who repair these things.
Seeing our forests decimated because of these air polluting, noisy, obtrusive machines sickens me no end. I, as a NY resident, do not see a return on this waste of money, they do not support themselves one bit, and are typical of a small number of people who wish to put their own needs above all others. Originally, snow sleds were developed to allow people to access backwoods country in a backwoods setting. It has now morphed into a separate highway system that serves a very small number of people and little potential for any growth unless we continue to remove the very thing that makes the Adirondacks the pristine forest that it is.
Decimated? I think you are slightly exaggerating. Trees under 3″ DBH can basically be cut with a brush saw. There is lots of stretching going on here, Isn’t some of this work to actually protect things like wetlands and other sensitive areas from degradation?
hmm, snowmobiles don’t generate much towards the NY economy. How come is it then that a recent Potsdam study showed that snowmobiling in NY State generated 860 million in revenue, with 240+ million of that being generated in the Adirondacks. That many times more than a puny rail line!
That was for an economic report from 2012 that used data from 2010-2011. Things have changed a bit since then. . .sled registrations down from then something like 9% prior to last winter, then the past season about another 25% drop. . .and on top of that, that horrible season itself, with perhaps only half the length it should have had. Add up a 25% drop in registrations and a 50% drop in available sled time, and you’re looking at a huge decline in this past season.
Now, this season was extraordinary, and if the weather improves next winter, I’ll expect to see sled registrations recover, but none of this denies the long term decline over the last 16 or 17 years in the sled trade.
You now have about the same amount of sleds as you did 20 years ago. It’s not just a freakish year, it’s a long term trend, or at least looks like one.
The electric car market declined this past year as well. Does that mean it isn’t a real market. Of course not. The market is still substantial and these type of trails can be used by Mt. Bikes as well – a seriously growing market.
The snowmob trails will not be used by mountain bikers. The mountain biking community wants specially designed single track (narrow) trails with twists, turns and obstacles. Take a look at the latest video Gore Mtn posted about the mountain biking trails that were built at the Ski Bowl in North Creek–that’s the kind of trails that attract mountain bike travelers, not 12-15′ wide trails cut for snowmobs.
Some bikers like single track riding and some like wide well graded trails (consider this a trail more interesting than a rail trail which are wide and widely popular). It is just a matter of marketing.
Mariposa: I assume you mountain bike, as the tone of your statement is very “confident”. If you do ride, you are way out of touch or you possibly engage only in “singletrack” riding.
But I’ll assume, as is so often the case on this forum, that you have no to very little experience “mountain biking” and yet feel compelled to speak for “mountain bikers”.
Besides, mountain bikes “destroy” the wilderness and really need to be relegated to paved and commercially graded hardback roads…trails are not suitable for trail riding. It’s a moot point.
Mariposa: What kind of trails do you like to ride with your “mountain bike”? I assume you ride in the backcountry extensively, as your 1st sentence is said as fact. You wouldn’t comment on something you have zero experience with, would you?
“Snowmobs”, “motorheads”….very reasonable…to be fair, what derogatory term would you apply to yourself?
Bob We retired to the ADKs several years ago, so I guess you could call us grey hairs. We ride single track mountain bike trails, back country logging trails, hike, paddle, ski, snowshoe and other low impact human-powered recreation. We have learned that while there is a large contingent of like- minded individuals in the ADKs who support the Park and volunteer here, our neighbors who were born here are all motorized recreation fans and are generally not supportive of spending on any non-motorized recreation. We respect their right to be motorheads and teasingly call them that however, if you delve into the ROOST ADK marketing studies, you will learn that the tourists that come here and keep our economy are not those who want to engage in snowmobiling, four-wheeling and other motor sports.
Yes, as an “import” myself I do find the ADK dynamic very intriguing. Imports and locals, motorheads and treehuggers. The stereotypes and generalizations abound. There is truth in some of the stereotypes. Hypocrisy exists on both sides. Both “types” eventually claim a type of moral superiority.
As a cyclist (and I’m not just a “cyclist”), NYS and the Adirondacks in general are not exactly what I’d call “bike friendly”. Aside from the wonderful work BETA has accomplished, the Adirondack park is behind the times as far as “mountain biking” is concerned. I put mountain biking in quotes, as I regularly see this forum bring out opinions on the subject made by folks who obviously have little to no experience on the activity.
Yes, “singletrack” is nice, but there is even some backlash within the mountain biking community over trails that are “too manicured”. A BMX track in the woods (disclaimer, I too love jumps, drops and “flow”). So when someone says “this is what mountain bikers want”, I immediately see someone speaking outside their area of expertise. One of the biggest trends in “mountain biking” is “bikepacking” or “adventure touring”. Yep, bikepacking…sounds like backpacking, the little darling of the ADK’s right? But here in the ADK’s the outdated notion that bikes “destroy” trails and are incompatible with a wilderness ethic persists. Although ripe in opportunity, there is zero vision within the ADK’s for off-road through-routes. The patchwork of land classifications makes linking even old jeep roads difficult. Throw on top of that the outdated and incorrect idea that mountain biking requires “hardened dirt roads” to “withstand the abuse” of trail riding.
I ride snowmobile trails quite often in the attempt to long stretches of “off road” routes. I enjoy the challenge they bring. Sometime it’s by choice but often it is by necessity. Some snowmobile trails are excellent in the summer and some are hardly distinguishable from the surrounding landscape.
There is a difference between a 1 year decline, which may or may not signal the start of a trend (and which I wouldn’t use to prove anything in either direction), and a decline or rise that takes place over 16 years.
Yeah electric cars and snowmobiles are not a good comparison at all. In reality the economics of electric cars don’t work without heavy incentives. It will be like that for a few years. That said – all non-traditional cars will grow market share (hydrogen – natural gas – electric) in the coming years because of laws requiring them. It is already the case in China and parts of Europe – and will be happening here as well.
On a practical level – in many ways – electric cars are the antithesis of snowmobiles…
You could also flip that around to say snowmobiles only make it because of incentives. I mean, we are not going around cutting special roads through the forest for Teslas, right?
Thank you for your comment, AG, even though we may not be on the same side in regard to the railroad.
You see, you bring up a very important thing in regard to both this trail and the Adirondack Scenic, and that is that there is a double standard that applies to railroads and everything else.
Specifically, a railroad is expected to pay all its bills, earn a profit, and in the case of privately owned railroads, to pay property taxes on their fixed plant. It is not required that the highway system do any of these things.
In fact, the highway system–and the trail, system, too–is highly subsidized. Your fuel taxes and tolls only pay about half the cost of the highway system, and on top of that, the property used for a road and any additional property that goes with it (i.e., the width of run-off areas that are along high speed roads) is subtracted from the property that pays real estate taxes.
The cash involved is huge–at least $40 billion per year for the nation as a whole. It works out to a minimal charge or subsidy of 50 cents per gallon. It’s a huge incentive to use a car–and a huge disadvantage for a railroad to overcome.
And this is with cash flow accounting. Things look even worse when you use full cost accounting, which would include things like deferred maintenance and depreciation.
How different would this country look if we had truly applied the principle of “user pays” to the highway system? How much more of a rail system would we have? Might the problems of too much traffic, too much driving, even the problems of oil dependency and the international problems that come with that, have been at least mitigated a bit?
This is not new. Check out the case in this railroad film from the 1950s, starting at about 13:40:
Just in case someone questions my numbers, here is a link to the 2012 edition of Highway Statistics. This is the last version of the report I’ve seen that includes Table HF-10 in Section 9.
The important numbers in HF-10 are total highway revenues, all agencies ($142 billion) vs. total highway expenditures ($221 billion). The difference of $79 billion is the level of subsidy.
Some people complain about “diversions” from motor taxes, such as using a portion of the gas tax to support public transit. It’s a legitimate point, and it’s notable that I’ve essentially corrected for that–and you still have that $79 billion “deficit” for the road system.
That level of expenditure would cover Amtrak’s deficit for almost 80 years!
How different would this country look with honest accounting?
Interesting. The state seems to be doubling down on promoting snowmobiles even as snowmobile registrations continue to decline and Climate Change makes Adirondack winters variable. How much do you want to bet the EIS for this project had no mention of Climate Change at all?
This is about as smart as deciding to build more marinas on Lake Mead….
Community connectors will take so long to build they will connect Ghost Towns of Chipmunks.
Snowmobiling needs the Corridor, we need the Snowmobilers. Bicycling ? Even bigger.
Can you say mower? How about fire protection?
The Corridor has been a Snowmobile trail for over 50 years. built bridges, cut dead falls and brush. The train is a non-factor between Old Forge and Lake Placid.
We need the roads and buses (rarely needed) can run them fine.
Funny how you guys coveted the Adirondack RR corridor once it was cleared by railroad volunteers after years of neglect. They also had to rebuild washed out bridges and right of way from scratch (I’ve seen the pics). Once they did the work, you got to use it in the winter and now you want to take it away.
The funny thing is, people who only use the corridor for three months of the year complain how the corridor is underused by the railroad – and they never mention the rail bikes for some reason.
I join those who don’t understand the logic of cutting a new snowmobile trail. Aside from the fact that it violates existing law/rules, snowmobiling is declining, by a third in recent years according to one report. And this new trail duplicates an existing one from Newcomb to Minerva. Why are they pushing this so hard while being hardnosed about ripping up rails that are seeing increasing use every year and closing an existing road to Boreas Ponds that undoubtedly canoeists will use if allowed? What’s so special about snowmobiles that they get preferential treatment?
The snowmobile lobby is the single largest spender in Albany — despite the decline in registrations — and has been for several years.
If the Alt 7 proposal withstands the legal challenge, the mileage used for a high speed track for snowmobilers will not count against the existing mileage ceiling that is in place.
Having witnessed the damage from snowmobiles to the ROW trail system that exists north of Charlie’s Inn, other users of the proposed multi-use facility will quickly discover it will be unusable to them without significant maintenance each year. The understaffed, underfunded DEC does not take adequate care of existing trails — not certain there will be the wherewithal to address such matters.
I don’t even feel DEC should maintain these new expressways. Let the snowmobile groups pay for that. They should be relatively easy to maintain with a bulldozer…
They do. They pay registration fees. We should probably have something similar for bikers or others that might want to use the trails.
Do registration fees pay for ALL of the building & maintenance or are additional funds supposed to come from elsewhere? I seriously doubt the tab for this is coming only from registration fees, since registration revenue is dropping and would always be variable. My understanding was registration fees only “help” pay for trail building & maintenance across the state.
Good question but obviously there is some contribution.. Not every piece of infrastructure needs a toll booth especially when there is benefit to more than just the snowmobilers. The towns want the trails and the revenue that comes with that use. But at least they are paying something. I don’t see folks asking who pays the maintenance fees for all the hiking trails and paddling carries and put-in that are pretty much all covered by someone other than hikers and paddlers. Lots of stuff is being developed for these new Forest Preserve parcels most of which has nothing to do with snowmobiles.
I suppose that’s true, but it seems only the snowmobiling community is pushing for/requiring these intrusive Class II trails.
It is the connecting communities that also want these trails. Not just snowmobilers. Heavy lobbying on part of municipal government is probably more likely. Without the towns approval there would be far less effort by the state to see this through.
Yes, undoubtedly true. But the point I was making is that snowmobiling, among the multiple uses towns want to encourage in the hope of strengthening their economies, is the only activity that requires outsized trails, increased destruction of timber, and other damage to the landscape and natural solace of the forest preserve. This litigation should give the legality of Class II trails their day in court.
“outsized” is clearly a matter of opinion. And, 17000 trees with half being brush is less than 2 acres of woodland. And, if snowmobiling disappears in the future a footpath may develop or the trail will revert to forest. Certainly not the end of the forest preserve by any stretch.
Not a matter of opinion at all. The Class II designation was specifically created to accommodate larger and faster sleds. The parameters were stretched to accommodate modern snowmobiling. But here is an opinion….a cost benefit analysis of doing this would certainly not support the expense.
There has been no determination that any of this violates existing laws. Just because someone makes the accusation doesn’t make it fact. Wait for the court to actually make a decision. Of course even if cleared some will continue to make accusations – then ones that we know are false.
Don’t have to wait long:
“On July 20, 2016, the Appellate Division, Third Department will decide whether to continue the temporary restraining order until a decision is issued by Supreme Court on the motion for an injunction that will be considered on July 25, 2016.”
It’s the governor’s shotgun approach to ADK revitalization. Try everything and see if something works. Somebody obviously has sold him on the idea that snowmobiling can be the savior of the ADK economy.
There is no “savior” for the Adirondack economy. Just things that can improve things. It looks to me like these trails (unlike older snowmobile trails that basically have to be frozen to even be passable) could be good community connectors for mt. bikes? That could help the economy as well giving them something year round. The spirit of Article 14 is clearly to protect the timber on Forest Preserve. I doubt that cutting a teeny tiny portion of that (despite what looks like huge numbers here) to make a trail safer and probably more environmentally friendly (bridges, culverts etc.) violates that law. This is all on Wild Forest land not Wilderness the same classification that has DEC roads for other motor vehicles. But I could be wrong. The reason some of the High Peaks trails are so degraded and washed out is because they are not properly designed, constructed, and maintained.
That’s a big problem. It’s easier to get money to build new stuff than it is to get money to maintain it.
Did anyone mention that the DEC has continued to push this trail and publish maps of spurs off the trail without crucial easements needed from private landholders? Look closely– there are portions of the Minerva-Newcomb trail that have to be built on private lands and the landowners have said “no way”. Now when those landowners again say no to the trail, they will be unfairly targeted by the motorheads who say it is their right to ride amok over private as well as public land.
Our ADK experience has been that the majority of snowmobilers we come in contact with do not appreciate scenery–only speed. Last year we had to intervene when a local snomob group decided to use two active beaver lodges for their aerial tricks. We no longer support snomobs and don’t see how a few beers and a couple gallons of gas will make a difference to the ADK winter economy. The DEC says these trails will also be for horses and have given towns in the area $250k to build stables. Due to the extreme slopes, turns and poor drainage, the trails are much too dangerous for horseback riding. Plus, guess how many peeps travel with their horses? It is a tiny fraction of the snowmob numbers and horses really do tear up trails.
Sounds like a counter suit is necessary to address the illegal hiking trails in the park that are conveniently overlooked in Albany as well.
I wonder how much of the case for building more snowmobile trails is out of a kind of desperation? With registrations in decline, towns are competing for fewer and fewer sledders. With climate uncertainty, how many are trying to cash in before changing weather drives all the sledders up to Canada? How much of it is just plain denial?
On an objective basis, there really should be serious thought given to winding down further investments in snowmobile infrastructure. New projects should stand on their ability to serve other needs, rather than being optimized for a declining pool of users.
Larry, I’ve been having similar thoughts about this for some time.
I would go so far as to say the desperation angle you have is a variation of denial.
I even think it has much to do with the animosity against the Adirondack Scenic Railroad. We have people in the trail crowd who keep on saying “We have this huge economic impact,” when the actual impact has to have shrunken over the last several years, with an especially big hit this past season with the lack of snow. The same bunch says we don’t need trains because everyone has cars. They can’t believe that the railroad has been working hard to increase its patronage, and they can’t believe that railroads are on an upward swing again (partially driven by the fact that driving is no longer fun). They claim nobody likes trains, nobody rides trains, yet the numbers, which are sent to the Federal Railroad Administration, say otherwise.
It’s not just here. I’ve gotten similar responses when I try to tell people the road system is heavily subsidized, that the population density is higher than they realize in some parts of the country (such as Ohio and Florida), that travel density doesn’t always match population density (otherwise why would we have built railroads, and then Interstate highways, across the Dakotas and the deserts of the Southwest). It’s as if we are dealing with a religious faith that says cars are always good, trains always bad.
This also comes in the form of double standards. The railroad is supposed to operate at a profit, but the road system can be subsidized, as can trails. We rail enthusiasts are ridiculed for “playing with trains,” but that “play” is damned serious when you see what a rules class involves, with the safety culture that goes with it–and then you see those same guys who say we “play with trains” go and do all sorts of unsafe and destructive stunts with their sleds as Mariposa commented about in her post above.
I do think a lot of this is generational. It’s interesting that the anti-train crowd is mostly older than the rail crowd, despite the anti-train guys saying we’re mostly old guys with blue hair some time back.
“The entire trail from Newcomb to Minerva would require cutting over 17,000 trees…” or about 2 acres of trees, according to a forester who told me a reasonable estimate in this forest is 10,000 trees per acre. For the sake of perspective, the park encompasses 6 million acres.
To make a comparison such as this, one would need to first standardize what is considered a “tree”. 2″ diameter? 5″ diameter? But an interesting comparison nonetheless.
It is clear from Article 14 that the aim there was to protect “timber”. So that is the definition that the legal people will look at not “tree”.
From the law:
“nor shall the timber thereon be sold, removed or destroyed”
By definition this is wood that can be processed into lumber. A small portion of what has been cut probably qualifies but there is some room in the law to allow cutting as long as what is cut stays on the Forest Preserve. It is all going to be measured relative to the Forest Preserve. My guess is that more than this number of trees falls down during every big wind or snow storm.
17,000 trees here, 17,000 trees there and pretty soon there’s no forest.
I think we just need to move everyone out of the ADK, build the donald wall around it & make Mexico pay for it & then deny anyone from using it. What a bunch of wussies here!
It’s not entirely a joke. You do have some people who would like something pretty similar.
So much for the comprehensive Adirondack Park snowmobile plan. True to form the Environmental Lobby sits at the table and talks out of both sides of it’s mouth.
That’s what lobbies do. I would think you would know that…
“Tom Payne”: I know that you are some kind of official with the NYS Snowmobile Association, so you should know better.
I did sit at the table during Governor Pataki’s snowmobile focus group for years and I consistently talked about my concerns that the state could not build class II community connector snowmobile trails and comply with Article XIV, Section 1 of the NYS Constitution. The organization I worked for at that time, the RCPA, which was a precursor of PROTECT, put in comments at every step of the way opposing the 2006 Snowmobile Plan and arguing, among many points, that it was a blueprint for violating Article XIV. We urged the Pataki Administration not to release it because it was based on flawed data and would violate Article XIV, but they squeaked it out in his last weeks. Throughout this process our message, though ignored by the APA and DEC, was clear and consistent.
In an effort to provide a fig leaf of legal protection the APA-DEC published the “Snowmobile Trails Guidance” in 2010, which you should not be surprised to note, PROTECT opposed. The Guidance authorizes abuses that violate Article XIV. We have continued to catalogue the dozens of ways that DEC and APA violates their own Guidance with every class II trail that it builds, though these agencies just yawn at us. During the Pataki years the APA actually held the DEC accountable and issued violations for bad trail work. In the Cuomo years, though there are widespread violations, no action is taken. The APA has been silenced and the DEC has been emboldened.
Now we’re challenging the class II system because of the enormous tree loss. No other recreational activity in Forest Preserve builds 12-foot wide trails with heavy equipment. No other sport leaves such a large footprint. I know you’ll talk about abused and degraded hiking trail, but trails that are wide are trails that are overused and not maintained. No hiking trail is designed and built to be 12 feet wide. Look at the new trails (Coney Mtn, Moxham Mtn, Goodman Mtn, new NPT trail at far south end) and rerouted trails (like Wakely Mtn) and these are very different from some of the 100 year old trails that should be closed and rerouted.
To build a class II community connector trail system you all should do the right thing and seek a Constitutional Amendment.
Large, flat, graded snowmobile trails are best suited for conservation easements and designated roads on the Forest Preserve. There could be a viable snowmobile trail system in the Adirondacks, but the way the state is building class II trails is not the way to do it.
Lastly, surely, you are not proud of the newly built trail to Harris Lake pictured in the story above?
The photo you mention probably looks a lot better in winter from atop a snowmobile.
Peter, I all of these articles and alerts etc. that are written about this by groups like yours why don’t you just talk about what you think is possible timber destruction on the FP – that is what is protected under article 14 – “timber”.
While illegal hiking trails are allowed to exist in the Park. Some documented to be over 50 feet in width and look far worse than pictures shown here.
The foot trails certainly weren’t constructed that way. In a over century of use, they became damaged and consequently “widened” from lack of proper maintenance, improper routing, and poor hiker education. It doesn’t make them “illegal”. It makes them in need of rerouting or repair.
But that is often my point. The state likes to build/add projects without the commitment maintain it – because annual maintenance and staffing appropriations are subject to the whims of annual budgets. No $$ this year?? Don’t blame us, blame the legislation! Meanwhile maintenance gets put on hold and both the land and users suffer.
Sorry that does not fly. The hiking clubs being paid for by NYS taxpayers under contract with the NYSDEC have been doing this illegal work for years and now do not know what they are doing? Where was the Environmental Lobby counting trees for those trails and the pictures of hiking trail destruction? Oh there that Albany double standard again. Again laws are made for certain folks in this society while others get a pass. Must have been learned in the Clinton School of government.
Sorry then, I don’t know what you are talking about. “Hiking clubs being paid for by the NYS taxpayers”…?? “…hiking trail destruction”. I assumed you were simply talking about trail erosion on established trails. When I worked trail maintenance for the 46rs decades ago, it was on a strictly volunteer basis with donated materials by the DEC for trail stabilization. All I know is I busted my ass all day to move a boulder by hand and got a free T-shirt. I am unfamiliar with illegal hiking trails and destruction by hiking clubs paid for by taxpayers. Could you be more specific – you know, facts & stuff?
AG says: “Use of chemicals in NO way is necessary. It’s just lazy. Lazy and damaging.”
I wish I had time to read all of the comments and to rebut some of what i’ve read above but I have no time as I am preparing to hit the road for the Adirondacks. The above is so true. Not only are the use of deadly chemicals unnecessary they are the cheap and lazy way out. And damaging YES! This has been the American way for a long stretch now.
Yes… It’s amazing how now “city folk” are more caring about the natural world. The NYC parks department is now moving away from use of chemicals to get rid of invasives in parks in the 5 boroughs. They hire goats from the Hudson Valley to come eat them. Saving the environment while helping farmers “upstate”.
But yeah – we’ve been train to think poison is good. It’s the remnants of the military industrial complex. People should look up what happened to the companies involved in Agent Orange and DDT and such things like the poisoning of fields in Vietnam. Those companies found ways to re-jig their formulas. But I guess that stuff is too hard. We rather take the easy way out with everything. Then we wonder why things like cancer are so prevalent.
Two thing needs to be clarified.
First, there’s the acreage of forest being cleared. Second, there’s the question of how many trees are in an acre of cleared land in a mature forest in the Adirondack Forest Preserve.
Lets start with the acreage.
Class II snowmobile trails are 9-12 feet wide. For discussion here, lets cut the difference and call them 10.5 feet. A mile is 5,280 feet. Each mile of class II community connector trail then has a square footage of 55,440 sq feet (5,280×10.5).
An acre has 43,560 square feet. So 55,440/43,560=1.27 acres, which means that each mile of class II community connector snowmobile trail contains 1.27 acres.
The new Seventh Lake Mountain Trail in the Moose River Plains Wild Forest is 12 miles long. The Newcomb-Minerva Trail in the Vanderwhacker Mountain Wild Forest is 14 miles long. The new trail from the Polaris Bridge to the Chaisson Road in the Vaderwhacker Mountain Wild Forest is 6 miles long. There are a bunch of others with shorter distances, but for sake of argument lets stipulate that these three trails that are fully cut, in progress, or in the planning stages total 32 miles of trail, which totals 40.64 acres (32×1.27).
There are many additional miles of class II trails other than the three listed above. When a class II trail is cleared it’s a clearcut, albeit a 9-12 foot wide clearcut that snakes through the woods for miles. All trees of every size are removed from the trail interior. All understory is removed during construction that usually includes heavy grading to flatten trails.Thus, the extent of total land clearing is far beyond the 40 acres outlined above.
Now lets talk about the number of trees in a mature forest. Here are some numbers from the field. In one 3-mile stretch of the new Newcomb to Minerva trail that runs from Hyslop Conservation Easement in the north to the Roosevelt Truck Trail in the south we counted over 4,200 stumps. Some were big stumps, some were small stumps, but if the stump had rings we counted it. Note that the size of stump, or even a tree, doesn’t necessarily correspond to age. We aged a bunch of small stumps and found that depending on tree species, forest habitat, site characteristics, aspect, etc., a tree that is 2 inches in diameter could be 40-50 years or older. We had some that size that we counted rings over 60 years old. Small understory trees are not all seedlings and saplings, especially in a mature forest, which most of the Forest Preserve is, where there are lots of shade tolerant trees biding their time for decades before there’s a canopy opening.
So, on 3 miles of trail mentioned above we counted over 4,200 stumps. The 3-mile trail segment totals 3.81 acres (3×1.27). 4,200/3.81=1,102 trees per acre.
I hope this is helpful.
I believe this level of tree cutting violates Article XIV, Section 1 of the NYS Constitution. If the DEC wants to build this trail network they should go get a Constitutional Amendment.
Was the temporary restraining order lifted yesterday or did the court rule to keep it in place till a decision is made? Any updates on that?
This looks like the best available information so far:
Thank you, Peter…this is what it takes. A few people to stand up for a bunch of trees, and in the process, the Forest Preserve and an entire landscape, ecosystems, and a whole lot of biodiversity.