Thursday, February 18, 2021

‘Out of harmony with forest lands in their wild state’

Article 14 of NYS constitutionPreviously, the Almanack has asked “which side are you on” when it comes to a court case involving Article 14, the “forever wild” provision of our state constitution.

Recently, dueling press releases from plaintiff Protect the Adirondacks and the Adirondack Mountain Club, Open Space Institute, Adirondack Council, Sierra Club Atlantic Chapter and Adirondack Wild: Friends of the Forest Preserve, the group I work for – indeed suggest that all of us are retreating to our separate corners.

In truth we are longstanding and natural allies and proponents of the “forever wild” provision and much else. Politicization has not completely engulfed the world of wild nature – yet.

Our groups communicate and coordinate on many issues and in many ways. None of us could have achieved what we have without decades of collective efforts. I think of the passage of the Environmental Protection Fund; persuading DEC not to salvage log in the Five Ponds Wilderness without going to court; much new land protection in new Forest Preserve, and many private land conservation easements; our court victory to uphold the master plan and ensure wilder conditions on Lows Lake; achieving Wilderness at Boreas Ponds (though that compromise, for Adirondack Wild, was a hard swallow). And I could go on.

All that said, when I got started it was inconceivable that groups I associated with would be at odds in New York’s highest court. In the 1980s, it was a taken as a matter of faith that should Article XIV ever again rise to the level of the Court of Appeals (as it has done only once before, in 1930), groups like the Association for the Protection of the Adirondacks (my former boss), Adirondack Mountain Club, Adirondack Council and Sierra Club would closely consult and align on the same side. Later, the Residents Committee to Protect the Adirondacks would be added to that list, then Adirondack Wild and Protect the Adirondacks.

So, what has caused Friends of the Court briefs from some of these groups or their successors to be filed on opposite sides of the case brought originally in 2013 by Protect the Adirondacks against our NYS DEC, headed for argument in the Court of Appeals next month?

Sowing divisions

One answer is Governor Andrew Cuomo. Our Governor and his aides, not for the first time in history, are good at framing an argument and dividing and conquering, pitting some against others. Those “some,” of course, must be ready and willing to be so used. The divide and conquer strategy happened during the 2013 constitutional amendment to allow mineral exploration (exploitation) in the Jay Mountain Wilderness. It also happened during closed meetings to debate classification of some of the Finch Pruyn lands in 2014. And it’s happening again now before the Court of Appeals.

In 2019 Gov. Cuomo’s DEC did not have to appeal their 4-1 loss in the Appellate Division. They had other alternatives. Contrary to what Adirondack Mountain Club and others claim in their current briefs, nothing in that 2019 Court decision prevents DEC from maintaining hiking trails or working with private organizations such as the ADK to do so. That Court ruled, by 4-1, that cutting up to 25,000 trees, whether greater than or less than 3 inches in diameter, to construct wider, flatter, groomed snowmobile connectors across the Park violated Article XIV’s prohibition on material destruction of timber. It said nothing about not maintaining trails having the character of a foot trail, trails that did not substantially alter the natural surface contours of the forest.

Yes, the Appellate Court ruling did make DEC’s job (and ADK’s, and that of other trail groups) more difficult. As DEC told members of its Forest Preserve Advisory Committee after the 2019 ruling, “there is no moratorium on trail work. We simply have to reevaluate trail projects involving tree cutting. We now have to do a tree assessment of trees 1 inch in diameter or greater. There must be work plans and tree cutting counts for these projects” (quotes taken from my notes at the Oct. 2019 DEC Forest Preserve Advisory Committee meeting).

I admit those work plans counting even very small trees and saplings could not be easy, not for DEC and not for its trail work allies. But, again, “there is no moratorium on trail work” was DEC’s conclusion. In fact, a few trail projects in the High Peaks and elsewhere on the Forest Preserve have proceeded in 2019 and 2020.

One wouldn’t know this if you relied on the Adirondack Mountain Club’s and Open Space Institute’s recent press statements. “Placing severe limitations on trail construction and maintenance within the Forest Preserve would forever put these places off-limits to the public,” warned one spokesperson. The Court was at risk of blocking “sustainably built trails to ensure a safe and low-impact backcountry experience,” said another.  At risk were a “diverse array of recreational opportunities,” said the ADK.

Trail work can continue

These days, it seems there is no loss of “diverse recreational opportunities.” NYS DEC Forest Rangers are beside themselves trying to keep up with the confused, the lost or the injured among us, on and off our public trails. Warnings and limitations aside, sustainably built trails somehow continue to be built.

More to the point, at no time in 2019 did the DEC – facing a significant 4-1 defeat in the Appellate Court – decide to sit down with trail and Park stakeholders, including the litigant, to see what could be done outside of court through negotiation to maintain and, as needed, construct foot trails or snowmobile trails. What trail project priorities rose to the top of the DEC list? Could stakeholders debate and agree on them, or some of them? If we could, what degree and level of tree cutting would be necessary and sufficient with the goal of avoiding further lawsuits?

Such would-be time-consuming negotiation, to be sure, but not impossible and probably productive. Instead of attempting out of court discussions, the DEC did what comes more naturally under Gov. Cuomo and filed an appeal with the NYS Court of Appeals. That Court agreed to hear the case. Oral argument is schedule for late March.

Although DEC’s interest is to uphold its snowmobile connector construction work, the administration no doubt was on the look-out for potentially friendly trail groups who might file narrowly tailored Amicus briefs. They succeeded, again, in dividing old allies. In this process, the administration is aided in its attempts to water down and impermissibly balance 54 words of Article XIV Section 1 constituting the most powerful forest preservation measure in the world.

No ‘balance’ in Forever Wild

We’re only seeking “balance” for reasonable tree cutting and trail access on the Forest Preserve, DEC and the administration claim. Their Friends of the Court allies conveniently frame the argument that this case isn’t about expanding mechanization of the Forest Preserve, it’s about “sustainably built trails.”

Don’t buy this framing of the argument.

DEC does not have the administrative discretion to balance Article XIV’s mandate with the expansion of all manner of recreational access to the Forest Preserve, sustainably built or not. Since 1894 Article XIV has placed a strict limit on governmental discretion. It balances nothing. The first sentence states the mandate clearly, that the lands of the state constituting the forest preserve “shall be forever kept as wild forest lands.”

The second sentence raises specific prohibitions that lend meaning to the mandate. It prohibits leasing, sale, or exchange and the taking of the forest preserve and, finally, the sale, removal and destruction of its timber.

The mandate – forever kept as wild forest lands – can be violated without cutting trees to any material degree. For example, allowing widespread “glamping” – with floors, walls, beds, stoves and the like – on the Forest Preserve would not require much tree cutting but would violate wild forest character. By same token, a whole lot of tree cutting must be examined for a purpose not in keeping with the forever kept mandate.

In this case, that DEC purpose is widespread distribution of wider, flatter, groomed snowmobile connectors. Such expanding mechanization of the Forest Preserve is precisely what alarmed the 1929 Appellate Court which blocked the construction of the Olympic bobsled run in Lake Placid by stating, in part: “sports which require a setting which is man-made are unmistakably inconsistent with the preservation of these forest lands in the wild and natural state in which Providence has developed them…If clearings of timber…are sanctioned for such a bobsled purpose, they are equally sanctioned for the construction of public automobile race tracks, toboggan slides, golf courses, baseball diamonds, tennis courts, and airplane landing fields, all of which are out of harmony with forest lands in their wild state” (Appellate Division in McDonald v. Association for the Protection of the Adirondacks, 1929). That ruling was upheld in the Court of Appeals. That is, to date, the only high court ruling on Art. XIV.

In 1993, the Adirondack Mountain Club intervened in a Catskill Article XIV court case, where the plaintiffs (Balsam Lake Anglers Club) argued that construction of public hiking trails and trailhead parking on Forest Preserve next to their private land – involving the cutting of saplings and mature trees – violated the constitutional prohibition on destruction of timber. ADK argued that the trails and parking constituted an immaterial degree of cutting for hiking, an activity compatible with the wild forest character of the Forest Preserve.

The court, in this case the Appellate Division, agreed, but went further. According to Neil Woodworth, former Executive Director of the ADK, the court “established that proposed uses of the Forest Preserve must be compatible with the use of the Forest Preserve” AND that “the amount of cutting must not be constitutionally prohibited.” The facts of the case showed that the amount of tree cutting involved would add up to no more than a cord of firewood.

ADK, then, sided with the court’s tests that uses on the Forest Preserve must not require a material degree of tree cutting and that such uses must be compatible with the Forest Preserve’s wild forest character, regardless of whether those activities are recreational in nature or not. Recall that recreational activities on the Forest Preserve must never be “out of harmony with forest lands in their wild state” (1929 McDonald court).

Snowmobile trails

Going further back in time, when the first snowmobile trails were being cut by the former Conservation Department, ADK was sending volunteers out into the field to exhaustively investigate the level of tree-cutting. ADK volunteers gave me a document full of photographs prepared in January 1971 for Dave Newhouse, then chairman of the ADK conservation committee and later, president of the club. “This survey to determine if the constitutional protection of the Forest Preserve has been violated by the recent construction of snowmobile trails was undertaken after the Committee received a number of complaints from Chapter members of excessive cutting and opening up of the Preserve where these trails has been constructed,” wrote the Schenectady Chapter of the ADK. After noting its finding that a total of 125 trees 4 inches or larger in diameter had been cut to construct 13 miles of snowmobile trail on the Forest Preserve, slightly less than 10 trees per mile of trail, the authors of the study concluded that we “suspect a substantial violation of the Forest Preserve has been made in the cutting of snowmobile trails.”

So, earlier generations of ADK volunteers were alarmed at finding 10 mature trees cut per mile of snowmobile trail in 1971. They felt, at the highest level of the club, that such cutting violated Article XIV. DEC was cutting hundreds of trees (220 mature trees, on average, per mile of community connector trail, and up to 900 per mile if you count smaller trees 3 inches in diameter or smaller) in 2012-13 before the Protect litigation. Given this far greater scale of cutting for the same outdoor recreation of snowmobiling, it is perplexing why all of us are not arguing in our briefs that snowmobile community connectors are, indeed, out of harmony with forest lands in their wild state.

It is also also perplexing why the Appellate Division in 2019 argued that Protect the Adirondacks was correct that the cutting of 25,000 or so trees for snowmobile connector trails triggered the constitutional prohibition on material tree cutting, but that wider, flatter, faster snowmobile connector uses for which the trees were cut do nothing to harm wild forest character. Hopefully, the Court of Appeals will consider this question.

The character of the forest

The case now before the Court of Appeals should not be viewed as one about sustainably built trails or diverse recreational opportunity on the Forest Preserve. It should not be viewed as one about allowing or disallowing snowmobiling on trails that also have the character of a foot trail. It should be viewed as a case about accommodating more and more intense mechanization of the Forest Preserve in a setting out of harmony with forests in their wild condition by the building of wider, flatter, faster snowmobile routes through the Preserve, with a whole lot of tree cutting involved, more than twenty times the cutting levels of the early 1970s. Would that the ADK, Adirondack Council, Sierra Club, Adirondack Wild and Open Space Institute – all of us – come before the Court of Appeals with plaintiff Protect the Adirondacks on that basis.

Would that we collectively argue before the Court that the two sentences and 54 words of Section 1 must be considered together as a mandate and a strict limit on governmental discretion. Yes, the tree cutting for the connector trails has been pushed beyond the constitutionally allowed “immaterial” level. But so has the degree of mechanization, the level of use, the alteration of the Forest Preserve forest floor to accommodate more powerful recreational machinery. That, too, is where the Court of Appeals should find that DEC must abide by the “forever kept” mandate, consistent with prior court rulings in 1930 and the lower court ruling in 1993.

No longer should our environmental conservation department be enabled to administratively justify ever faster, easier, more mechanized access to the Forest Preserve as widening recreational opportunity. Our far greater and urgent opportunity, one DEC should always embrace, is to pass on millions of acres of wild lands unimpaired to coming generations. No other state has that opportunity. Unlike every other state, New York’s Forest Preserve is not protected by departmental policy governing natural or recreational resources. These lands are uniformly safeguarded by our state’s very constitution for a very diverse public which still appears enthusiastic that these lands be reserved and managed as “forever wild” in the public trust. This fact alone makes these Adirondack and Catskill forests so close to many millions unique and irreplaceable.

 

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David Gibson

Dave Gibson, who writes about issues of wilderness, wild lands, public policy, and more, has been involved in Adirondack conservation for over 30 years as executive director of the Association for the Protection of the Adirondacks, executive director of Protect the Adirondacks and currently as managing partner with Adirondack Wild: Friends of the Forest Preserve

During Dave's tenure at the Association, the organization completed the Center for the Forest Preserve including the Adirondack Research Library at Paul Schaefer’s home. The library has the finest Adirondack collection outside the Blue Line, specializing in Adirondack conservation and recreation history.

Currently, Dave is managing partner in the nonprofit organization launched in 2010, Adirondack Wild: Friends of the Forest Preserve.




78 Responses

  1. Pete says:

    The SLMP stated ‘no material increase’ in snowmobile trails and placed a limit at 848.88 miles. There are about 775 miles now. Many trails (both formal an informal) that existed in the 70s that are now closed. Many places where it was once OK to ride, it is now forbidden. I can state this as a fact because I have snowmobiled since 1971. So any ‘new’ or improved trails are not really a material increase, more likely replacement mileage for other trails lost.

    In addition, the environmental lobby was appeased in the DEC’s 2008 snowmobile trail guidance by calling for the removal of trails from the ‘remote interior’ of wild forest lands. This is sheer idiocy in many cases because the trails have existed for 50+ years and new trails would have to be cut to replace them, just because they are on the wrong side of some imaginary boundary line. In any case, this ruling further limited the areas in which trails can be built. Environmentalist groups claims of the plan allowing ‘trails virtually anywhere’ were completely disingenuous.

    Snowmobile trails occupy approximately .036% of state land. Constructing a few additional community connector / multi-use trails might raise this to .04%. This is not significant.

    There is not going to be “ever-increasing mechanization.” There is an absolute limit on the amount of trail mileage on forest preserve land. Consider also that the amount of forest preserve has increased significantly since 1971, and therefore the total % of forest preserve on which there are snowmobile trails has decreased.

    Non-motorized users have gained huge tracts that they can access. Snowmobilers for the most part have been shut out.

    • Boreas says:

      Pete,

      I don’t believe the mileage cap was intended to be total “length” of trails only. They were talking about replacing like with like. Does it say we can take those 848 miles of trails and double their width to allow grooming equipment and higher speeds? Perhaps two miles of normal trails need to be permanently re-wilded to allow one mile of Class 3 Connector trails?

      You do make a good case that “snowmobilers have been shut out”. Others would say it is unfortunate that snowmobilers were allowed in the Forest Preserve at all. This is what happens when politicians and local governments try to do an end run around Article 14. I feel if increased off-road motorized access is desired for the Forest Preserve, it needs to come up as a constitutional amendment, not a back-room handshake.

      • Zephyr says:

        Exactly, snowmobiles in the Forest Preserve are obviously unconstitutional if anyone cares to read and follow the constitution. Unfortunately, the cat is out of the bag, but we can stop the creation of new snowmobile superhighways 10 or more feet wide, with modern bridges, all rocks removed above a certain size, and hundreds of trees cut per mile. The argument for these snowmobile superhighways is that it brings in business, constitution be damned.

  2. James M Schaefer says:

    It is comforting to hear David’s well thought out and documented positions in the context of collaboration with all leading advocates of preserving the Constitutionally protected “forever wild” character of the Adirondacks. His mentor, Paul Schaefer, whose own mentor, John Apperson would be deeply appreciative of his dogged persistence in preserving and protecting our special forest lands through his dedicated work.
    He rightfully reminds us of the slippery slope that continues to be greased by special interest money, gullible, short-sighted politicians and their administrative hacks.

  3. Zephyr says:

    Snowmobile superhighways are simply incompatible with “Forever Wild,” and obviously unconstitutional. Maintaining foot trails does not require cutting hundreds of trees per mile.

  4. Al West says:

    I appreciate very much the article by Mr.Gibson.I am no lawyer, just an average outdoorsman that appreciates that there is a forest preserve.
    Just a few observations: How many trees were cut when the Adirondack Northway was built? How many when Gore Mountain ski center was constructed?
    I’m all for protecting the Adirondack forests, but I think that sometimes protection is taken too far. I believe that existing infrastructure should remain, not closed or burned. I cite the closing of the old farm road near thirteenth lake and the attempted closing of the Crane Pond road, as well as the destruction of structures such as the buildings at the Hudnut PAL camp at Fox Lair In Oregon.
    With the prohibition of landing seaplanes on many Adirondack ponds I fail to see the need to build more or wider snowmobile trails to appease one group of recreationists.
    I do feel, however, that there should be better access to ALL of the public into wilderness areas, not just for the most physically able..I do believe in multiple use.
    Perhaps I contradict myself, but I do indeed love these mountains and I want to see common sense protection, but not over protection.
    While I certainly am in opposition to any logging on forest preserve lands, I do feel that it is very foolish not to salvage trees blown down by large natural acts.
    I worry about things like the use of salt on our highways and the use of drones to name a few..I do believe that the public should be able to hunt, fish, and trap on these lands forever. Thank you for listening to my views

    • Merry says:

      “…but I think that sometimes protection is taken too far.”

      Given the way money talks, protection can never be taken too far.

  5. Gary Hartwick says:

    We don’t think the current system works. Far too many fragments. Far too costly. Far too ineffective. We suggest eliminating the APA and putting the DEC in control and everyone with an interest works through them. We also do not need all these self-appointed environmental organizations. We certainly do not need all these political appointees sitting over in their tower. Again, we think the current system is a failed one that needs to be replaced sooner than later.

    • Balian the Cat says:

      No, we do not.

    • Boreas says:

      Replaced with what, exactly?

      • Tim-Brunswick says:

        I can’t read his mind, but I think he said “meant…:

        – “Too many fragments”…(No APA and management by NYSDEC)

        – “Too costly”….(see the above= less $administrative overhead$

        – “Too ineffective” ( aforesaid speaks to that…)

        – “Self-appointed environmental organizations” = Elimination of the
        many “save the ADK groups,type groups” (also a cost saver in
        attorney $fees$….and my personal favorite….).

        Thank you

  6. JB says:

    “Our far greater and urgent opportunity, one DEC should always embrace, is to pass on millions of acres of wild lands unimpaired to coming generations.” Well said, David. This is what DEC should be doing and highlights the need for a functioning APA as laid out by law. I think that recently, these strengthening reactionary ideologies have taken over, not only in government, but also in the public mind that are making people lose sight of the conservation ethic that has given us this Park as it is today. I think even with foot trails, the DEC is overbuilding them in some places, to the point where there is a higher trail density in some places than there are roads in some rural neighborhoods just outside of the Park. I wonder if people concerned with accessibility could ever be completely satisfied when it comes to forest preserve lands, which by their very nature can be difficult to travel through in this part of the world. There is already plenty of maintained infrastructure for accessing park lands for non-motorized users, and I am consistently amazed by how many trails and roads in the Park become snowmobile trails every winter. Your work and cases like the one from 1993 that you mentioned give me some hope that DEC won’t be able to just build into oblivion. Knowing when to stop is probably the most important lesson that our society has yet to learn.

  7. Kudos to you! This is a wonderful article, and explains so very well the issues that must be addressed. For anyone interested in finding out more about the battles fought in 1930-31, over the Hewitt “reforestation amendment” also known as the Tree Cutting Amendment, or of the “Closed Cabin” Amendment, you may be interested to search through the digital archives I’ve been creating, called Adirondack Activism (www.adirondackactivism.com) and try looking up names of key people, such as John G. Agar, Col. Seymour Bullock, William G. Howard, Ethel Dreier, Raymond Torrey, Senator Thomas Brown, Irving Langmuir, E. MacDonald Stanton, and Richmond Moot. These and many others participated in conversation and debate, by letter, by writing editorials, and by giving lectures, over the proposed legislation and constitutional changes. There was a significant attempt to bring all the conservation groups together and coordinating their efforts – a real preservation lobby. By 1938, over 55 such organizations published a pamphlet listing their support for protecting forever wild in the NY Constitution…

  8. Vanessa Banti Vanessa says:

    It’s taking a while, but I’m finally starting to get a feel for this discussion. Again, it’s a damn shame to see environmental groups that I like at odds with each other.

    Of all motivations, I distrust the DEC’s the most. I wish there was more clarity on what the ADK does in terms of trail maintenance. I strongly suspect David is correct on the point that a ruling against a wide snowmobile trail would not affect sustainable foot trails. But it would also be helpful to have historical information on how trails are built – a great subject for a further post!

    That said, I will note that I think some environmentalist groups conveniently ignore the very real economic incentives that people have to develop and push for the “forever wild” clause to be weakened. Believe it or not, DEC is closest to those incentives being government. Government is both closest to economic-based corruption but also really does represent people who don’t see the benefit of having this irreplaceable forest in their back yards.

    Bringing those people in, giving them incentive to believe in this completely unique institution of constitutionally mandated wild space, would help with this type of case a lot. Some previous time this topic was published i had a discussion with a pro-snowmobile poster. He had an economic argument in favor the trails. I may not agree with it, but I think it’s also important to recognize that that guy needs to eat too. I don’t think everyone is offering policy solutions that help those people.

    • Zephyr says:

      Sure, there is an economic argument made by some in favor of snowmobile superhighways, but they have to first amend the constitution of New York which says they are illegal. Lots of other things could be done to make money while trashing the environment too. For example, everyone wants better cell phone coverage which could be solved by allowing towers to be built on High Peaks. Is that what we want? The whole idea of “forever wild” is to preserve an area much closer to its natural state. Just the sound of a snowmobile travels many miles at times, completely ruining the wild character of an area.

      • Boreas says:

        I used to backcountry winter camp in the Old Forge – Inlet – Blue Mountain Lake area. You could not get away from the noise. You could hear them all night long until the bars closed. This was in 3-5 miles away from roads. You can also hear them at night when camping in certain Wilderness areas. Noises travel far in the clear winter night. This was also 30 years ago – I doubt it has gotten quieter. Snowmobile impacts extend far beyond the trail itself.

        • Balian the Cat says:

          You raise a good point here Boreas, as you often do. The NPS is doing some interesting things with soundscape research. There was a great map available years ago which showed the “quietest” spots in the ADKs, but I can’t put my hands on it quickly to provide a link. One of the spots is in the Five Ponds and the other near Cold River I believe. I’ll be mocked mercilessly for this, but quiet is an important resource well worth protecting.

        • Vanessa Banti Vanessa says:

          Yeah just to add here, the noise is my least fav thing about snowmobiles and one of the (several) reasons I really never go to Maine. Snowmobiling is apparently big there in the winter and the noise makes the experience super lame.

    • JB says:

      Venessa, I would totally agree that DEC ironically has one of the largest conflicts of interests of all when it comes to extracting financial gains from building infrastructure on park lands. I think that maybe you were suggesting that it is because they represent voters who want that? I argue that that is not really true. DEC is like many other institutions in NYS that is not beholden to voters much, if at all. But, they are beholden to state bureaucrats who want to bring in money to the government and will always want to do so regardless of the constituency. I think maybe they are also culturally kind of old school for some reason? As a long time park resident, I can tell you that, even though most people I see who live here are always joking about how the government is all up in their stuff, in their heart of hearts they cherish the state lands as a place that will not be developed by an unscrupulous neighbor and are generally displeased to see major infrastructure projects on the actual forest preserve lands…Unless they are in that very small percentage of people who will profit from that. There is this growing myth that someone has created out there that the environmentalists are the oppressor, and the business men who want to turn a profit are the underdog…Everybody roots for the underdog. But the reality is that money is such a powerful force in our society that business and government exploitationists are Goliath and conservationists like David Gibson are, well…David.

      • Vanessa Banti Vanessa says:

        This thread was busy and I didn’t notice! I certainly don’t think environmentalists are oppressors, lol, they’re essential! I consider myself one.

        And yeah, i don’t think the DEC or much of state government is very accountable to the people of NY. I’m saying this from the left – i am definitely not a Cuomo fan, for example, but from the left. i don’t think he represents anyone well.

        However, i do think it’s the job of whomever’s elected to try and represent everyone – and i don’t think we should ignore that some folks within the park do not prioritize wild and natural spaces. (Perhaps they mean to? i’m talking policy results here.)

        i think the state needs to financially incentivize the infrastructure & maintenance of wild space. that includes residents who live there. that’s not done enough in the park now, which results in the distrust that’s been around for years. basically, i get *why some people dislike environmentalists even if i completely disagree with their reasoning. we need that empathy to solve the problems we face.

        • JB says:

          Hi, yeah no problem. OK, I think that clarifies what you meant…The argument that policy should represent minorities, too, even if they are anti-environmentalists…Which, in left-leaning NYS, good or bad, the minority is the cultural conservatives. What I said before in a roundabout way is that DEC actually seems to me to lean farther right than the general population of the state already. Like I said, this is partially because of the push to bring in revenue (Cuomo is the mastermind in that department)…But it is also partially because hunting, trapping and fishing provide major sources of funding for them. To be fair, they do lots of surveys and public comment solicitations, but at the end of the day, those are generally geared toward a right-leaning audience who they have a long-standing symbiotic relationship with. Thus, I guess the DEC policies that often do not follow common sense best practices (heavy handed stocking of hatchery fish, species reintroductions, furbearer seasons that are leading to population declines in some places, etc) should not surprise me…But they still do. You would think we would have one of the most environmentally progressive governments in the nation. An example that comes to mind is the Texas counterpart of DEC, TPWD. In many ways, Texas is the opposite of NY: they have almost no public lands, right-wing politicians consistently control state government…But TPWD, like DEC, is at odds with the political majority, just in the opposite way: they are clashing with the public by trying to implement policies to prevent ecological nightmares, especially related to ranchers raising imported animals which have recently caused a huge up tick in CWD in the cervid herds of the Hill Country. Almost like they are a small community of autonomous scientists in a sea of private big game ranches and oil fields. Life must not be easy for them.

          I think that the empathy you speak of is how the our democratic system has been purported to operate, but obviously we are now seeing the pitfalls that have always lurked beneath the surface come to light, with the rise of populism that has accompanied the fall of the “university discourse”. I don’t think that this is necessarily a flaw in our political system or something that any system of government could prevent…I think it is a problem with the prevailing mindset of our time, specifically what Alain Badiou calls “democratic materialism”–emphasis on the corporeal, logocentrism, anthropocentrism, postmoderism, the fight for human rights, inclusivity, ethics, etc. via violent force that paradoxically eliminates diversity and rejects the existence objective truth. That might sound like a critique of the global left, but the right is just as guilty of this, so far as we are all following in the tradition of Indo-European thought, which has spread far and wide to all corners of the earth. “The atoms of Democritus And Newton’s particles of light are sands upon the Red Sea shore.” The cathedral of nature and Mother Earth are just the latest incarnates of the father-son pantheon. So in conclusion, I’m sorry to say that I think empathy, democratic materialism, university discourse, hysterics, militarism, totalitarianism, minoritarianism–none of these will solve the problems we face. To solve those problems we would need to rethink our preconceived notions of modernity and what we hope to achieve as a society. Personally, I am not a big fan of Abbey, but I liked his bit about how “you can have wilderness without freedom, but you can’t have freedom without wilderness.”

  9. Pete says:

    I am 100% with you on the noise problem. However it is a problem only because people do not follow the law. Allowable sound emission levels have progressively been reduced over the years. The current limit is 78 dB @ 50 feet @ full throttle. There are very few old snowmobiles currently on the trail, so most should meet this limit. Exhaust modifications that increase the level are illegal. Like a lot of other things, it’s the relatively small percentage of inconsiderate jerks that cause the problem. A modern stock snowmobile operating on snow at trail speeds is barely audible at 500 feet. There is a trail that comes out on the lake about that distance from me, and I can tell you I hardly hear most snowmobiles even if I am outside. With the current crusty snow, what I hear is the skis scraping through the crust, not the exhaust.

    • Eric says:

      So the laws are there regarding noise , they just aren’t enforced enough .

      • Boreas says:

        I think the biggest problem with noise was in the old days when sledders used the Fulton Chain and other water bodies to see how fast they could go. I don’t know if this is still done as much with funkier isce conditions, but with a sled opened up on a lake, the noise travels forever.

  10. JT says:

    With the evolution of snowmobiles becoming larger and faster and needing groomed trails, perhaps they could just ride on the highways along with the traffic. This way they can access all of the bars, restaurants and lodging they need. The highway departments will need to reduce road salt to leave hard packed snow on the roads, which they need to do anyway. The biggest issue the snowmobilers may not like is they will have to slow down to 55 mph. We already have something similar to this, it is motorcycles during the summer months.

    • Pete says:

      “…With the evolution of snowmobiles becoming larger and faster and needing groomed trails, perhaps they could just ride on the highways along with the traffic. This way they can access all of the bars, restaurants and lodging they need. The highway departments will need to reduce road salt to leave hard packed snow on the roads, which they need to do anyway. The biggest issue the snowmobilers may not like is they will have to slow down to 55 mph… ” is an absolutely absurd comment.

      In fact I am offended by it. It is a prejudicial statement and pure environmental snobbery that their form of enjoying the outdoors is the only way. And it lumps all snowmobilers in one category. You have no clue how I and my friends ride.

      Contrary to what some ignorant “environmentalists” would like to believe, it is only a small percentage of snowmobilers who just want to go as fast as possible between bars. The vast majority enjoy the total experience which means getting out, enjoying the scenery, etc. I frequently take my snowshoes and occasionally X-C skis on the snowmobile and then go off exploring on foot starting somewhere I could not otherwise get to in a reasonable amount of time. For example, transportation by snowmobile allowed me to X-C ski a loop from the Pillsbury trailhead to and across Cedar Lakes, over to Pillsbury Lake, and back.

      • JT says:

        Pete,
        Sorry, I will have to plead some ignorance on this one.
        I have a couple friends that snowmobiled in the past and they talked about how fast they went. One guy hit a snow bank and had serious bruising on his abdomen from hitting the handlebars. Another guy I know of broke his back. I have nothing against snowmobiling, in fact I let the local people snowmobile across my property, having some fun, not a bad thing. I saw a guy last weekend cross the river behind the house under an old railroad bridge where I know the water is moving swiftly under the ice. I just wish some of these guys would use better judgement.
        Environmental snob, yes and no. They don’t like me because I hunt, trap and cut live trees to feed my outdoor wood boiler. They like me because I believe in the most stringent standards to protect the forest preserve.
        My main concern is that wide connector trails and roads allow invasive plant species to spread into the forest. I live in the St. Lawrence valley and see it first hand. In my woods, with buckthorn and honeysuckle, where you have a closed tree canopy, they do not establish. If the canopy is opened up they sprout like crazy. And, yes, these are present in the ADK’s to a lesser degree. I see them in the E’town area.

        • Pete says:

          I just don’t see the ‘wide connector trails’ being much of a threat to invasive species. For one thing, most of them are really not that wide. The image painted of ‘snowmobile superhighways’ and ‘roads through the woods’ is not that accurate. Yes the DEC is probably cutting a few miles of really new trail where there is no other option, but they typically use old logging roads, just as a lot of the existing trails were once logging roads. Many of these were at one time much wider than 9 feet but are now only permitted to be cleared to 9 feet except on sharp corners or dangerous hills. Many of the ‘corridor trails’ on forest preserve land I ride on are definitely less than an average of 9 feet wide. There are some sections that you’d hardly call a trail if you walked there in the summer. Some snowmobilers from outside the Adirondacks routinely complain about the narrow trails, compared to the real ‘snowmobile superhighways’ they are used to through farm fields, on seasonal roads, logging roads, etc. Personally I like the narrower trails precisely because they are real trails and not the equivalent of riding on a road paved with snow. I have been riding the same trails in the forest preserve for 50 years, and I hike on some of them in the summer. I just don’t see any real ‘environmental degradation’ and certainly not if you look 3 feet off the trail. I’ve seen a lot more erosion on popular hiking trails. If you’re concerned about invasive species, you’d do better to address the problem of super-wide heavily traveled hiking trails such as may typically be found in the high peaks or other popular places. A lot more invasive species are going to be carried by muddy warm boots than by snowmobile tracks and skis that have only traveled on frozen snow.

  11. Zephyr says:

    By the way, according to the DEC the Adirondack park snowmobile trail system is about 1,800 miles of trail on public and private land. John Warren, former editor here, who is quite an expert on the subject provides strong evidence there is more like 3-4,000 miles of trails! There are more than 10,000 miles of trails in New York State.

    • Pete says:

      There may be 1800 miles of trails or even 4000 in the “park” but it is really irrelevant. The fact is that there are only about 775 miles on public (forest preserve) land.

  12. Todd Eastman says:

    Cuomo is using the DEC to pander to sledders and “real outdoors people” not those interested in preserving the Park’s ecosystems and wildness…

    … Cuomo’s ship has taken a Covid torpedo and is listing hard, his emperor status is diminishing… ?

  13. Once again someone goes on on on about what article 14 means leaving out very significant information. True it is well written as is everything David publishes but it is very selective in its presentation. For instance all five judge concluded that the trails and snowmobiling were within the wild character of the park. So let’s drop the entire discussion about whether or not sleds belong in the park. And yes the ASLMP provided for snowmobile use and the document has been assumed to be consistent with Article 14.
    If anyone wants to complain about loud sleds, I am right there with you. Take their first born, I say.
    The entire matter is now with the court. Let us hope that both sides of this debate can accept the decision of the court.

    • Boreas says:

      These judges have no say about whether snowmobiles are in the Perk legally or not. It was just a statement, not a judgement. Their judgement will be regarding trees and trails.

      Article 14 needs to be clarified with regard to motorized use by amendment. Snowmobiles are OK, but ATVs, trail motorcycles, jet-skis, and even e-bikes are verboten? Why are sleds singled out as FP friendly? Because a strong lobby and a weak legislature decades ago said OK. But that is not a constitutional amendment, just a policy decision that should be challenged for clarification and fairness. I don’t much care about the final outcome, but it needs to be addressed at some point by the voters.

      • Hope says:

        I see jet skis all over the lakes in the Adks. UTVs and ATV’s are also used in the Adks. E-bikes coming as well. I don’t think you can limit what motorized vehicles can be used on private lands within the Park.

        You shouldn’t include snowmobile trail mileage on private lands in with the actual mileage permitted on state lands. I’ve got no issues with selective tree cutting to make any trail better whether it be for hiking, skiing or snowmobiling. In the long run high quality trails are better for the environment then ones that aren’t maintained. Bridge building, whether it’s a narrow one over a rushing creek in the High Peaks, thru a boggy area in the spruce swamps of Dillon Park or a snowmobile bridge over the Cedar River is better than someone getting hurt or killed while out enjoying the Park. This is much ado about nothing more than limiting the amount of use the Park gets to only foot traffic. There is a lot more tree cutting going on with logging enterprise that the trees being cut on trails yet no one is crying about that. Close a trail and within a few years it will be gone. Nature has no issue reclaiming what is hers. Trees grow back.

        • Zephyr says:

          If you have “no issues with selective tree cutting” then you have to work to change the constitution, because it is prohibited. The constitution is the basic law of New York and can’t be ignored because someone likes something else.

          • Hope says:

            It’s really just a matter of definition of timber which has been distorted by some of the environmental lobby. It’s been fine for many years until all of a sudden snowmobile haters got in a twist about permitted trail improvements that were supervised and permitted by DEC on lands and service roads acquired by NYS tax payer funds, that had also seen lots of motorized use in the past.

            • Boreas says:

              Conflating a Class 3 connector trail with primitive snowmobile trails built in the past is purposely being deceptive. That is why they are a different class! DEC saying it is OK to build them simply isn’t supported by Article 14 – hence the lawsuit. Let NYS citizens decide how the Forest Preserve is developed, not the snowmobile lobby or a few supposedly apolitical judges. Consult NYS voters and taxpayers from across the state FIRST and get an amendment. Once you have an amendment to allow snowmobiles and their now wider trails, then build all you want.

          • Pete says:

            How many people here citing the Article 14 of the NYS Constitution to prohibit all ‘tree cutting’ have no problem with the massive restrictions on gun ownership despite the Second Amendment of the US Constitution saying the right to bear arms shall not be infringed? That is a pretty clear and absolute statement. Yet most people including most gun owners, and obviously the courts, accept that some infringement is acceptable for the public good.

            • Zephyr says:

              2nd Amendment fans always selectively forget the first part that makes it the primary purpose: “A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, …”

              • Pete says:

                I don’t want to get in to a 2nd amendment discussion/ argument which is off-topic here, but suffice it to say that just like the word ‘timber’ in article 14, the phrase ‘well regulated Militia’ and other wording is subject to interpretation. So there are no absolutes.

            • Boreas says:

              I have several firearms. I don’t feel infringed upon in any way. Never felt the need for firearms designed for an assault on human beings. If the world gets to that point, I will let the US military take over. That’s what I pay them for.

              • JohnL says:

                All firearms are ‘designed for assault on human beings’, and that’s a good thing. Further, if someone is coming up your stairs at 2 am with mayhem in mind and you have to wait for the military, or even the local police for that matter, you and your loved ones are in serious trouble.

        • Boreas says:

          “I see jet skis all over the lakes in the Adks. UTVs and ATV’s are also used in the Adks. E-bikes coming as well. I don’t think you can limit what motorized vehicles can be used on private lands within the Park.”

          Who is talking about private land use? We are talking about the Forest Preserve.

          • Hope says:

            There are less than 800 miles of snowmobile trails in the Park on State lands. Saying there is over 3,000 miles on Park lands is false. There cannot be more than 848.88 miles of snowmobile trails on NYS Park Lands. Including trails on private lands is disingenuous as they are not all available to the general public and subject to the whim of the current owner and can be closed by the owner at any time for any reason. The efforts being made by the snowmobile community to connect the hamlets in the Adirondacks with trails is a very good thing for the communities and the Park, IMHO. I hope they prevail.

            • Zephyr says:

              The point is there are lots of snowmobile trails in the Adirondacks. It’s not like there is no place for snowmobiles to go in the Adirondacks. Some seem to think that a small number of very well off snowmobilers should have special treatment that is clearly unconstitutional and that damages the environment in the Park because it brings in some money, again to a very limited number of people.

              • Hope says:

                I think if you head outside of the Tri/Lake area you will find many small businesses that rely on snowmobile community to survive. You clearly are unaware of the impact these trails have on the small communities throughout the Adirondacks. It’s almost as if you would be happy to see them disappear from the Park. Shame you can’t decide to get along.

                • DPC says:

                  Hope: I agree. Some communities outside the Tri-lakes area rely on snowmobiles for an economic boost in winter. So do communities just outside the Blue Line.

                  Why not focus your efforts in the poorer areas outside the park? Let the areas inside the park, particularly those outside the Tri-Lakes, be a place where greater consideration is given to non-human interests.

                  As soon as the discussion turns to economics, we seem to forget we are talking about a park. The discussion also becomes very anthropocentric. We forget we must get along with a biotic community as well as a human one. Worse, some think only on the basis of self-interest, not even the interest of other people; economic opportunity is merely a cover for selfishness (Hopefully, not you!).

                  Earlier, someone referred to “environmental snobbery”, which was unnecessarily provocative. It discouraged me from joining the conversation until now. Environmentalists often curb their own self-interest in the interest of the non-human world.

                  As far as I’m concerned, the interest of the non-human world becomes paramount as soon as I step into the park (especially outside the Tri-Lakes area). We are not talking about the Tug Hill here.

                  • Hope says:

                    I’m not talking about the Tug Hill either. How about Long Lake, Newcomb, Raquette Lake, Piercefield, Wanakena, Cranberry Lake, Star Lake, among many others. So easy for you to dismiss these people who live in these communities as insignificant to your environmental endeavors. The point of the Park is an experiment to see if people and nature can co-exist. Seems to me you feel that people should not be able to co-exist unless packed into small hamlets full of condos to be let loose on the trails that now need to be hardened to sustain the traffic. I’d rather disperse some of these folks out to the other small communities to start their Adirondack explorations and help sustain both the communities and the environment.

                    • DPC says:

                      Please be careful Hope. I know many of the communities you mention very well. It is not easy to dismiss anyone “as insignificant”, and I did not say that. I said that non-human concerns should be more significant inside the Park than outside it.

                      We also know human settlements in the park have come and gone. We should keep an open mind about whether all existing settlements are necessary or desirable. It’s easy to simply think they should continue, as if they had always existed. In truth, they have existed barely 150 years for the cases you mention. It’s hard to envision they might someday be gone.

                      Also, I don’t think the “point of the Park is an experiment to see if people and nature can coexist”….not when the park was created in the late 1800s, nor when the APA was established in the 1970s. Some of the original park proponents, like Morris Jessup (a businessman from NYC) envisioned state acquisition of all private land within the Blue Line.

                      Finally, you suggest I feel people should be “packed into small hamlets full of condos…” Actually, I don’t care for condos. Again, please be careful about putting words in my mouth. Thanks.

              • Pete says:

                “…it brings in some money, again to a very limited number of people…”

                Not true. Snowmobile tourism provides employment to hundreds, maybe thousands, of ‘average’ people in the Adirondacks who work in businesses which would not survive without snowmobile tourism. It keeps stores, restaurants, and other businesses open, without which residents would have to travel very long distances just to get necessities. Without the revenue from snowmobile tourism, many Adirondack businesses would close permanently, because they can’t survive on a few months of summer business which is also weather-dependent to some degree. There are only a very few places, such as Lake Placid, which do not rely on snowmobile tourism. If you doubt this, just go ask the small businesses and local Chambers of Commerce.

                • Zephyr says:

                  The Park is owned by the people of New York State, all 19.5 million of us, not just the people who live there. It is being exploited by a few for the benefit of a few in direct violation of the constitution of New York, which is the law of all the people. There are plenty of miles of trail already in existence. This legal case is partially to prevent the creation of new 12-foot wide snowmobile trails that will require the cutting of hundreds of trees per mile, desecrating the wilderness.

                  • Pete says:

                    No. Stop exaggerating. 9 foot wide is the limit. 12 only on some corners or hills if required for safety.

                    • JamesM Schaefer says:

                      How many snowmobile trails are straight? In my view the ADKs are hilly and wind! So it is fair to think of 12 when you come to it. Just sayin’

  14. Joan Grabe says:

    We have loud snow mobiles in the winter, loud jet skis in the summer ( but the new ones are much quieter !) and a lot of trees. There is sustainable logging going on but nothing like the deforestation that occurred here long ago. I think we can all share these magnificent acres in a sane manner by maintaining and improving these trails for the enjoyment of these hikers and snowmobilers, residents and visitors. As far as laws and mission statements written well in the past there is always room for alteration and reform in the light of current events and societal changes. I was brought to the Adirondacks as a child in the late 40s and believe me, people, the Park is a whole lot better today than it was then.

  15. JAMES SCHAEFER says:

    So if the court(s) decide in favor of the liberal-minded snowmobile tribe. I suggest a licensing fee for use of expanded snowmobile trails. I hoper it is never necessary. We WILL need regulations like $$ to diminish demand. FOREVER WILD
    From a third generation Schaefer with deep roots in preservation and protection principles.

    • Hope says:

      Snowmobilers already pay registration fees annually and club fees which are used for trail maintenance. The fees they pay are already significantly higher than any fees paid by hikers. They also fund raise to support local community causes. I’d say they pay their fair share already. Do you?

      • Boreas says:

        But where do those fees go? They are supporting MANY hundreds of miles of snowmobile trails that AREN’T in the FP. The FP is the issue here, not statewide snowmobile recreation. Are your registration fees the ONLY source of funding for snowmobile trail construction, grooming, and maintenance within the FP? No help from statewide tax funds? Local governments? This is a little more complicated than the 34 mile Rail Trail conversion on an existing corridor. These are wild FP lands that are being developed outside the language of Article 14. It should require an amendment just like the previous NYCO amendment, which DEC improperly supported.

        That being said, I DO agree that hikers need to pay more for their existing infrastructure, let alone new infrastructure that is needed. Pay to play.

        • Hope says:

          The fees are distributed back to the clubs for trail maintenance based on miles groomed, I believe. So the funds get put right back into the communities that maintain the trails based. They keep gps logs to account for the mileage to submit payment to the municipalities or clubs that do the trail maintenance. A significant amount is paid out to the Adirondack clubs because they usually have more snow than downstate. I imagine there may be some grant funding here and there but from my observation, and I’m not a snowmobiler, club dues, raffles, etc help with equipment and fuel expenses and most groomers are volunteers. There are a lot of volunteers maintaining the trails with DEC observations. This has been a banner year for snowmobiles with the great snow and apparently there has been a significant uptick in snowmobile sales.

  16. James M Schaefer says:

    You miss my point. Court decisions usually have impacts on individuals through regulatory bureaucracies — like DEC and APA. The courts need to hear your arguments and uphold the Constitution. And they might kick this can down the road to voters — amend XIV.
    Rather than mess with that can of worms–pun intended, lower demand by raising some fees or other provisions. Trailhead and parking changes are already making hikers find other places to tramp.

    • Hope says:

      Raising fees is just making wilderness recreation unavailable to the lower economic class. I am not talking about snowmobile people here because that is an expensive sport. Hiking and camping is economically available to most anyone who wants to participate. Fees are already charged at campsites and some parking areas. If NYS wants to protect the Park and control the access the democratic thing to do is establish a Park tax to fund all the state parks maintenance, supervision and acquisition. They already tax us to death but a percentage should lockboxed and designated just for our park lands and not fee’d to death.

      • Boreas says:

        I’m listening. How would the Park Tax work? As a sales tax paid by locals and tourists alike? As property tax people within the Park pay? A statewide tax? Or a user tax, which is no different than a user fee?

        Keep in mind, poor people pay taxes as well. Are you saying people who do not participate in outdoor activities would be paying the tax as well?

        Also keep in mind, the bulk of the current paid parking is on private ADK property – and they can’t find enough room for everyone who wants to park there. That isn’t likely to go away with any Park tax or fees. Parking fees will likely never move far beyond the HPW. How many poor people are really going to be effected by trail or parking fees? Is it any worse than the cost of gas, food, lodging to come here?

  17. Ed says:

    Hikers cause more forest damage than snowmobilers .

  18. Susan Weber says:

    Forever wild to me means no snowmobiles or other motorized vehicles. shame on the Governor, DEC and the ADK for caving on this existential matter. Thanks to Dave Gibson and Peter Bauer and others who are standing firm. They deserve our support in this fight to literally save our wild places.

  19. Nathan says:

    The Adirondack park has become mostly older age forests, there has been a dramatic decrease in wildlife populations. There should be managed logging as is done in Maine, this creates bush and scrub areas with much higher feed values for birds and small mammals. there is also a large build up of dead trees and higher risks of major forest fires as we have seen out west.

    Snowmobile trails allow access for everyone of every age and ability to access the forests and to have fun, increase tourism for many communities that are already suffering from unfair laws. Trails are packed and often easier for cross-country skiing too. But I also believe severe restrictions on snowmobile mufflers and noise has to be enforced..There are a few riders who are extremely loud and obnoxious that give a huge negative impact for the other 99% of riders who loose trails and riding rights because a few are “JERKS” and have to make sure everyone hears them a mile away. I have a snowmobile trail through my land, and theres 2 riders that make me want to shutdown the trail, they are stupid loud and can never catch them… I finally told snowmobile club, you find them and stop them or i will just close the trail down over my land… suddenly the jerks were gone

    • Boreas says:

      The majority of the Forest Preserve have stands of timber less than 200 years old. That is downright young. In a healthy forest, many trees live to over 500 years. Why not let a few reach old age? Is reaching maturity and dying in place something unnatural?

      Yes, there are some shifts in wildlife as a forest ages, just like there is a shift in tree species. But it doesn’t mean those wildlife shifts are devastating wildlife, it is just moving them around. We just need to adjust our expectations. There was more than enough wildlife variety before the trees were removed from the land across the NE. We still have not recovered many species we hunted into oblivion or purposely persecuted and eradicated. A healthy mature forest is more robust than a forest with trees all the same age. A forest is a community, not a crop.

      • Balian the Cat says:

        I will never understand the perspective that a natural community – be it a forest or a estuary, or what have you – is some how better off under human management than it is left to it’s own devices. Unless, as you seem to imply here Boreas, the “better off” is a reflection of human desires and not ecosystem health.

        • Boreas says:

          BtC,

          Many humans tend to view Nature solely as a resource, especially after the book of Genesis was widely distributed. Genesis makes a mockery of Nature, because it would threaten the view that God and humans are superior – thus having “dominion” over the land. So, after a couple thousand years of Christian dogma, Western civilization has felt the need to dominate or control Nature and has grown comfortable with that. It isn’t ALL humans, mostly Christian-oriented peoples – so we shouldn’t paint all humans with the same brush. First Europe was denuded of trees, then the Americas came along and were ripe for “dominion” as well.

          Today many Americans feel Nature should appear as it did 100-200 years ago – forests leveled, huge open agricultural areas, and the wildlife associated with those recent clearings being the snapshot or reference point that we should strive for. I say we are looking at too recent of a snapshot. The snapshot we SHOULD be referencing is the one we should have taken when Europeans first landed, or even further back 15,000 years or so before humans were much of an impact.

          Obviously, we can never go back 150 centuries, but is there a reason a forward-thinking legislature in NY cannot create a Forest Preserve that is allowed to revert as much as possible? Must every natural space be a scar? Can’t there be a tiny bit of forest in the NE that hasn’t been logged in over 150 years? Old-growth forests are scarce and precious – why not create more?

          • Pete says:

            There is already more than a “tiny bit of forest” heading towards not being logged in over 150 years.Nearly 50% of the Forest Preserve is classified “Wilderness” I suppose with the intent of eventually reverting to ‘old growth’ although it may never precisely return to the way is was 200 years ago. Most of the rest is “Wild Forest” or similar classifications where also nothing is touched except for a very small amount of acreage occupied by some motor vehicle roads, foot trails, snowmobile trails, primitive campsites, etc. These few acres really don’t have that much effect on the millions of acres of Forest Preserve except in the minds of some people who want some kind of perfect wilderness that is not realistic.

            • DPC says:

              Pete:

              Speaking just for myself, I do not “want some kind of perfect wilderness that is not realistic”. For one thing, I don’t know exactly what that means. I would like to have a few places on this planet where human use and impact are reduced to as low a level as possible, which requires we manage ourselves rather than manage the natural world. The Adirondack Park is one of these few places. There is far more land outside the Blue Line than inside, land that is managed for forest products, farmed for crops, used for all manner of human enjoyment, without constraint. If this were not the case, I would not advocate so strongly for increasing restrictions on human use inside the park boundary.

              When I think about “balance”, I do not think just about the Park, but instead put the Adirondacks in a broader context.

              Thanks for engaging this civil discussion.

          • Balian the Cat says:

            There’s great elaboration on your points in Roderick Nash’s Wilderness and the American Mind. Subdue the wild, there be dragons, etc.

  20. JB says:

    Amen, Boreas! I agree wholeheartedly with your sentiment, but I think that all of us are essentially “Christian-oriented” despite our best efforts.

    The “Genesis worldview” pre-dates Christianity or Judaism, having roots in ideas of Levantine and Indo-Aryan peoples. It is true that the facets of this worldview, from father-son pantheon to logos to subject/object-society/nature duality to abstract Mother Earth deification to materialism to positivism, are not objective truths or products of de facto Jungian archetypes or some Choamskian universal grammar. But it effectively appears that way due to the syncretistic incorporation of ideas from Abrahamic and Vedic philosophies into nearly all cultures, and due to the way in which we have reshaped our selves and our world in light of those ideas, thereby giving them validity. And this is the heart of the problem, the legacy to which whatever social movements which emerge will be normatively bound. Our world and our worldview now relegate us collectively to the ranks of travellers, sight-seers, mountain climbers and hikers who “abandon themselves to the bestial stupor which gapes at existence”, who seek to enslave vistas and experiences of the natural world for our culture industries and our own personal purposes, filing them away for later use in our flash memory banks. We are trapped in empirical discourse, proselytizing the “best-way”, as we have for thousands of years, but once the argument became about historicity and fact, we had already lost our grip on reality, not because we forgot objective truths, but because we became prey to linguistic determinism that prevents us from seeing beyond our own concept of truth. Sitting in our blue-jeans (or leggings) in a flannel-shirt world, we will never be able to develop the epistemology which we would need to move beyond postmodernism and postcolonialism into the lost world of the subaltern. And thus, the best we can do is create sacred groves and taboo places, like legislated Wilderness, where we try to minimize our exploits, lest we would not be able to exploit them later. And even though it was never our Garden of Eden to exploit as such, that goal is certainly closer to the implicit teleology than that of those who want to drive their cart and their plow over the bones of the dead.

    JB

    • JB says:

      Correction: Whoops, misspelled “Chomskyan”…Was never a fan anyway, but wow…

    • DPC says:

      JB:

      Agree completely, to the extent I understand you. Because it is difficult to escape our “linguistic determinism”, one is tempted to surrender. Yet I do think it’s a battle worth fighting.

      Likewise, I see no reason we should not ” create sacred groves and taboo places”, even if flawed epistemologically. As you say, it’s the “best we can do”.

      Thanks to you and Boreas for adding historical context to this conversation.

      • JB says:

        Hi DPC, thank you for your kind words of solidarity. So as not to bore Boreas, who set the stage beautifully, by the way, I was brief but maybe not as clear as I probably would have liked. My personal writing which elaborates on this dialectic goes into more depth on the problem of why there is a best we can hope for in modernity and how we salvage ourselves from that existential crisis, and that could fill an entire book on its own, granted a controversial and probably ill-received book, in no small part because of my lack of skill in writing! Nonetheless, I am glad that in my capacities I could participate in this illustrious discourse. JB

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