Monday, March 8, 2021

Has the Adirondack Mountain Club Lost its Way?

A few weeks ago, Adirondack Mountain Club (ADK) submitted an amicus brief in Protect the Adirondacks! Inc. v. New York State Department of Environmental Conservation and Adirondack Park Agency, wherein Protect challenged the constitutionality of the state’s decision to cut down thousands of trees while building new snowmobile trails in the Forest Preserve. (I am on the Board of Protect the Adirondacks! and testified as an expert witness in the trial for this litigation. What I am saying here is not endorsed by Protect.)

This litigation began in the Supreme Court in Albany and was appealed to the Appellate Division, where a crucial element of Protect’s interpretation of Article 14, section 1, of the NY Constitution, was upheld. Then the state appealed to the NY Court of Appeals, our highest court, where oral arguments will be heard on March 23. The ruling there will be final and cannot be appealed further, although it’s possible the Court of Appeals could return the matter to the lower courts. This is a historic case and will determine the future of state policy with respect to the Forest Preserve and the viability of wilderness in the Adirondacks.

A major point of disagreement between the DEC and Protect involves interpretation of the word “timber,” which, as everyone familiar with the Forest Preserve knows, is a crucial element of Article 14: “nor shall the timber thereon be sold, removed or destroyed.” The state insists on a narrow understanding of this word, asserting that it means only those trees large enough to be of market value. Protect has shown and I testified that this is a naive and selective reading. With numerous examples–from sources commonly available in the era when it was first used in the constitution–we showed that the word “timber” has historically been used interchangeably with “trees” and was often used to mean the entire forest, regardless of the size of individual trees. At the Appellate Division this argument was persuasive.

Now ADK has entered the fray, adopting the state’s interpretation and supporting its case before the Court of Appeals. If the state’s understanding of “timber” prevails, with ADK’s help, it will mean that we will have in the future a very different Forest Preserve from the one we have cherished since 1894, when the operative protections were first included in the state constitution. What’s particularly disappointing about ADK’s decision to support this radical revision of what the constitution has meant all these years is that it violates much of ADK’s own history, a century of defending the Forest Preserve and the monumental protection in Article 14.

bob marshall

Bob Marshall

Bob Marshall, the greatest twentieth-century defender of American wilderness, was a charter member of the Adirondack Mountain Club. Marshall’s devotion to wilderness and its protection began in the Adirondacks and was profoundly influenced by his father’s life-long defense of the forever-wild provision. Louis Marshall, Bob’s father, also a charter member of ADK, voted for constitutional protection of the Forest Preserve at the 1894 convention. At the next convention, in 1915, he led the resistance when logging companies tried unsuccessfully to weaken it. The Marshalls, father and son, knew that the forever-wild provision was the essential tool for guarding wilderness in the Adirondacks.

Over the decades, the standard set by the Marshalls has been passionately carried forward. John Apperson, Paul Schaefer, Dave Newhouse, Bill Verner–these are a few of the ardent conservationists who worked with and for ADK to defend the sanctity of the Forest Preserve.

It is a sad day indeed when ADK, after ninety-nine years of defending the constitution, decides to reverse course. ADK argues in its brief that Protect’s suit could somehow interfere with foot-trail construction. This is nonsense. Previous judicial rulings have confirmed that foot-trail construction is perfectly legal, and Protect’s suit does not challenge that. With the construction of Class-II community-connector snowmobile trails, the state is building what are essentially roads for gasoline-powered vehicles that can travel 75 miles per hour. This involves heavy earth-moving machinery and sturdy bridges capable of supporting the equivalent of an automobile. Nothing in the current suit or in previous rulings could be interpreted by any reasonable observer to suggest that maintaining or rerouting old foot trails or building new ones would be threatened by a decision for Protect at the Court of Appeals. In fact, the March-April issue of Adirondac boasts of ADK’s recent trail work in the High Peaks and the additional work planned there for 2021.

How, why, when, and by whom was this position adopted by ADK? They won’t say. I wrote to ADK’s Executive Director to inquire about the process. He refused to answer. I tried to ask the Director from my chapter. He ignored me. I wrote to the current President. He declined to say how or by whom this decision was reached. ADK used to be a grass-roots, member-controlled organization.

If I had been able to establish a dialog with the club’s leadership, I would have asked this further question: Was the decision to enter this suit the result of pressure from the state? In the recent past, ADK has had a multi-year contract with DEC for trail work worth over a million dollars. State grants have also supported work on ADK’s facility at Heart Lake. Did someone threaten to cut them off unless they supported state policy?

I first joined ADK in the 1960s, as a charter member of the Cold River Chapter. For a few years in the ’90s, I was that chapter’s only officer, organizing the annual meeting and handling its newsletters and modest treasury. My earliest contributions to a lifetime of researching and writing about Adirondack history were published by ADK: articles in Adirondac and a reprint, for which I wrote the Introduction, of Russell Carson’s Peaks and People of the Adirondacks, a 1927 book based on Bob Marshall’s The High Peaks of the Adirondacks, published by ADK in 1922. In 2018 ADK honored me with the Eleanor F. Brown ADK Communication Award. Over the years, I have considered many ADK staff, officers, and members to be my friends. I still do.

I have been a faithful supporter of ADK for over fifty years. The club’s abandonment of a century of defending the constitutional provision that protects wilderness in the Adirondacks leaves me sad and perplexed. What would Bob Marshall think?

Please note that comments and commentary included on the Adirondack Almanack are those of the individuals and not the Adirondack Almanack or Adirondack Explorer. Photo at top: A 12 ft. wide snowmobile connector bridge on trail under construction to Lake Harris, Town of Newcomb. Almanack file photo.

Editor’s note: Click this link to read ADK Executive Director Michael Barrett’s response.

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Philip Terrie is an Adirondack and environmental historian, and the author of five books on regional history, including Contested Terrain: A New History of Nature and People in the Adirondacks (2nd ed., Syracuse UP, 2008) and Seeing the Forest: Reviews, Musings, and Opinions from an Adirondack Historian (Saranac Lake: Adirondack Explorer, 2017).

130 Responses

  1. Bob says:

    ADK has not abandoned anything. They are just refusing to sign on to the new environmental extremism that has arisen in recent years such as policies advocated by Protect the Adirondacks. Article 14 was meant to put a stop to clear cutting and other significant logging operations. It wasn’t meant to prevent recreation and sensible management of the forest preserve. Anyone who has read Verplanck Colvin’s original reports can see that Timber and Trees were not thought of as the same thing. ADK and the DEC have a successful history of balancing conservation and recreation as intended by Article 14.

  2. Noonmark Alex says:


    Thank you for addressing the GIANT elephant in the room with ADK. Funny how along with OSI and TNC these three groups side with the DEC and all accept State funds. While they run wonderful programs with those dollars, to say they are impartial in this case is just naive. I would hope the courts along with the general public who frequent this board really understand this point.

  3. nathan says:

    The forest should be access in varieties of ways for all to enjoy, the simple snowmobile trail is a thin ribbon through the woods. minimal impact to wildlife. that worried require stock mufflers, and 4-strokes. the trial can beused by walkers in summer, how about maybe a mountain bike trail in summer? We should be looking for ways for all people to come and enjoy the park. Not the vision of a few narrow people. The adirondack’s needs to look to Maine, with managed logging it has dramatically increased native plant diversity, natural food supplies and more numerous and diverse animals. while also reducing the scary idea of mega-forest fires as we see many places out west burn yearly.
    The premise of th adirondacks should be a maintained forest that favors wildlife, clean water, fish and animals..That all can enjoy. There can be trails, logging and tourism and a very robust nature area. But some people are too narrow sighted, think that people should not be allowed to even hike on trails, limit numbers. if trails are to crowded, then its obvious that making more trails that are wear durable is a GREAT idea!!!

    • Wayne Miller says:

      It is a truism that increasing the capacity of an avenue of transportation does not relieve congestion; it increases the volume of traffic. While it may satisfy populist calls for degrading the elite nature of wilderness seekers willing to put on hiking boots, as Mr. Terrie points out, these are the kinds of things people like Paul Schaefer fought valiantly and successfully against the development schemes of people like Robert Moses in order to pass to us the gift that is our Park.

      • Joan Grabe says:

        You haven’t got anything up here that is as meaningful to the general population thanJones Beach on Long Island and Robert Moses State Park. Millions of New Yorkers bless his name every summer day for this magnificent legacy. Keep fighting about who is the purer environmentalist but keep Robert Moses out of it .

        • Wayne Miller says:

          And that is exactly the point I was making. Powerful forces pushing development push projects that may have some benefit for some people. That doesn’t mean they are good for the environment or degrade the lives of some humans. The dams, highways, ‘slum’ removal that were some of Moses achievements undoubtedly benefitted many. They also had serious negative side effects and consequences that are irreversible. Once this wedge gets inserted into the long held understanding of the Constitution’s protections, there will be no going back and foreseeing additional consequences is a guessing game.
          As J.P.Morgan said, “There are two reasons why a man does anything: a good one and the real one.”

  4. Wayne Miller says:

    You ask some very pertinent and pointed questions. Perhaps they could be added to the list that our Attorney General seeks to have answered by this administration.

  5. Vanessa says:

    This is a good further discussion of this topic – thanks for writing and posting.

    I’ll start out by saying that I like ADK but don’t have nostalgia or to be honest, high expectations of it. I say this as a happy member who just took two excellent classes there this year. ADK seems like a commercial endeavor as much as a conservation one. (Maybe the sandwich shop at the HPIC throws me…I’ve eaten there and it’s good, but for the life of me I cannot justify its presence.) I dunno where they themselves draw a line in terms of their own interests.

    Maybe it’s a good thing that I don’t have that previous context, because I don’t share the author’s emotional disappointment.

    But I definitely do share the author’s concern. We need to look for evidence of their motivation. That’s why the most interesting part of this article is the bit talking about state pressure. It’s a serious accusation, but also sometimes the case that those with good intentions cave on their principles due to external pressure. What evidence do we have that this has possibly happened here? Is there a contract up this year for trail work? Are there people on ADK leadership with ties to people in the DEC who share political ideologies?

    Finally, a more general question: will this ruling change the constitution? I don’t think it’s a constitutional amendment, right? Rather that the state will use this ruling to ignore the part of the constitution that specifies no tree removal. Someone should clarify if this isn’t correct.

    Finally, I hate to be “that girl,” but having seen 2 reports of deaths related to snowmobiling just this month….I admit I still don’t get the appeal!

    • Native01 says:

      And yet you are “that girl”. Different strokes for different folks. Let’s be inclusive!

  6. Eagleye Nye says:

    Interesting and something I wasn’t aware of. I would think anyone who agrees that they do not like the ADK position could drop their membership to send a message.

    • Ryan Finnigan says:

      Good point. I already cancelled my membership after they supported giving Forest Preserve land to a commercial mining company a few years back during the NYCO fiasco. I won’t be giving ADK any of my hard earned money that’s for sure.

  7. Joe Bergen says:

    Even if you agree with ADK’s position, it’s lack of communication as to why it’s supporting the DEC position is not how it should operate. I’ve been a member for almost 30 years ( Niagara Frontier) and I don’t support its action here.

    • Wally Elton says:

      That is the most important point. Not being willing to discuss suggests they are hiding something!

  8. JB says:

    Mr. Terrie, you may very well be right. DEC has certainly started to look like the bad guy lately when it comes to pushing for development on forest preserve lands; I can only guess that they are trying to bring in more tax funds, or cater to their hunting/fishing patrons and lobbyists, or maybe stay relevant (e.g., in the budgetary process). Hopefully things will change for the better, not the worse, as Cuomo’s power seems to erode and the tides change–but the work of hopefully incorruptible conservation groups like yours is going to be more important now than ever!

    Wayne Miller hit the nail on the head with his comment about the heated populist politicization that this whole issue has gone through recently and with the insight that higher capacity equals higher traffic. I think that this populist radicalization is happening rapidly right now on both the right and the left–conservation requires clear-headed analysis that looks far into the future that, frankly, is not as common as it once used to be. I sincerely hope that I myself am outside of that whole dichotomy–I understand right-wing arguments for not eroding gun controls lest we will set a dangerous precedent, and I understand (with wholehearted agreement) the environmentalist argument that making concessions in conservation will set a dangerous precedent. I will say it again: we need to get away from basing our actions on blind ideology that buries its head in the sand at thoughts that it does not like and focus instead on clear-headed analysis of all of the minutiae of the real-world future consequences of our actions, even those that are not easy to discuss.

  9. Daniel Nicponski says:

    I was done with ADK once they adopted their absurd position on the Jay Mountain land exchange.

  10. adkDreamer says:

    And a case can be made that the origin of the word ‘timber’ is absolutely directed towards building and/or the trees that contain wood suitable for building and construction. (Middle English, Old English, Proto-Germanic. et, al.) This is an inescapable truth.

    It stands as dubious today as it would have 200 years ago or 100 years ago or today that anyone would confuse a sprig of a pine tree, 1/8th inch diameter and perhaps 5 inches tall as timber.

  11. longtime member says:

    Since the constitutional amendments passed last year, the ADK is exclusively run by its board. Members have no power. The board chooses its new members and can unilaterally change the constitution. It can also expel members and even dissident board members.
    Its winning argument for the change was that the old system prevented the board from doing things.
    No one knows how the board will use its new power. Good or evil?

  12. John says:

    Amen. I, too, have been an ADK member for many years but am on the verge of declaring them The Enemy. The Forest Preserve was create as a preserve of forest — a rare treasure that had been squandered once and, thanks to Article IVX, would not be wasted again.
    Recreation is a value conferred by the Forest Preserve, but not to be taken at any price, whether as membership dues or maintenance contracts.
    Thanks for reminding us.

  13. And I would add, “What would John Apperson think? Apperson was there in 1915, giving speeches, & taking a stand against letting the state leasing campsites in the Forest Preserve. He was there in 1922, supporting Warwick Carpenter’s plea to the new club members, asking them to take a stand against logging in the high peaks. Apperson was there, another charter member, at the first meeting of the officers of the ADK, delivering a minority report (supporting Carpenter’s “Memorial”) in which he said that the club should come out forcefully to support forever wild. He also gave a plug for the club’s first publication, by Bob Marshall ( and his brother George) concerning their hikes to all of the high peaks. It wasn’t until about 1928-29 when the ADK finally took a courageous stand against the toboggan run on state land, near Lake Placid (US Olympics). Apperson was ever vigilant, watching and listening to whatever the leaders of the different clubs were doing. We’ll need to be vigilant now, too…

  14. louis curth says:

    A very thought provoking article by Phil Terrie.

    Sometime after the first earth day in 1970, the Upper Hudson Environmental Action Committee decided to sponsor weekly hikes, paddles and ski trips in addition to its environment action agenda. Soon we were contacted by Grant Cole, a very nice man, who was the Exec. Director for the Adk Mtn Club back then. He asked us to consider becoming a new North Creek chapter of the Mountain Club.

    Our board members debated the offer and ultimately we decided that we would go it alone because we did not feel that the Adk Mtn Club was forceful enough in fighting for the issues that we cared about. We never regretted that decision, but then again, in retrospect, the Mountain Club is still going strong today and the U.H.E.A.C. is just a memory…..

  15. Pete says:

    If the state’s understanding of “timber” prevails, it will mean that we will have in the future the same Forest Preserve that we have today, because this is the understanding of “timber” that the state has been using up to this point. There has been no wholesale ‘destruction of the forest’ up to this point and nothing will change. If the DEC actually does build 40 miles of new trail, this is 40x5280x10= 2112000 square feet= 48 acres= an insignificant .0018% of the Forest Preserve.

    • Lenny says:

      Thank you Pete for your simple, common sense view of the issue. The ADK is right to support the DEC’s interpretation of the word “timber.” It’s the only interpretation that makes sense. If the authors of Article 14 wanted to protect all trees regardless of size, it seems logical to me that they would have stated that. Why is common sense becoming so rare in our society?

    • Boreas says:

      Art. 14 says nothing about “wholesale” destruction. It just states “destruction”. A significant difference that render statistics and percentages of destruction moot.

      Article 14 shouldn’t be narrowly interpreted to be concerned only with trees or timber. The Forest Preserve is about creating and preserving a forest ecosystem. The DEC deems it illegal for ANYONE to dig up, cut down, damage, or in other ways remove a single plant from the FP. The same is true for wildlife other than what is provided for with hunting/trapping licenses. In my opinion, that is the intention of Art. 14 – in general and somewhat vague terms to allow an ecosystem to develop that is free from the destruction of men. This includes wildlife, plants, fungi, and micro-organisms that are all an interconnected web in a healthy forest. You can’t tamper with one part without effecting all others.

      Perhaps Art. 14 needs to be replaced with a modern document that is much more specific on what man can and cannot do in the FP. That should be left up to citizens of NYS. Until then, it is the document we need to work with by the amendment process and NOT decisions based solely on political expedience or legal suits. The citizens need to be involved with these changes to FP policy.

      • JB says:

        Great points. I was going to say that to escape from this ideological conundrum, we need to ask not if we can/cannot do something, but rather WHY we should. As Boreas said, this is not about “timber”, it is about the bigger picture.

        Also, someone commented wondering about the motivations of the pro-snowmobile-trail people vs. the anti-snowmobile people, and I would add that I would venture to guess that many (but not all) of the people on either side are not so much motivated by personal benefit/harms, but they rather are more motivated by ideology. Obviously, conservationists by definition oppose this type of major development and all that potentially comes along with it (ideally impersonally, or else they would not seem to be very good conservationists, as we are seeing here). But most people would probably fall strictly along ideological lines.

        To get the lay of the land and find out how much crossover there actually is, there would need to be a poll that rather inconveniently asks: 1) do you support/oppose this type of snowmobile trail; 2) do you snowmobile in the Adirondacks regularly; 3) do you support logging in general on forest preserve lands; 4) do you support “equitable park” initiatives; 5) do you support initiatives to attract more younger residents to the Park from outside areas; 6) do you support gun control; 7) do you support Medicare for all, etc., etc.

        Again, I could be wrong, but we would probably see that the support/opposition to these types snowmobile trails is largely predicated by political ideology and the desire to wreak their revenge on the other side, just “because” rather than “because [carefully reasoned explanation of ‘why’].” And if the extreme of either side got their way in full, true conservationists would be the mediator, opposing both equally.

  16. Michael Connell says:

    Considering everything in the discussion above, what is most troubling, to me, is the apparent refusal of the ADK executive director and the various chapter officials to communicate openly about the position taken by these people on behalf of all of us who are members. I admit I am new to the club and have only recently been paying closer attention to the political dimension of the gift of the Adirondacks.

    Any suggestions as to how we might ask for and get greater transparency from our representatives ?

  17. Chap says:

    The Adirondacks are being overrun and destroyed with NYS’s help. There’s nothing anyone can do about it. Sad and pathetic.

  18. Ray Letterman says:

    In 15 years all the snowmobiles will be electric and whisper quiet – and no one will want to ride them anymore.Their trails will be grow back to a natural state to again be legitimate space in a “wild” forest.

  19. Duckbutter says:

    More mountain bike trails please!

  20. wildplaces says:

    Phil, Thank you for writing this thoughtful piece. I have been a volunteer leader/board member with a number of local, regional and state environmental and outdoor organizations over the past 30 years, including Sierra Club (which probably makes decisions from the grass roots on local and regional issues more than any other organization i have worked with) Audubon and a regional watershed coalition. I choose the organizations I work with by their grass roots process and first hand experience. When they deviate from that course, I leave to work with other more altruistic groups…a sort of free market “economy” for volunteers.

    All environmental organizations that have a large enough budget to afford paid staff are constantly battling the grass roots for control over what they see as efficiency and sanity in their work to further a healthy environment. Sadly, it seems to be an inherent battle at the core of the environmental advocacy community. Sometimes, personalities win the day and prevail, with results that are always debatable.

    Your concerns about ADK are alarming, but not surprising. Each organization has their own character…In the recent past, ADK has often been willing to compromise to an extent, to achieve their higher goals, rather than stubbornly stand on principle. One example is their support of Elliot Spitzer’s/Judy Enck’s AIP on the Belleayre project in the Catskills. I am not sure whether I can tolerate this, or whether ADK can tolerate my altruism and principled stands, but am open minded enough to accept our chapter’s request to represent them on the “new” council this year. Stay tuned for the grass roots influence on ADK…or not.

  21. John HANLEY says:

    “Timber” is what you yell when felling one.
    Water and mostly air pollution has done enough damage without the introduction of the chainsaw.
    My point may be, that we redirect, all that energy and hot air in court rooms, more concisely, in the actual forest?
    Yes, accessibility and use by public is an equally important part to run concurrent with preservation in the current state of litigation.
    We honestly should not be in the business of trail blazing for spoiled rotten Gearheads.
    Nice chatting….

    • Pete says:

      So now we are in to personal insults? OK. “spoiled rotten Gearheads” is nothing but an insult from an arrogant ignorant prejudiced jerk. The vast majority of snowmobilers are decent people. You obviously know nothing of the thousands of hours of labor that snowmobile club volunteers put in to maintaining trails, a lot of which benefits hikers and other users as well. Unlike the ADK trail crew, this is unpaid volunteer labor and any funding for materials and equipment is paid for by snowmobilers through registrations and club dues and fundraising. You also don’t know about the donations (unrelated to snowmobiling) to the communities made by the clubs. Scholarships, supporting the ambulance and fire departments, etc. There is nothing ‘spoiled rotten’ about this.

  22. Zephyr says:

    Though ADK’s HPIC, Loj, and parking lot (all on private land owned by ADK) are the biggest source of revenue for the club they also get hundreds of thousands of dollars every year from DEC for trail work. I don’t know what they currently get from the DEC, but it is a significant part of ADK’s annual revenue. Since it is a state contract it should be public knowledge that could be looked up somewhere. I’m really surprised that Terrie hasn’t been able to get anyone at ADK to talk to him about this.

    • Noonmark Alex says:

      Don’t forget about the tax break from their properties as conservation easements…

  23. chris says:

    There is nothing sensible about opening ADK land to gas powered vehicles. That is not conservation.

    • Adam Ziccardi says:

      Well said ,,Chris. Simple message.
      Gas powered recreational vehicles also will bring with them invasive species causing unintentional and unforseeable destruction that won’t be able to rewind or regrow.

    • ADKresident2 says:


  24. Pete says:

    Possibly the Adirondack Mountain Club’s stance on this issue is because while it an ‘environmentalist’ organization, it is not solely an environmental organization. A lot of people join because they want to go on hiking, paddling, and other outings. They have experience in the woods and a more practical reasonable view of conservation. They see nothing wrong with trail maintenance and construction.

  25. Vanessa says:

    Ok I was curious and I looked it up. ADK does have a press release from last month. Submitted for our examination:

    I admit, there just isn’t a lot of clarity as far as I can tell regarding what precedent the case will set. They don’t think the ruling will let them build foot trails. Is that really true? Can author or anyone respond to their framing?

    This whole conflict bothers me because it’s true that we’re in dire need of good, modern foot trails. Young trees are anyway destroyed all the time by hikers trampling them when off of existing trails. Each of the sides here has such a different interpretation of the implications of the case. It’s pretty confusing.

    • M.P. Heller says:

      Now you are starting to see why there is such a big conflict surrounding these questions.

      You basically used your own logic and thought processes to arrive at the same point the court is being asked to weigh in on. If trees are being cut for other types of trails and reroutes, and users are are inadvertently killing trees using them as aids to climbing, how is one type of trail building and use different from another, and if there is indeed a crisis of tree cutting in the forest preserve then a moratorium on that activity should be equally applicable to all user groups.

      I think what you will find if you dig even deeper into this issue is that it centers around the argument of motorized vehicle use in the forest preserve. The rest of the arguments about trail building, tree cutting, etc are just the avenues that were chosen to pursue the goal of reducing or removing motorized use by those who do not support it. What has become particularly interesting in this case is how the argument being used against the snowmobile trails is now circling back around to provide unintended consequences for other user groups, and ironically, those who are making the case against snowmobile trails in the first place.

      • Argee says:

        As a backcountry skier who chases snow a lot, I’m confused why the snowiest parts of the Park were basically handed over to snowmobile use without regard for self-propelled recreational uses (like skiing).

        Incidentally, these same arguments for cutting of trees to encourage snowmobile use could be used in support of ‘glade cutting’ for backcountry skiers. That’s being done in the Green Mts Nat’l Forest in Vermont and the White Mts Nat’ Forest in NH. Is that the kind of thing we want in the Adirondack Park too?

        • Pete says:

          I don’t know about the “snowiest parts of the park” being “handed over to snowmobile use.” Actually, it is just the opposite. Most of the higher elevations/peaks, where there is the most snow that stays the longest, are all classified as “Wilderness” where almost everything is prohibited.

          I do know that as a x-c skier and snowshoer as well as a snowmobiler, I have been able to do some real interesting skis and walks that 99% of all skiers/snowshoers could not do, or at least not without making it a marathon or multi-day ordeal. And by the way, when I am off the trail on skis or snowshoes or hiking, there is typically no observable difference in the forest character between “Wilderness” and “Wild Forest.”

          • Argee says:

            While it’s true that the highest of the high peaks around Mt Marcy remain snow-covered the longest, the actually snowiest parts of the park are in the west-central and southern areas. Old Forge is just about the snowiest. Arietta and Raquette Lake are also very snowy. I ski in most of the wilderness areas around there, but now that the snowmobile trails are busier than they used to be, I don’t ski the sled trails. With the expansion of the snowmobile trails to high-speed, long-distance connector trails, I will definitely be avoiding them when I’m on skis, for both my and sledders’ safety. That alone tells me something’s different in the NYS Forest Preserve.

            I am also an amateur naturalist and dabble in botany. Some of the finest and most mature forests in the Adirondack Park are in Wild Forest areas, not Wilderness areas. The best first-growth (“virgin”) timber is often found in Wild Forest areas. Any first-growth or ‘old growth’ timber (i.e., forest) in Wild Forest areas will be vulnerable to cutting for expansion of multi-use recreational corridors.

            “Almost everything is prohibited” is kind of a severe way of characterizing the fact that motorized use is prohibited in designated wilderness areas. I can hike or ski, snowshoe, bushwhack, paddle wherever I want to or can in the various wilderness areas. What I can’t do is fly a drone, ride a snowmobile or a dirt bike, and so on. Those restrictions seem reasonable to me for areas designated as wilderness. Does that seem unreasonable to you?

            • Pete says:

              You can’t ride a mountain bike or a horse, either.

              • Argee says:

                Yes, that is correct.
                Is that a problem?
                To me, in a designated wilderness area, it is not.

                The Adirondack Park has over 3 million acres of public land. I see mountain bike (not motorized dirt bike) trails as a nice asset in Wild Forest areas (not Wilderness areas) as long as the DEC doesn’t go crazy with the building of man-made ‘features’ (jumps, etc.). Mountain bike trails could become the basis for cross country ski trails too, as has been done in some parts of the Catskill Park. But in a designated wilderness area? I say no. No mtn bikes in wilderness areas. I know if I’m on high-tech AT skis that some will say, “But what about your fancy ski gear? Isn’t that ‘mechanized’?”, I’d say they’re basically fancy snowshoes, with no gears, and skiing does not dig ruts in trails. When I take one step up, it’s just one foot-step, that’s all. Besides, I’m generally skiing off-trail anyway, and only when the snow is deep enough that I won’t destroy my gear or myself. The deep snow protects the terrain as long as I follow basic leave-no-trace principles.

                Horses require smoothed-out, graded trails which require ‘improvements’, similar to those proposed for snowmobiles. Those require wider and smoother trails than the basic 10-foot-wide hiking trail limit. Besides, I think the 10-foot width is excessive. I would prefer trails that were minimally brushed-out, making you feel like you’re one of the very few people out there.

                For skiing, I really do not mind that there are so few actual ski trails. When the snow is 4 feet deep, just like magic, lanes open up through the trees for the skilled skier. Adirondack wilderness skiing is its own thing, and I worked hard to get to the point where I can enjoy doing that. I don’t want ski trails. Let me find my own lanes for skiing. When it’s good, it’s great. When it’s not, there are places to ski on trails (ADK Heart Lake trails, Marcy Dam Truck Trail, Fish Pond, Hayes Brook, Jackrabbit Trail, numerous skiable trails in western and southern wilderness areas, etc. etc. etc.).

                The problem for our hiking trails now is that the High Peaks are so heavily hiked that the land is being destroyed by the high traffic. Trails need to be shored up and improved to support this high volume of hikers. That means they need to be widened, graded, drainage improved to prevent excessive erosion, etc. It’s not the hikers that are destructive, it’s the *thousands* of hikers all on the same few trails (Van Hoevenberg, Avalanche Pass, Dix from NY-73, Roaring Brook Falls to Giant, Phelps to the JBL, etc.). Expansion of those trails to protect the resource from the uncountable feet trodding through is not an excuse to unleash expansion of multi-use and snowmobile trails throughout the Forest Preserve, even if the Cuomo administration sees it that way.

                • Pete says:

                  I don’t really have a problem with no mountain bikes/horses in Wilderness, generally. Or even in some Wild Forest. Especially on real trails where the soil characteristics make erosion a problem.

                  I do think some mountain bike prohibitions are really screwy, such as on the old logging and skidder roads in the Essex Chain Lakes tract.

                  • Argee says:

                    Agreed. Some restrictions are really screwy, because the decisions about how, why, where to place/maintain trails is done through political processes.

                    I’ve been thinking that the DEC and APA designated too many areas as Wilderness, and not enough as Wild Forest. I’d like to see wilderness areas really locked up tightly, protected from overuse, with Wild Forest areas made more accessible and fun for recreation.

                    If you’re a hard-core wilderness bushwhacker, summer or winter, the Adirondack Park is great because you can go out for a few days and be in wilderness the whole time, without seeing a trail, crossing a road, or old railroad tracks, or radio towers, or whatever.

                    If you’re a snowmobiler or a mtn-biker, you want trails for your activity, but those trails destroy the experience for the wilderness-seeker.

                    Therefore, the idea of having separate Wild Forest and Wilderness designated areas is a good one. The problem is how to implement that so that you preserve enough wilderness for the truly hard-core while simultaneously providing enough access and development of trails, etc. for recreational use by the non-hard-core. Unfortunately, that is a tough balance to maintain to everyone’s satisfaction. So let’s talk about it and try to understand each other better.

                    In the meantime, it looks like the Cuomo administration is making pretty much everyone unhappy. Does anyone like what the DEC and APA are doing these days?

                    • Pete says:

                      I happen to be an old-time snowmobiler who likes riding off in the snow and exploring, in other words not on packed groomed trails. So my outdoor recreation experience is sometimes diminished by the restrictions that are placed on snowmobiling even in “Wild Forest.” Sometimes I have to go someplace other than where I really want to go. I and most snowmobilers compromise and accept some restrictions such as virtually total exclusion from “Wilderness” even though there are some old roads that could easily be ridden with nothing more then removal of blow down. Most “sportsmen” accept the compromise of no ATV use at all because they recognize the problem of fragile soils. So it seems to me that the refusal of some “non-motorized” users to compromise at all by accepting a limited number of snowmobile trails is just plain wrong.

      • Vanessa says:

        M.P., I take all of your points here. I’ll mention as I have elsewhere that generally speaking I DO very much so buy the argument that motorized vehicle use is especially detrimental. Beyond just ruining the experience of other users, it does have negative effects on the ecosystem. I like visiting the ADKs much better than going to New Hampshire or Maine because of the relatively more strict rules about snowmobiles, motor boats etc.

        Granted that on the other end, as has been pointed out, some uses of snowmobiles are for personal or economic subsistence instead of recreational. I am much more amenable to figuring out how to accommodate that (within the framework of “forever wild,” of course), than for commercial snowmobiles. Those are my biases. Protection of the entire ecosystem should be paramount for all user groups, and I think that accommodation needs to be made for people to enjoy the resource in an environmentally sound way (foot trails are a lot better than motorized), and for the people who live in the park to have viable livelihoods (as in, we can’t blanket ban all snowmobiles, even though I think that given coordinated effort, we could help people find a better way to make a buck).

        I don’t feel like many people disagree with this premise, but alas the details. :/

      • Boreas says:


        I agree with you. The entire tree vs. timber argument has never been the point of the lawsuit. But it was the only foothold to put the brakes on a connector trail project, and future such projects. However, the DEC putting a moratorium on all cutting, including routine trail cutting that has gone unchallenged since the inception of Art. 14, is nothing more than a ploy to direct hostility toward those bringing the suit and away from the new construction of new-design connector trails for the purpose of a relatively new type of recreation that was never foreseen by Art. 14, nor approved by constitutional amendment.

        For 40-50 years, a motorized form of recreation – snowmobiling – has been actively supported and encouraged by local communities, Albany, and DEC alike on primitive snowmobile trails and some roadways. This activity however, was not approved by amendment to Art. 14 from day one. That shortcut that was taken decades ago to expedite snowmobile usage for various well-intentioned benefits, is now becoming problematic with the desire to alter the type of trails being used and built that differ significantly from the original more primitive allowance.

        This is like trying to place a 2×4 on top of a house of cards. The foundation for motorized use of the FP is very sketchy, to say the least. It is not backed by a solid, explicitly detailed, constitutional amendment.

        Albany/DEC got out in front of their skis on this one. Even if the lawsuit finds in their favor, they still won’t have a solid foundation for the usage of motorized vehicles in the backcountry. This would still muddy the waters on how DEC can pick and choose which vehicles can and cannot be used in the backcountry, including bicycles, motorcycles, E-bikes, ATVs, drones, etc., etc.. The same goes for which trees can be removed, and which cannot.

        • Argee says:

          “I like visiting the ADKs much better than going to New Hampshire or Maine because of the relatively more strict rules about snowmobiles, motor boats etc.”


          That’s why the ‘onerous’ restrictions imposed on access to Baxter State Park have preserved Katadin as a truly magical, wonderful place. You feel like it’s a privilege to be there—and it is. The easy access to the Adirondack Park should not be mistaken for a ‘gimme’. It is a miracle that it’s there for us to enjoy, and we can just walk right in, whenever we feel like it! I truly love the Adirondack Park. I love its terrain, waters and wildlife, and the communities sprinkled throughout—I love the very idea of it. It breaks my heart to see it degraded.

  26. Eric says:

    I think it’s best if no one was allowed inside the Blue Line . It’s just too precious.

  27. Ann Zagari says:

    To say that I am appalled by ADK’s decision is putting it mildly. It reeks of secret and underhanded blackmail by the DEC to cut their funding if ADK doesn’t agree. Not being upfront and responding to questions denotes guilt. The future of “Forever Wild” hangs in balance with this decision. If only someone could get hold of internal correspondence between the DEC and ADK!

  28. ADKresident2 says:

    Are there any proponents of this measure who don’t own snowmobiles, i.e., anyone advocating for this measure out of anything other than self-interest? No one’s arguing this is good for the woods.

  29. Scott Croft says:

    Sometimes I wonder if forever wild also means forever poor? Increasing the use of the park with reasonable accommodation for a range of user groups makes it more accessible and brings economic vitality. Perhaps it’s the increased access that is the elephant in the room. I’m a ADK member (30+ years), hiker and paddler and support their action.

    • Argee says:

      I hear you, and I can definitely relate.
      The same problem exists around so-called ‘hut to hut’ hiking or skiing facilities. I’d love to see a hut system develop across the Park, especially for winter use (skiing or snowshoeing). The problem is that you can’t legally put a lodge, cabin, yurt, hut, or other accommodations on Forest Preserve land, and existing lodges, etc. on private land are almost always only reachable by road (by car). There is an organization working on this very idea —

      I think a hut network is a far better idea that is more in harmony with wilderness preservation than increased motorized recreation throughout the Forest Preserve. “Increased access” could simply mean opening up ever-larger parts of the Forest Preserve to cars on maintained roads, with short trails off to points of interest, like as is done in the Moose River Plains. The attraction of the Adirondack Park is that it’s the best remnant of wilderness left in almost the entire Northeast. Only Baxter Park in Maine can compare, but the Adirondack Park attempts to sustain people who actually live there. If the Adirondack Park were to become a ‘state park’ with recreation as its main focus, it would change forever, and in my eyes, would no longer be the unique, special jewel that it still is. We have to decide if we want the Adirondack Park to be the Northeast’s last great wilderness, or if we want it to be the largest (recreational) state park in the country. They are two different things, and they are in opposition to each other. We cannot have *both*, unfortunately.

  30. Todd Eastman says:

    Perhaps the DEC policy will go through a change after Cuomo is driven from office…

    … heavy-handed micromanagement of the DEC and the APA, along with other agencies seems to be his legacy.

    Bye bye Andrew! ?

  31. Robert White says:

    Possible ‘Rule of thumb’: If the tree is short enough that you don’t have to yell ‘TIMBER’ when you are cutting it down, then it isn’t timber.

  32. Zephyr says:

    It is really very simple. To build the snowmobile connector trails to the specs the DEC wants (9-feet wide, graded, rocks removed, bridges across rivers, etc.) requires the removal of thousands of trees per mile however you define them. We’re not talking about underbrush–we’re talking about trees of all sizes. It would simply not be legal under any definition of timber ever used in the past or up to the present. Why ADK has decided to support this obvious destruction of the wilderness I don’t know. It is interesting that there is a known business relationship between DEC and ADK with regard to trail building and other activities.

  33. Jeff says:

    Now that the rulers of ADK have successfully detached themselves from the general membership, we have seen the first of many sellouts to the embattled governor’s agenda to motorize and commercialize the Park, despite the Constitution. I’ll not be renewing my nearly fifty-year membership.

    • Jeffrey Herter says:

      Seriously? …”rulers”? This issue arose Waaaaay before the Gov became embattled. We have been working hard to reconnect with the general membership, with our President and Executive Director making regular connections with Chapters, something that hadn’t happened for awhile, and will continue to do so. And if you were a true ADK member you’d understand the history and tenets behind this lawsuit, it’s not about motorized recreation, this ruling ties our hands when it comes to replacing old eroded, direct-shot trails, with sustainable trails.

  34. Michael Connell says:

    A person can learn a lot in 24 hours. Thanks to “Vanessa,” and M.P.Heller, I have a bit more historical matrix for weighing the issues that “Vanessa” correctly describes as ,”pretty confusing.” I thank Vanessa for the two links she provided. The first one, the the ADK’s press release describing in considerable detail, the issues and why they are taking the position stated in the amicus. Exactly what Mr. Terrie implies they were unwilling to do.

    Last night I read Mr. Terrie’s essay and took him at his word that the ADK and it’s executive director were unwilling to do exactly what they and he did in the press release.

    Ignorant as I am about Article 14 , its history and the history of its interpretation, it seems clear to me that if one were to carry the “Forever Wild,” idea to the extreme expressed in the amicus filed by William Janeway for the Adirondack Council, then one is arguing as “Eric” does above in his terse and surely sarcastic suggestion that no humans be permitted inside the blue line.

    Well let’s see what I can learn in another 24 hours.

    • Vanessa says:

      Hi Michael, no problem, glad the link is helpful! I believe I am the only Vanessa running around on this forum, and as long as you see my photo, it’s the same Vanessa in question 🙂

      • Michael Connell says:

        Hello Vanessa. I so agree with your overall assessment: Confusing. Complicated. Both of these all the more so since most of these folks know way more than I ever will, and seem to have firmly dug in their positions. It all kind of reminds me of the general tone of political discussion in America today: polarized.

        Any opinion I have on the trail construction issue is held loosely since I know I have so much to learn. That said, even though I don’t personally care much for snowmobiles, I believe in inclusion. If we can do it wisely and carefully I think we can probably create the trail system these folks need in order to enjoy the ADK’s their way.

        PS: A snowmobiler once saved my life years ago when I go lost cross country skiing in Tug Hill.

  35. Scott MacMillin says:

    The writer states that: “Nothing in the current suit or in previous rulings could be interpreted by any reasonable observer to suggest that maintaining or rerouting old foot trails or building new ones would be threatened by a decision for Protect at the Court of Appeals.” In fact, this is precisely the concern of ADK as stated in their joint press release with OSI: Design and construction of sustainable foot trails, as is so badly needed in the High Peaks and elsewhere in the Adirondack and Catskill Parks, is simply not possible with the extreme definition of “timber” taken by Protect the Adirondacks.

  36. Ron Gonzalez says:

    Phil, I’m with you on this. “Timber” means “forest”. The Forest Preserve was created to ‘preserve’ the ‘forest’, not to manage it for recreational use. That is what makes the Adirondack Park different from just about any other forest reserve in the eastern USA (probably most similar to Baxter State Park in Maine in that regard, but not exactly).

    The ADK seems to have embarked on a new mission to become the hospitality provider and gatekeeper for people who want to recreate in the High Peaks Wilderness. It does not appear to see itself as the guardian of that wilderness *as* true wilderness, as Bob Marshall would have.

    I’m upset too. Thanks for writing about this.

    • Vanessa says:

      Hard co-sign here, and I say this as a member of ADK. They’re great but it seems like they do lodging and for-profit recreation maintenance. That’s not to say that they can’t be a super ethical company, but they still seem to operate like a company.

      I think the onus should be on ADK to prove what kind of trail work is in jeopardy due to this ruling. Do they need cat machines and etc to clear trails? Imo explaining their logic would go a long way to keep people from suspecting worse, like that they’re being pressured by DEC.

      • Argee says:

        I’m a long-time member of the NY-NJ Trail Conference (NYNJTC) and the AMC. I see this same drift towards a strong emphasis on hospitality and trail construction along with de-emphasis of conservation and preservation. I am so glad I was able to enjoy the great Adirondack High Peaks during a low-point in use by the public, so I could experience it without the excessive crowding you see today. I believe the ADK should be doing everything it can to preserve the resource that is the basis of its very existence, rather than looking for ways to exploit it for its own growth. I don’t know what their long-term goals are, and I would like to know, for certain.

        So yes, thank you. I agree with you.

        • Michael Connell says:

          “Excessive crowding,” could be just a negative way of saying more people have discovered the beauty and joy of the Adirondacks. This must be seen as a good thing, Argee. I think the “overcrowding” could easily be remedied by the Adirondack Mountain Club being more proactive in teaching folks that there is equal beauty and joy in the park but outside of the Keene Valley/high peaks area.

          • JB says:

            Michael, this whole thing is kind of a mess, but I saw your comment and respectfully disagree…If only it were that easy…

            There are 80-85 million people living within 350 mi of the Park. And there has been a measurable upward trend in visitation to nearly every corner of the Park, especially with COVID–including to areas with even less capacity and infrastructure than the High Peaks area. So, the half-measure of telling people to go elsewhere within the Park boundaries is the last thing we should be thinking about relative to solving the overcrowding issue. It definitely will not solve the issue there and will most likely serve to exacerbate the spread of this issue to elsewhere. Paradoxically, creating infrastructure (bathrooms, public shuttles, better trail systems) near very severely overcrowded trails (10,000 visitors/year) is probably the best thing we can do for the environment. This is the management strategy used in other wilderness preserves worldwide to reduce environmental impact at large. I know that this may sound cynical, but I think it is the reality that we are dealing with now. Balance is key: you need to build good trails and facilities where there is high existing use and keep other areas fairly “primitive”–which includes not creating a systemic framework that will overwhelm those primitive areas. Luckily, the State Land Master Plan, which holds the force of law, gives us a blueprint for how to do this with the various degrees of “wilderness”, but also hinders to a degree the development of needed infrastructure in the HPWA. This whole drawn-out battle over this snowmobile trail is a consequence of that legal framework as well. If only these pro-development groups and agencies would focus more of their energies on building infrastructure to address the High Peaks overcrowding issue, I’m sure they would get much less opposition.

          • Vanessa says:

            Brief response to both of these comments – I think there’s a happy medium between 500 cars parked at the Loj by 9am (which I’m pretty sure has literally happened, especially in 2019), and the deep sense of solitude I still get if hiking on a Tuesday, even on famous trails. The Adirondacks are for sure a lot different than other major hiking destinations in the Northeast in terms of the preservation of a “wilderness” experience. We should keep it this way, but also without discouraging visitors. I think there are solutions to overcrowding on the table that will strike this balance. Diverting people is indeed an option, but perhaps so are more controversial remedies like permits. Don’t get us all started on permits, lol.

            • Zephyr says:

              The capacity of the HPIC parking lot is 200 cars. I believe the total limit on the property is around 260 cars. All those cars parked on the road are illegally parked and the town often comes and tickets them all too, but that is out of ADK’s control. For many years the DEC and ADK have been talking about building a new, much larger parking lot somewhere nearby, with DEC funding the construction to a certain extent. The idea would be to eliminate illegal parking on the road somehow. That would have been a big contract between DEC and ADK, but I don’t know where it stands.

              • JonB says:

                I think we can all agree, though, that the status quo in that particular area is not working and something needs to be done. Obviously, I disagree that diverting people would solve the problem, even locally. If there is available parking, people will just keep coming up to a certain point–or even park illegally. Yet I have sure seen heavily used trails in other states and countries, where you still feel like you are surrounded by wilderness and mountain peaks, but the trails are in better shape and there is better infrastructure at the trailheads that helps to eliminate type type of congestion and “waste” we see in the HP–and it is still an inclusive place for everyone to come an enjoy; I would argue the entire experience is less stressful than we have it here and the wilderness experience is more preserved. Some places do not need such major interventions (like the creation of new trails where little current use exists), but if anywhere needs a (wilderness-experience-preserving) revamp, it’s those ultra-popular destinations.

                • Vanessa says:

                  Yeah, I referred to 2019 because imo in 2020 local law enforcement got much more serious re writing tickets for people on the Loj road. We were at the Loj in 2020 and the vast majority of illegal cars were gone, but on the same note lots of people were turned away.

                  We may have just hit on a real issue at stake that ADK doesn’t want to publicize. Is this really about the tools and tree cutting necessary for big parking lots?? Maybe that’s why they’re siding with the DEC here?

                  Because if that’s it, or even if it’s a different project, (and in my experience it is often one particular thorny project or issue that motivates people) I really wish the ADK would come clean and explain their reasoning. We wouldn’t need articles like this one implying far worse on their part. When sensitive issues are in the spotlight there often comes the previously absent political energy to make actual compromises. Wish more people understood that.

  37. Scott says:

    These conflicts between enviro groups have been a feature of the park for a very long time. They fundraiser against each other, of course. They take conflicting positions. One group calls the others horrible things and tries to steal donors. They are very rarely aligned.

    To anyone who has been tuned into this for a while, this is just another one of those stories.

    IMHO a sapling is not timber. Simple really.

    • Michael Connell says:

      Kind of like blue-red polarization dressed up in hiking gear. I would like to think that “common sense” could prevail. Unfortunately since this issue has gone to litigation it may wind up being beyond the control of all of us, including the people who initiated the litigation.

  38. Pete says:

    If you are worried about the Adirondacks being overrun and ruined, then I suggest you advocate discontinuing the ADK 46er program, the Firetower Challenge, and all similar sorts of things that promote overuse of the most popular trails; and also completely shut down all the trails to the high peaks and other popular trails for about 50 years to give them a chance to recover. I do not believe that most voters in New York State would support this. If the people who pay for the park are going to be allowed to access it in a meaningful way, then there has to be maintenance.

    I’m not a big ADK fan, but they have this one right.

  39. Eric says:

    The foot trails of the High Peaks , Green Mts , and White Mts are in far worse shape than most any snowmobile trail . I don’t even snowmobile either , I hike , ski , snowshoe…. but don’t want any part of the hypocritical crowd howling about snowmobilers , they are there for a short time each year and are an important aspect of the north country economy. Sometimes I hike snowmobile trails in the winter , when I hear them coming I simply get off to the side and wave as they go by , everyone can do their own thing and get along just fine , with a little effort .

    • Michael Connell says:

      Heartily agree, Eric. BTW, I assume you are the Eric who posted about keeping humans out of the blue lined area. Humorous, and sad as sometimes it seems that that is exactly what some folks want.

    • Boreas says:


      It is a legal issue, not a logic issue. Non-motorized access has always been allowed in the FP. The activities you mention, along with paddling, hunting, fishing, trapping, climbing, etc., are all traditional activities that were traditional long before the Forest Preserve was ever conceived of. 150 years of hiker use on many poorly-designed and poorly routed trails certainly have caused a lot of damage. But this is a different issue altogether. They can’t logically be compared.

      Off-road backcountry vehicle usage is the domain of snowmobiles that were “approved” only a couple generations ago. In the FP, those narrow, slow machines were limited to use on narrow, winding trails with significant foot trail character, or on certain seasonal roadways. Within certain Towns, that catered to snowmobiles, trails were made much wider and straighter, and are still groomed regularly. The machines used today are wider, lower, and faster than the old Elans of yore. They require different trails. Within those same Towns, this is not an issue. But in the FP, construction of those wider types of groomed trails are being contested. It is an entirely different problem from trail erosion on foot trails sorely in need of upgrades. But indeed, BOTH are problems to be reckoned with.

      • Eric says:

        Well guess what Boreas , times change and laws needs to be adjusted and updated. Recreational activities and equipment aren’t the same as they once were and we need to accept that we need wider trails to accommodate all forms of propulsion . We’re a more inclusive society now and we want all corners of the park to represent a wider way of thinking.

        • Balian the Cat says:

          Eric – Your opinion stated as fact doesn’t make it so. Yes, time changes but laws do not NEED to be adjusted – I bet there are laws that favor your preferences that you would say were “as the Founders intended” and be quite upset should they be adjusted – and “we” do not want all corners of the Park open to motorized use. As for your notion that we are a “more inclusive society”, I don’t know you and won’t suggest that you are picking and choosing when and where that applies, but comments to recent articles in the Almanac make it very clear that “we’re” not really of that mindset.

          • Eric says:

            Maybe it’s you who’s not really of that mindset , maybe it’s you who wants to pick and choose . There are many people who for various reasons are incapable of enjoying the ” wilderness ” and are held back because of restrictions to benefit the ideals interests of a few . Better trails and access would allow the disabled , elderly , and handicapped to enjoy the backcountry more than the very limited opportunities they have now. It would also allow all parts of the park the economic advantages of an more inclusive and mindful community.

            • Boreas says:


              You cannot enjoy wilderness from a road. Roads and vehicles are not part of wilderness, and cannot currently be part of FP lands classified as Wilderness. As soon as you allow motorized access and the necessary infrastructure for their use, you no longer have wilderness, you just have forest. We have vehicular and elevator access to the top of one of the highest peaks in the Park – but wilderness, it ain’t.

              There ARE portions of the Forest Preserve that may be perfectly suitable to what you suggest, and I am certainly not against re-classifying certain areas for Intensive Use. But FIRST, get a constitutional amendment to allow the vehicles, and specify what modes of vehicular use are acceptable and where.

              The FP was created under Art. 14 – protected by NYS constitution – to ensure spurious changes and laws to benefit special interests are not easily enacted. The path to change Art. 14 is by constitutional amendment, not political DEC “decisions”. Indeed, if after more than a century of protection, citizens agree that increased motorized access (for those that can afford those vehicles!) trumps “Forever Wild” and protection, then strike it down by statewide citizen vote, not political committee.

              Posted below is a LONG list of NYS State Forest lands that would be much more suitable for off-road motorized access. Why is no one trying to get the state to open up these lands (scattered THROUGHOUT the state!) to increased motorized access? Why is the premier target the most protected land in the state?


              • Eric says:

                Boreas we’re talking about trails here , not roads . There’re all kinds of trails , hiking trails , ski trails , horse trails ,snowmobile trails , nature trails , atv trails …..herd paths.
                But since you brought up the word , a good system of roads into the interior would be a good idea , especially if we end up with forest fires becoming more prevalent as they are in the western states . Better to build them now so they could be well thought out instead of in the midst of an emergency.

  40. Tom Bolen says:

    Why the lack of candor or communication? One would tend to presume people of like
    minded ideals and passions for the Adirondacks should at least be able to talk before going legal? Answer this and the truth be told.

  41. Noonmark Alex says:

    The article picture changed lol.

    ADK clearly had their logo taken down….

    Hysterical. I thought all press was good press. No?

  42. Scott says:

    I believe this lawsuit stopped progress being made on addressing parking along Rt 73 as well. Building parking areas means cutting trees, of course. So no more parking if this succeeds.

    The terms being kicked around here all have legal definitions. Timber. Wilderness. Wild Forest etc. the legal definitions are not always consistent with common usage. Hence debates like this one and confusion like what appears in this forum.

    • JB says:

      Right, legal definitions and regulations are not very effective at encompassing edge and future uses-cases. Some places in the High Peaks Wilderness are arguably an example of that and perhaps this has been an impediment that partially explains the lack of DEC action to address overuse. But to an outsider, it almost looks like they are not putting enough resources into that. The cost-benefit analysis is a no-brainer when it comes to making regulatory exemptions to address that issue, as it would resolve smaller inconsistencies in the regulations while remaining faithful to the larger “intent”. On the topic of building this type of snowmobile trail on land where motorized use is permitted, I can’t blame DEC for being a creature of opportunity there. This is the type of thing that exposes the potential weaknesses in our federalist/common-law system, which, granted, has worked relatively well historically–bureaucrats will exercise their power to the maximum that they can, and then litigation will determine the ultimate outcome–and set future precedent. Thus, I also understand the mindset behind the environmental groups resisting said unilateral bureaucratic action. But absolutely no one is immune from the unforeseen consequences of their own actions. If we “lack the courage to think a thought whole … punishment will not fail to follow.” And when things become hyper-polarized on ideological bases, such unforeseen fallout is magnified exponentially and everyone stands to lose.

  43. John Billias says:

    Bravo Mr. Terrie!
    I agree– what WOULD Bob think?

  44. Frank Krueger says:

    I haven’t read the ADK amicus brief, but I believe it’s grounded in disagreement with the lower court’s interpretation of a tree. The lower court defined a tree as anything more than 3 inches in diameter at breast high. This definition would basically shut down any building of new hiking and ski trails. Many of our present trails need to be rerouted using modern invironmental standards to avoid further damage to the terrain. Its hard to build a safe and sustainable ski or hiking trail in mountainous areas if you can’t cut anything larger than 3 inches at breasrt hight.

  45. Bob Meyer says:

    Indeed it seems to have lost its way. Agree or not with his opinion (I do) his reasoning is unassailable.

  46. H B McCarthy says:

    Thank you, Philip! There has been so much tearing at the fabric of Article 14, and now this decision by the Adk Mountain Club’s misguided leaders is truly unconscionable.
    Protect the Adirondacks! has worked tirelessly to protect the Adirondacks. It must be supported, not thwarted.

  47. Henrietta B Jordan says:

    Thank you, Phillip Terrie, for your observations.

  48. Pete says:

    Has ADK lost its way? No.

    From Wikipedia:

    “The idea of forming the ADK was conceived by Meade C. Dobson … who felt there was need for a private organization that could help the State develop trails and shelters to make remote areas of the Adirondacks more accessible to hikers and backpackers….

    An organization committee was formed, including representatives of outing, recreational, educational, government, and business interests. The club’s objectives were to develop and maintain hiking trails, to construct and maintain campsites and permanent camps, to publish trail maps and guidebooks, and to educate the public regarding the conservation of natural resources and prevention of forest fires. …”

    Note the purpose: “to develop and maintain hiking trails, to construct campsites and permanent camps…” Clearly they were just fine with some tree-cutting to do that.

    • Boreas says:

      “Note the purpose: “to develop and maintain hiking trails, to construct campsites and permanent camps…” Clearly they were just fine with some tree-cutting to do that.”

      Indeed! They are (were?) a hiking club. That philosophy makes perfect sense. How does that apply to clearing connector trails for motorized use? Unless they are trying to become a snowmobile club as well, their stance seems to be outside of their stated purview.

  49. John Marona says:

    The real question is not the size of a plant before we call it a tree or timber, but rather,. why are we cutting trails for Motorized Vehicles in the first place?

  50. Tony Goodwin says:

    As a practical matter, the current ruling that is being appealed has stopped any new trail building on the Forest Preserve. There is even a question about whether tiny saplings growing next to an existing trail can be cut as part of routine trail maintenance. A proposed and now approved reroute of the Jackrabbit Ski Trail aimed at reducing the length of a road walk has been held up by this ruling. The recent article about the Foxey Brown Ski Loop in Piseco stated that a desired cut-off to the loop couldn’t be cut due to the cutting restriction. I skied that trail last week, and one very narrow section appears to have been left so narrow because balsam saplings next to that old but existing trail could not be cut. So yes, the ruling is keeping needed trail improvements from happening.

    And this is not the first time that there has been a prohibition on cutting for trail work. In the mid-80s, some totally unacceptable cutting of large trees at Belleayre Ski Center in the Catskills led to a temporary prohibition on any tree cutting for foot trail maintenance. Eventually, the court removed the restriction, but the DEC now requires a tree count for any project that includes both the species and diameter of the trees to be cut. I believe the upper limit is 12″, but most projects don’t need to cut any trees anywhere near that size.

    In the 1930s there was the “Hewett Amendment” proposed that would have allowed new state acquisitions in “Forest Preserve” counties but outside of the Adirondack Park to be managed for timber production and harvesting. There were many, including John Apperson, who passionately opposed this amendment, saying this was the end of the Forest Preserve as we know it. The result was an expansion of the boundaries of the Adirondack Park and ultimately a clear distinction of the area that deserved the most protection of both the public and the private land – enter the APA.

    The bottom line is that the Forest Preserve will clearly “survive” a few new snowmobile trails, so I believe the ADK’s position is correct.

    • pete says:

      I don’t think any of the Forest Preserve ought to be managed specifically for timber production and harvesting. Obviously that is contrary to Article 14 and rightly so. But some managed forest would not be a bad thing. It certainly doesn’t fit with some people’s holy grail of turning everything in to “wilderness,” but I’ve been through some managed forest plots, such as in the ranger school forest in Wanakena, and they sure are nice. It would not hurt the ‘park’ at all.

      • Boreas says:


        I believe there are about as many people interested in “…turning everything in to “wilderness” as there are recreationists looking to pave the entire Park for vehicles. Attempting to malign conservationists or ANY group with untruth is counterproductive to any debate.

        That said, the Forest Preserve is not the only forestland in the state. Look at this link for a LONG list of “managed” state forests in NYS:

        The Forest Preserve was never intended to be a “managed forest”. It was set apart with a different philosophy and additional restrictions.

    • Vanessa says:

      This is interesting feedback, thank you!

    • Peter Bauer says:


      I disagree.

      I think that the DEC is cynically fomenting anger at Protect the Adirondacks about the Appellate Division’s 4-1 decision against them, and may be bottling up some projects for this purpose. I can’t speak to the specifics of the Jackrabbit Trail, but it seems to me that halting some projects is not about the law or the constitution it’s about politics and spite.

      Please note that the Appellate Division decision does not even mention the word “seedlings.” Any use of “seedlings” in this discussion is a red herring. The decision was not about any tree less than 1 inch DBH.

      Talking about “saplings” is also a distraction. There are plenty of trees, with lots of annual rings of tree growth, and which are quite tall, but are still less than 3 inches DBH, that are not saplings. The trial had expert testimony about trees that were 70 years old and older but were between 1-3 inches DBH, many 30-50 feet in height. These are trees by any standard. Though small in diameter, these trees are not saplings. The Forest Preserve is loaded with 50-year-old, and older, shade tolerant trees that are 1-3 inches DBH, that grow slowly, biding away the decades, until there’s an opening in the forest canopy to exploit.

      As to the effect of this decision, there lots of work that has been done on the Forest Preserve recently.

      The DEC has had its own High Peaks Trail Crew in the field for the last three years, the past two building the new Cascade-Porter trail re-routes and the new trail up Mount Van Hoevenberg. In addition to the DEC crew in 2020, there were crews from Tahawus Trails, the Student Conservation Corp (SCA), and ADK. There was no work stoppage on these high priority trails, as dozens of paid and volunteers worked all through the summer of 2020, under difficult COVID protocols.

      In 2020, SCA worked on a new bridge at Tirrel Pond, the Mt. Arab trail, the Cranberry Lake Trail, and Northern Forest Canoe Trail.

      ADK did trail work in the summer of 2020 on the Avalanche Lake Trail. Other work was done on Haystack Mountain. ADK also sent its crew to Salmon River, north of Syracuse.

      This lawsuit may have provided an opening for long deferred trail work on conservation easements lands, like Cedarlands, as per DEC press release:

      Here’s DEC projects that have gone ahead since the Appellate Division July 2019 ruling as per the Environmental Notice Bulletin. These ENB notices included this statement “Tree cutting will be in accordance with the July 3, 2019, New York State Supreme Court Appellate Division decision on tree cutting in the forest preserve.”

      9/11/2019 Wilmington Notch Well – Tree Removal. The action involves the removal of 7 trees along with their stumps to facilitate the replacement of the Drilled Well at Wilmington Notch Campground. Tree cutting will be in compliance with LF Policy # 91-2 on Cutting, Removal or Destruction of Trees and Other Vegetation on Forest Preserve Lands.

      10/2/2019 Tree Cutting Notice for Cranberry Lake Campground Water System Improvements. The project involves the cutting and removal of 43 trees 3 inches or larger diameter at breast height (DBH) and an estimated 523 trees less than 3 inches DBH as part of the Water System Improvement project.

      10/2/2019 Tree Cutting Notice for the Construction of Leanto within Siamese Ponds Wilderness. The action involves removal of 6 trees immediately adjacent to the planned footprint of a lean-to to be constructed in campsite #51 of the Indian Lake Islands Campground and within Siamese Ponds Wilderness.

      11/6/2019 Tree Removal for Colgate Lake Road Culvert Replacement Project. The action involves the cutting and removal of 44 trees 3 inches or larger in diameter at breast height (DBH) and an estimated 28 trees less than 3 inches DBH as part of a culvert replacement project.

      1/29/2020 Tree Removal for Pump/Compressor Building Project. The action involves the cutting and removal of 54 trees 3 inches or larger in diameter at breast height (DBH) and 43 trees less than 3 inches DBH as part of a construction project to build a pump/compressor building for snowmaking purposes.

      2/5/2020 Tree Removal on East of Route 9 Multiple Use Trail for Snowmobile Safety. The action involves the cutting and removal of 13 trees, 3 inches or larger in diameter at breast height (DBH), two trees less than 3 inches DBH on previously re-routed sections of the East of Route 9 Multiple Use Trail in order to accommodate winter snowmobile use.

      2/5/2020 Tree Cutting for Long Lake Snowmobile Trail Re-route. The action involves cutting and removal of one tree 3 inches or larger in diameter at breast height (DBH) and an estimated 43 trees less than 3 inches DBH as well as some minor tread work as part of a snowmobile trail re-route.

      2/5/2020 Tree Removal for Improvement of a Parking Area on the Saranac Lakes Wild Forest. The action involves the cutting and removal of seven trees, 3 inches or larger in diameter at breast height (DBH) and 35 trees less than 3 inches DBH to make improvements to the parking area at Follensby Clear Pond.

      2/12/2020 Tree Removal for Construction of a Parking Area near Polliwog Pond.
      The action involves cutting and removal of 22 trees 3 inches or larger in diameter at breast height (DBH) and 19 trees less than 3 inches DBH for the construction of a parking area authorized in the Saranac Lakes Wild Forest Unit Management Plan.

      2/12/2020 Tree Removal for Construction of the Hoyt-Peroni Interpretive Trail.
      The action involves cutting and removal of two trees 3 inches or larger in diameter at breast height (DBH) and an estimated 118 trees less than 3 inches DBH to construct an interpretive trail authorized in the Saranac Lakes Wild Forest Unit Management Plan.

      7/29/2020 Tree Removal for Construction of New Trail to Red Hill Fire Tower.
      The action involves cutting and removal of 2 trees 3 inches or larger in diameter at breast height (DBH) and an estimated 90 trees less than 3 inches DBH for the construction of a new foot trail to the Red Hill Fire Tower.

      It clearly looks like DEC has found a way to do its work within the context of the Appellate Division ruling.

      ADK, or any of the other groups that supported the state’s position, could have participated in the trial in 2017. It was well publicized. Had they participated they could have presented expert testimony under oath. They could have brought in data from field assessments. They did not do any of this. Instead they’ve come in with specious arguments at the 11th hour. We provided voluminous expert testimony. In fact, as one part of our case, we looked at tree cutting and hiking trail construction. The new 1.18-mile Goodman Mountain Trail saw 64 trees destroyed. When we compare this to trees destroyed for an average mile of class II snowmobile trails we get a tree destruction rate of 17:1 with class II trails compared with foot trails.

      We also looked at the new trail on Coney Mountain. If we use Coney Mountain Trail data, where 13 trees were destroyed in 1 mile of new trail, and compare that to a class II trail, the ratio is 71:1 with class II trails compared with foot trails. There’s no comparison.

      If there is a hiking trail that requires the destruction of 925 trees per mile that are 1 inch DBH or greater, then that trail is probably not well designed and a better route should be looked at.

      • Boreas says:


        I agree totally about the inconsistency using trunk diameter as a convenient gauge. A 3 inch poplar or pine is going to be much different than a 3 inch oak or other slow-growing hardwood. Another consideration is species rarity. Do we want to be cutting young ashes or hemlocks with these species in danger of terrific die-off from invasive species of insects? Do we also want to enable easier transmission of disease and insects deeper into the FP?

      • JB says:

        Peter, thank you for educating everyone about this topic. If nothing else, this controversy illustrates the dangers of populist hordes using their new-found instant-expertise to cherry-pick justifications in support of politicized opinions–the kind of polarizing fervor that political institutions will inevitably play to, even if it means wholesale destruction of the fruits of a century of sacrifice made by those who came before us.

      • adkDreamer says:

        Ridiculous arguments. Even a 3 inch tree at breast height (who came up with that arbitrary height description anyways?) is not timber. I have yet to see a logging truck loaded with 3″ diameter trees heading for the lumber mill, let alone a home or structure built from such ridiculous trees.

        Manufacture all the senseless statistics & numbers you want and write as many words that please, however, no volume of prose nor convolution of mathematics will ever provide a convincing argument that 3″ trees at BH are timber.

        Any reader here should be suspect of any comments that are longer than the article itself.

        • Boreas says:

          Well then let’s make it simple –

          All timber is/are trees. All trees are not timber.

          Where does that leave your argument? How do we proceed without DEFINING the differences?

          • Dan N says:

            If all years were not timber then why is it we can still use small saplings and the like in construction which we do? Just because it may not have a high degree of tensile strength doesn’t mean it isn’t . It also doesn’t mean it isn’t a tree. What about the several hundred year old trees at summit with muted growth due to being near the timberline? According to the 3” rule they wouldn’t count and so could be cut.

            The classification of what is it is not timber or a tree is not simply a question of whether we typically use it in buildings or the diameter….

            • Dan N says:


              If all TREES were….

              • adkDreamer says:

                Use the common definition of a word at the time it was used. Unless otherwise defined in the four corners of a legal document, words are to be understood in their common meaning. New York State jurisprudence has long favored common meanings as opposed to over broad or alternative meanings. If an ambiguity exists, the meaning of words goes against those that assert other than the common meaning.

                Therefore it is actually a simple question.

      • Tony Goodwin says:

        The word “seedlings” appears in the dissent in this case by Judge Lynch.

        The DEC has noted that all of the tree cutting to clear the lines for the new Cascade and Mt. Van Hoevenberg trails was done before the Appellate Division handed down its decision. Since then all work has been digging and stone work.

        I was not aware of the other DEC projects you listed that required tree removal. Were they actually carried out after the decision, or are they still just proposed?

  51. Bob Meyer says:

    When I see 2 folks with impeccable Adirondack credentials [Philip Terrie and Tony Goodwin] on opposite ends of this debate it gives me pause.
    In balance I agree more with Mr Terrie because our nation is filled with roads and designated trails, private and public for motorized use. It dominates our world. True wilderness and wild land is a relatively limited commodity. That’s the reality. The spirit of Mr. Terrie’s argument is that we must be vigilant in guarding what little remains of that wild land. That’s what the NY State Constitution is all about. And yes, there is and should be room for motorized recreation and for people with disabilities to recreate. It’s not ALL exclusive for the few as some claim. But, if the Forest Preserve and especially Wilderness areas are degraded and dissected then those who want non motorized experiences will have no place to go. Balance yes, but constant erosion of Forever Wild lands [as has been happening of late] no.

  52. Jim Jacob says:

    I’m not sure what your expert background is Phillip, but guessing it isn’t etymology. I suppose one can try an assign speculative meanings to many words, but the word timber origins and historic use have never meant “all tree”

    Here’s the etymology of timber from Merriam-Webster. They’re experts in these things.

    Timber traces back to an Old English word initially meaning “house” or “building” that also came to mean “building material,” “wood,” and “trees” or “woods.” Timbers are large squared lengths of wood used for building a house or a boat. In British English, timber is also used as a synonym for lumber.

    Metaphorical senses followed after centuries of the word’s use: the word used for building material became a word meaning “material” or “stuff” in general (“it’s best-seller timber”) and came also to refer to the qualities of character, experience, or intellect (“managerial timber”).

    And, of course, there’s also the interjectional use of “timber!” as a cry to warn of a falling tree; the fact that most people know this despite few of them ever having deployed the word in such a situation is almost certainly due to cartoons.

    • Phil Terrie says:

      Webster’s International Dictionary of the English Language (Springfield, Ma.: G & C Merriam Co., 1892) was the definitive dictionary of its day. Its first definition of “timber” reads thus: “That sort of wood which is proper for buildings or for tools, utensils, furniture, carriages, fences, ships, and the like;–usually said of felled trees, but sometimes of those standing.” Right from the start, we encounter ambiguity: it includes wood used to make objects as large as a building and as small as a tool or utensil. “Timber” is thus not only wood large enough for a two-by-four or a ship’s hull. It is both a construction member and the shaft of a hammer.

      The second definition reads “The body, stem, or trunk of a tree.” Note: the size of the tree is not indicated. If we look for help in understanding the breadth of this definition, moreover, and turn to how “stem” is defined in the same dictionary, we find “The principal body of a tree, shrub, or plant, of any kind; the main stock; the part which supports the branches or the head or top.” In An Historical Dictionary of Forestry and Woodland Terms by N. D. G. James (Oxford: Blackwell, 1991), we find the word “stem” defined thus: “In 1832 this was defined as: ‘The body of a tree in all its stages of growth, from a seedling to that of a full grown tree'” (p. 179).

      A further definition of “timber” in Webster’s is “Woods or forest; a wooded land.” This sense of “timber” to mean the woods, the forest as a whole, the complex nexus of trees and undergrowth, is a common usage, as evidenced, for example, in Joel T. Headley’s The Adirondack: Or Life in the Woods (New York: Baker and Scribner, 1849), one of the most popular and frequently cited nineteenth-century Adirondack travel narratives. Describing the exploits of the famous guide John Cheney, Headley, recalls “his long stretches through the wood [sic], where the timber is so thick you cannot see an animal more than fifteen rods” (p. 76). Here Headley clearly intends “timber to mean the characteristically tangled, mixed Adirondack forest, not a stately array of individual, tall, mature trees whose canopy stunts the growth of the understory.

      The sense of “timber” that emerges from Webster’s International includes but moves far beyond and embraces far more than the state’s narrow and exclusive understanding. It is impossible to know with absolute certainty what any single delegate understood “timber” to mean in the summer of 1894, but it is clear that the state’s insistence on trees of market value and nothing else is conveniently selective, ignoring relevant alternatives. It reflects a naive understanding of how language actually works.

      • Jim Jacob says:

        It’s not a sound position to base one’s argument on the the meaning of any one particular word. Meanings and usage change over time.
        In the past, and that’s the recent past, gay meant lively, happy, exuberant. Perhaps you are, I hope so. I don’t know, and I don’t care about one’s sexual orientation. But if I were now in these times to say Phil Terrie is a gay guy, I’d be admonished or even excoriated and banned from the comments section.

        You can’t make your case on what the meaning of “is” is. Remember that one?

        • Phil Terrie says:

          Thank you for expressing what is exactly our point. The state insists on one meaning, and only one meaning, for one word. That’s not, to use your word, “sound.”

          • Jim Jacob says:

            No, you are confused, and entrenched in defending a specious argument. I did not express your point. And yet you insist on taking the moral high ground that “your” meaning is holy and without rebuke, and the State’s, and ADK’s meaning is blasphemy.

            Go ask a hundred people or a thousand, what “timber” means. You lose big time.

            The meaning of “is”.. is what?

            • Phil Terrie says:

              I’m done here.

              • Bob Meyer says:

                You need to do your research on Phil Terrie.. He is one of the most knowledgeable people on the Adirondacks and on forest ecosystems. You are WAY out of line!

                • Jim Jacob says:

                  That may or may not be, Cultural Studies prof and all that, how impressive. CNN and MSNC and FSNBC are all full of self made pronounced experts. But his lacking of etymology and the real meaning of words to bolster his position is lacking.

                  So tell me oh defender of Phil, the meaning of ”is” is? Gay means what? Timber is??

                  • Dana says:

                    “It’s not a sound position to base one’s argument on the the meaning of any one particular word. Meanings and usage change over time.” Who is it that said that again?

                    Keep spinning…

                  • Bob Meyer says:

                    And not FOX? Like Phil, whose reasoning I now see, I’m done with you sir. Good day.

              • adkDreamer says:

                Cancel Culture on display in the above comment.

                New York State jurisprudence has long supported that words are to be interpreted in their ordinary, vernacular meaning – and if not clearly defined within the four corners of a legal document, any ambiguity shall go against those that assert any alternative.

                Being over broad in an assertion to support an argument may be a convenience at first, however this approach has been proven time and again to fall by the wayside upon disciplined judgements.

  53. Head’s up that I’ve added a link to ADK’s response to this commentary:

    • Bob Meyer says:

      Thank Melissa.. Just read it. I think any monetary relation between ADK & DEC as part of this debate is ridiculous. But I still agree especially with Phil

  54. Jim Jacob says:

    The origins and historic use of the word timber, DO NOT mean the whole forest or all trees. It’s easy to expand the meaning of most words to suit one’s opinion. Per the etymology from Merriam-Webster, experts on these matters, here’s the origin and meaning of timber. It doesn’t include all trees.

    Timber traces back to an Old English word initially meaning “house” or “building” that also came to mean “building material,” “wood,” and “trees” or “woods.” Timbers are large squared lengths of wood used for building a house or a boat. In British English, timber is also used as a synonym for lumber.

    Metaphorical senses followed after centuries of the word’s use: the word used for building material became a word meaning “material” or “stuff” in general (“it’s best-seller timber”) and came also to refer to the qualities of character, experience, or intellect (“managerial timber”).

    And, of course, there’s also the interjectional use of “timber!” as a cry to warn of a falling tree; the fact that most people know this despite few of them ever having deployed the word in such a situation is almost certainly due to cartoons.

  55. Scott says:

    What is the importance of the 1915 NYS constitutional convention when the change from timber to trees was rejected? What does that say about these definitions?

  56. Charlie Stehlin says:

    JB says: “Mr. Terrie, you may very well be right. DEC has certainly started to look like the bad guy lately when it comes to pushing for development on forest preserve lands..”

    Back some few years ago when there was the controversy over fracking in NY State, the DEC were displaying some dirty traits regards siding with that industry. I recall well! It is well-known by now that Cuomo was about ready to push fracking through but the ‘Nay’ crowd overwhelmed his office with letters enough so that he went the other way at the last minute. Surely the DEC was with him on that. It’s a different generation than when Bob Marshall and Paul Schaefer were roaming them Adirondack woods. Them’s office people at the DEC, they sit behind their desks and make decisions whereas it used to be foot soldiers that were the decision makers, or the factors in those decisions. It seems this way anyway…..suits making the decisions, not men, in hiking boots.

    • JB says:

      You must have certainly been more tuned in to that than me. All I remember is Cuomo being dodgy and non-committal on fracking/anti-fracking, and then one day he came in and stole all of the glory as he declared “his” ban, as if he had been on the “right side” the whole time. Hmm…In retrospect, that does seem kind of suspicious…Probably not much has changed either…

      Maybe you are right and DEC is mostly just being a self-serving bureaucracy. I could be wrong, but it seems to me that the etiology here is that, in the cacophony of disparate voices, only the most sensational voices can be discerned by the public ear and, by extension, government–in our current time, the loudest voices are of those who are crying persecution, be them repressed local republicans or progressive democrats who by definition will always need a bone to pick (sorry ladies and gentlemen). The environmental causes that get the most attention are not local, concrete issues that are capable of being addressed by individuals–water pollution from household products, overuse of public lands by recreationists, littering–but, rather, the issues in the spotlight are abstract issues at which individuals can hold up their hands and say at their own convenience, “nothing we can do about it, X and Y powerful institutions will have to handle this”–problems like global warming, ocean garbage patches, baby birds besmirched by oil spills, wildfires, storms, the apocalypse, the type of problems that will only be solved by the deus ex machina. Unfortunately, real conservation just does not bring home the ratings for the networks (or talk radio) nor the thumbs up for social-medians these days. Real conservation is not sensational and instantaneous but is instead incremental and requires patience, determination and the sacrifice of at least some aspects of our personal pursuits. Interesting people, conservationists are.

  57. If you want to talk about leadership back in the day, when preservationists fought against truck trails, closed cabins, and The Hewitt Reforestation amendment (aka Tree-cutting Amendment) the leadership came put of Schenectady. John Apperson and his “associates” defended Forever Wild at the Constitutional Convention of 1938, with the support of 55 organizations. If you want to know what state officials were doing and how they helped or hindered the preservation efforts, you need to find out about John Apperson’s leadership. He was Paul Schaefer’s mentor, and Bob Marshall turned to him for advice back in 1936, with regard to truck trails, etc. See my website: to read more about Appy’s army!

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