Friday, May 7, 2021

The Court’s Snowmobile Connector Decision in Perspective

The NYS Court of Appeals has just decided by a 4-2 majority, that New York State agencies under Governor Andrew Cuomo have violated Article 14, Section 1 of our State Constitution by impermissibly constructing snowmobile community connector trails through the ‘forever wild’ Forest Preserve, removing rocks, grading the trails, bench cutting the trails, and cutting thousands of trees.

Bitter comments about the court’s decision notwithstanding, snowmobiling continued in the Adirondack region during the years while this case was being appealed by state agencies up to New York’s highest court, and will again.

Also, the snowmobile connector issues that seem so consequentially decided by the Court of Appeals this month predate Governor Andrew Cuomo by 25 years.  Gov. Cuomo’s DEC aggressively built upon foundations laid by prior administrations of Governors Patterson, Spitzer and, most especially, George Pataki. There were plenty of concerns and warnings issued then about the legal and constitutional problems of snowmobile community connectors.  These were swept under the legal rug until after Governor Andrew Cuomo was elected.

The recent Court of Appeals decision ruled unconstitutional further construction of 9-12 ft. wide snowmobile community connector trails on Wild Forest portions of the Adirondack Forest Preserve, as defined by the NYS Department of Environmental Conservation. An example is the 15-miled long Seventh Lake Community Connector Trail through the Moose River Plains Wild Forest between Inlet and Raquette Lake constructed in 2012-14.

The Snowmobile Trail System is Not Going Away

The Adirondack snowmobile trail network which pre-existed community connectors remains extensive, including but not limited to:

  • the meandering, narrower, non- graded Forest Preserve Wild Forest trails that have been around for decades (authorized up to 848 miles by state policy, and which also serve as parts of the hiking trail systems), as well as on;
  • more recent, privately owned, conservation easement lands, as well as;
  • town-owned lands like the towns of Webb and Inlet snowmobile trail systems, and;
  • the abandoned rail corridors like the former Adirondack Railroad from Remsen to Tupper Lake and from Tupper Lake to Lake Placid.
snowmobile connector trail

A snowmobile connector under construction in Newcomb, 2014

In all, there were several thousand miles or more of Adirondack trails on which to snowmobile last winter and, assuming a healthy snowpack, will be again this coming winter. Several of DEC’s proposed community connector trails were proposed in areas that are now lacking in an extended snowpack due to much warmer winters.

I recall a past chairman of the Adirondack Park Agency who, after inviting the Tug Hill Commission to speak about their wide, fast trail system, responded with pride during a meeting in Ray Brook that only in the Adirondack Park could the snowmobiler experience narrow, meandering, wild forest environments. This APA chair said, and I am paraphrasing him from memory, “we are all required to slow down when our cars enter Adirondack villages. Why shouldn’t we want to also slow down on narrow Adirondack snowmobile trails? They are what set us apart from Tug Hill. Let’s market our strength and our appeal – slower, more beautiful, narrow, wooded, wild trails on which to hike or snowmobile.”

The Five Towns of Indian Lake, Long Lake, Newcomb, Minerva, North Hudson may justifiably feel they were promised wider, faster, more graded community connector trails by Governor Andrew Cuomo in return for their support for the state’s acquiring the Finch conservation easements and lands like Boreas Ponds and the Essex Chain of Lakes during 2013-16.

But the legal and constitutional debate that wider, faster snowmobile routes faced goes back to the 1990s.

The Pataki Era

In 1995, Governor George Pataki came into office. Among his appointments was DEC Commissioner Michael Zagata.  Zagata came from prior employment in Texas. He was not only unfamiliar with the Adirondack Park and Forest Preserve, from my perspective in the Association for the Protection of the Adirondacks he was impatient with and actively hostile to its ‘forever wild’ strictures, as well as to the State Land Master Plan.

By 1995, more powerful, heavier, and wider snowmobiles were being sold across the state. Zagata saw no reason not to accommodate them in the Adirondack Park. He proposed to expand the 8-ft wide Forest Preserve trails long in existence to 12-15 ft. width for two-way passage of newer, 42-inch snowmobiles.

To discuss these issues in the field, in the winter of 1997 I was invited – along with all members of the DEC Forest Preserve Advisory Committee – to snowmobile a trail in Arietta, Hamilton County. I appreciated the experience as we traveled on these new snowmobiles through deep snow. It was a beautiful, exhilarating winter day but some of us snowmobiling novices got stuck on our sleds because, I was told, the sleds were too heavy and foundered without Snocat grooming machines to prepack the snow.

The SnoCat Groomer

So, I learned that the new generation of snowmobiles required a separate grooming machine to prepare the trail system for heavier sleds on more trafficked trails, and to allow the snowpack to last into the spring. There lay one big legal problem. The snowcat groomers were a separate motor vehicle from the snowmobile, and the State Land Master Plan only authorizes snowmobiles on Wild Forest trails, not the separate, motorized groomer. My colleagues and I have harped on this issue on many occasions, but no one in authority at DEC or APA has ever sought to amend the State Land Master Plan to bring the use of snowcat grooming motor vehicles on Forest Preserve trails into compliance with the Master Plan. Their widespread but illegal use continues to this day. One reason why so many trees were cut for the community connector trails in 2012-14, resulting in parts of the Court of Appeals recent ruling, was to accommodate the tracked groomer as well as the snowmobiles.

Commissioner Zagata only kept his position for a few years. However, his attitude towards the Forest Preserve was not unique within DEC. By 1998, I was seeing the results of DEC turning a blind eye or even cooperating in the use of tracked excavators and bulldozers to turn 8 ft. wide forest trails into 12-25 ft. muddy turnpikes for groomed snowmobiling. This happened on trails within the Vanderwhacker Wild Forest, Shaker Mountain Wild Forest, Fulton Chain Wild Forest, and Watsons East Triangle Wild Forest, to name just some of the areas investigated. After investigations by my organization, AfPA, as well as by the Residents’ Committee to Protect the Adirondacks and the Adirondack Mountain Club, the Adirondack Park Agency also got involved. APA investigated, found illegalities throughout the Park, and got DEC to agree to close certain snowmobile trails and to remediate the wetland damage done there. Under threat of a lawsuit, new DEC Commissioner John Cahill agreed to restrict those operating a motor vehicle to “maintain” snowmobile trails to DEC employees. Unfortunately, DEC had no intention of keeping that policy.

The Snowmobile Focus Group

By 2000, Governor George Pataki had become directly involved. He agreed to expand the snowmobile network on the Forest Preserve in exchange for new land acquisition like Whitney Park but wanted a stakeholder group to negotiate the concepts and to dive into the specifics. So, in late 2000 was born the Snowmobile Focus Group led by DEC’s Division of Lands and Forests.  For three years I met periodically with snowmobile club leaders, local government leaders, my colleagues, and state personnel from all three agencies, DEC, APA, and New York State Parks, which distributed the federal matching funds used by local clubs to purchase the tracked grooming machines. Slowly, over the course of many workshop meetings the concept of closing so-called “interior” snowmobile trails in exchange for wider connector trails along the “perimeter” of the Forest Preserve gained acceptance, but the devil was clearly in the details.

What was in the “interior” and in the “perimeter” was debatable. Some proposed new connector routes seemed to duplicate trails already in existence. Conceptual connectors turned into specific trails on a map, while those interior trails to be closed to snowmobiling remained uncertain or ambiguous. DEC was unable to provide the group with specific trail mileage across the Park, or with detailed maps of trail networks. Much more mapping was needed to show the entire snowmobile trail network, on public and private land, and how those networks interconnected.

Just as the Focus Group began to make more progress, the DEC abruptly ended the meetings and announced it would hold public meetings on a Draft Plan – before the Focus Group could finish its research.

Promise Broken

In 2000 Governor Pataki made a commitment that if community connector trails were ever to be constructed, the Adirondack Park State Land Master Plan would have to be amended first to authorize them. In his final year in office, 2006, he broke that promise. DEC would proceed to plan and construct a new snowmobile trail system administratively, a system that the Governor, back in 2000, agreed could only be done through public hearings and a formal State Land Plan amendment process at the Adirondack Park Agency.

DEC unveiled the final Snowmobile Plan in fall of 2006. The Association for the Protection of the Adirondacks, AfPA, was among those who sharply criticized it. What we said about it in 2006 echoes recent events:

“Governor Pataki’s recently announced Adirondack Snowmobile Plan encourages more motorized use of the NYS Forest Preserve and new road-like conditions through the Forest Preserve according to the Association for the Protection of the Adirondacks. The Association considers the Governor’s plan to be an end-run around the Adirondack Park State Land Master Plan, the ‘forever wild’ clause of the NYS Constitution and the Governor’s own promise made in 2000 that any significant change to the Adirondack snowmobile trail system would require an amendment to the Master Plan and, therefore, a series of statewide public hearings.

The plan would, for the first time, authorize widespread use of tracked grooming motor vehicles to groom snow on the narrow trails and natural forest surface of today’s combined snowmobile and hiking trails in Wild Forest areas of the Forest Preserve.

These Adirondack wild forest trails would become, in effect, new roads through the Forest Preserve. Governor Pataki in his final weeks in office is charting a course that will erode and, eventually, destroy the Forest Preserve that is treasured by millions of New Yorkers. He is willing to chart this course without so much as one public hearing. Coming from a Governor with former environmental credentials, this is completely shocking to us.

The use of these new motor vehicle groomers requires thousands of trees to be cut on the Forest Preserve so that trails can be widened to nine feet (from the current eight-foot guideline) and flattened by the removal of protruding rocks. The Adirondack Park State Land Master Plan does not allow anything but a snowmobile to be driven on snowmobile trails. Article 14 of the NYS Constitution only permits tree cutting on the Forest Preserve that is immaterial and mandates the retention of the preserve’s wild forest character. Artificial sports and high-speed mechanized uses are banned from the Forest Preserve according to a Court of Appeals decision from 1930, McDonald v. The Association for the Protection of the Adirondacks.

Pataki’s Department of Environmental Conservation removed a statement from the prior draft plan which said that mechanized grooming would require an amendment to the Adirondack Park State Land Master Plan which contains guidelines for the use of the Forest Preserve that have the force and effect of law. The newly released final plan contains no such statement. The Governor has gone back on his word.

The Forest Preserve should not be compromised in order to accommodate faster snowmobiling on road-like surfaces, with all the rocks plucked out. The Governor apparently believes more roads and motorized traffic can be allowed on “forever wild” lands without, at the very least, an amendment to the master plan and without statewide public hearings and public comment. We find this totally undemocratic, surprising, and very disappointing.

The plan does not estimate how many Forest Preserve trees would have to be cut in order to turn many trails into nine-foot corridors, but the Association estimates the number to be in the tens of thousands. A constitutional amendment is the only way to authorize such a large amount of tree cutting, but the plan does not even broach this subject.

We are forced to oppose this plan because it authorizes more motors and tree cutting on the Forest Preserve through administrative action that clearly can only be permitted by the people through a constitutional amendment or, at the very least, through public hearings on the Master Plan. The plan blatantly disregards the fragile wild forest character of the Forest Preserve which, if eroded by more and more motors, will not be there for future generations as it has been for all the generations of New Yorkers born since 1894.

The Forest Preserve and ‘forever wild’ are unique ecological and economic attributes for the Adirondack region. Snowmobiling through this region should remain what it is today – slow speed through meandering, wild, narrow, forested trails with a natural trail surface, with trail grooming accomplished using a snowmobile and a drag. That kind of snowmobiling is a unique Adirondack product available nowhere else. Governor Pataki’s plan would convert Adirondack trails into ‘anyplace USA,’ and that is unacceptable.”

On May 4, 2021, the NYS Court of Appeals ruled that this 25-year history of administrative compromising of the Forest Preserve is, in fact, unacceptable and must not continue because it is unconstitutional.

Top photo from Almanack archive

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David Gibson

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

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

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




62 Responses

  1. Boreas says:

    Thank you David for revealing much of the history that has been conveniently forgotten.

  2. Joseph Dash says:

    Good work Protect!

  3. Forest Gump says:

    Thanks Dave for the informative article. Being from the western side of the Park, I am curious as to which trails in the Watson’s East Triangle you are referring to when speaking about them being widened with equipment? All of those trails are old roads and I have never seen DEC do any work on them except for building one bridge.

  4. Shane M Sloan says:

    You almost had bipartisan support from me. Then you showed that you are partisan and lost credibility. None of the governors are any good, bit you had to go out of your way to lay blame mostly on Pataki.

    • Dave Greene says:

      Eh? The name-calling seems unnecessary — I hope other commenters can manage to be a little more civil. First paragraph of article: “New York State agencies *under Governor Andrew Cuomo* have violated Article 14…” No blame-shifting there.

      When you trace back the history, the roots of the problem are bound to start somewhere — and in this case, Governor Pataki’s broken promise do seem like a good starting point. But it seems to me that the article makes abundantly clear that there’s plenty of blame to go around.

      Over the last several administrations, the DEC has gotten into some bad habits, ignoring some key laws and regulations that they’re supposed to be operating under. It’s really good to see that the courts are still functioning to remind the DEC that they’re not above the law after all.

  5. Big Burly says:

    Thank you David. A primer why to not trust this DEC — no matter who the Gov. The folks at Lands and Forests deserve special mention about lack of trust.

  6. Scott Thompson says:

    I foresee kind of a catch 22 here. We all have to follow the constitution and most want to protect the forests and waters, but if the laws and rules do not adapt to the times and activities of the people the balance that is the Adirondacks is not maintained and with population failure so goes the appeal. If there are no services there will be so few visitors the protecting entities will loose their interest and with that loose funding sources and with that their effectiveness. Yes, I’
    m sure snowmobiling and ebikes and such will continue, but the economic viability will be diminished. For us: the Old Forge to Lake Placid trail would be life altering in a good way. Visitors will follow the “path” of least resistance.

    • Todd Eastman says:

      Yea…

      … Old Forge to Lake Placid would make a damn fine ski trail…

      • Randy says:

        Right on Todd!!! Let’s get this trail built SOON!!!!!! $tupid train had its 40 year attempt at sucking NYers dry- time for something new 🙂

  7. hilary j leblanc jr says:

    seems it is ok to cut trees at all new york state ski centers ..

    cut trees around new york state camp sites..

    cut trees around all of new york state olympic sites..

    cut trees around new york state roads..

    cut trees around the new york state boat launchs and hiking trails..

    and at the new york state tree farms so they can plant more trees..

    if the snowmobile trails are so important all the other tree trimming should stop also..

    • Todd Eastman says:

      Perhaps the small matter of the NYS Constitution could be at play…?

      • hilary j leblanc jr says:

        yeah but only on the snowmobile trails..

        • Dave Greene says:

          > yeah but only on the snowmobile trails..

          — Which makes sense, because ski centers, Olympic sites, roads, boat launches, and tree farms aren’t on Forest Preserve land. Some of those locations were given specific exemptions from the usual Forest Preserve treatment, by constitutional amendment.

          Camp sites and hiking trails usually _are_ on Forest Preserve, but there’s over a century of precedent for making reasonable accommodations for hiking and camping, carried over from what people explicitly said when they were writing “forever wild” into the constitution.

          There weren’t any snowmobiles in 1894, so original intent doesn’t come into play there. If the citizens of New York want these snowmobile trails on Forest Preserve land, the same legal mechanism is available that was used for various ski centers, Olympic sites, and so on. Constitutional amendments like this have been done nineteen times. It’s standard practice, you might say. There’s no particular reason that these connector trails can’t be the twentieth exception.

          It may be a tough sell, convincing a majority of NY citizens that it makes sense to make a special exception for snowmobiles on Forest Preserve. To me, certainly, snowmobiles don’t seem to make any sense in “forever wild” land — these big modern machines just plain need too much bulldozing and rock-removing and bridge-building to be a good fit in a place that’s supposed to be wild. But that’s just my opinion.

          Maybe this all just means that it’s worth taking some reasonable-sized strips of connector-trail land out of the Forest Preserve, swapping in some other land elsewhere. That will still need a Constitutional amendment, and a lot of careful planning — but again, that doesn’t mean that it can’t be done.

          • Paul says:

            “Which makes sense, because ski centers, Olympic sites, roads, boat launches, and tree farms aren’t on Forest Preserve land.”

            Not sure about tree farms but the rest are on FP land.

            In fact just the ROW that you can apparently legally cut for a road on FP land is much wider than the proposed snowmobile trails. You don’t want to go beyond the ROW like they did on Route 3 between Tupper and Saranac Lake a few years back which cost us taxpayers a big fine, but the ROW they cut and keep clear is quite large.

            • Dave Greene says:

              “Not sure about the tree farms but the rest are on FP land.”

              Thanks for the correction. For some of those items I was thinking about specific cases, and wasn’t being careful — very likely other people are thinking of different examples, so I shouldn’t have said anything so general.

              Tree cutting on ski areas was made possible by constitutional amendments in 1941 (Whiteface) and 1947 (Gore and Belleayre), so those are special exceptions but they’re legal. Gore I know is classified as Intensive Use, unlike anything in the “normal” Forest Preserve. So I was thinking the ski areas are state-owned land, but not Forest Preserve land — kind of a weaselly technical distinction.

              Here’s a good list of the more recent Constitutional amendments:
              https://www.newyorkalmanack.com/2020/06/forever-wild-new-constitutional-amendments-being-considered/

              There are a couple more amendments that specifically allowed cutting trees for roads. The next sentence in the New York State Constitution after the Forever Wild clause is

              “Nothing herein contained shall prevent the state from constructing, completing and maintaining any highway heretofore specifically authorized by constitutional amendment…”

              but of course it’s complicated when you dig into the details:

              https://www.dec.ny.gov/docs/lands_forests_pdf/cp38.pdf

              The main idea is that there’s been a lot of careful work over the years, keeping ski-trail maintenance and road maintenance and campsite maintenance and so on inside careful legal limits. It may not seem “fair” that such big efforts are able to continue when a relatively small set of snowmobile connector trails gets stopped, but the acreage comparison isn’t the point. These other exceptions had to be made very deliberately, by amendment. The DEC’s attempt to claim authority to cut those connector trails without an amendment… just plain wasn’t legal.

    • Steve B. says:

      Dunno, is there a difference between trimming a few trees around areas that have already been cleared for the stated activity, versus clear cutting a 9ft wide path for many miles thru what has otherwise been natural forest where that new activity did not exist ?

  8. Distant Reader says:

    When the 2008 financial crisis brought the banks to their knees, Queen Elizabeth turned to some financial guy & asked “how could this have happened”? I feel the same way here. The Court of Appeals decision says Art. XIV is clear: you can’t destroy the forest preserve for winter sports, and the MacDonald case from the 1930s said exactly the same thing. Who is watching the watchers?

    • Dave Greene says:

      Very good question! I think the answer is the same as the answer from the MacDonald case: a group of well-meaning people had a good goal in mind, and made a big and impressive effort to make it happen. In their enthusiasm, though, they tried to sweep under the rug the awkward fact that the Forever Wild clause just plain doesn’t let you do things like this (without a constitutional amendment).

      And there are really good reasons for that limitation. If someone can just decide to go and cut acres of Forest Preserve for good reasons, then that means someone else will probably be able to get away with going and cutting more acres of Forest Preserve for not-so-good reasons. In the long run it works better to not even start down that slippery slope.

      It sounds like the DEC put in a lot of hard work negotiating with towns to get snowmobile routes out of the backcountry and put them close to roads. This seems like a good idea, in theory. Closer to roads means safer for snowmobilers in the event of a breakdown — and close to those roads, wildlife and wilderness enthusiasts both are going to be hearing motor noises anyway. So probably less impact overall.

      Seems like a decent compromise, in theory, at least as long as affected local landowners can be persuaded to agree. As a side note, things probably weren’t handled perfectly in that department… this is second-hand information, but it sounds like there was some potential trouble specifically with at least the Newcomb to Minerva route, anyway, independent of this court decision. A route was flagged to be cut through near-old-growth Forest Preserve hardwoods, but there was no good way to actually complete the connection due to blocking landowners. So it seems just as well that the lower courts’ injunction stopped that particular cutting job — there’s still a problem that needs to be resolved there.

      Anyway — long story short, it sounds like the DEC had a lot of momentum built up to try to “get something done” on this admittedly really difficult and hard-to-negotiate issue. They just weren’t ambitious enough to also take on the job of getting a constitutional amendment passed, so instead they tried to take a shortcut and do the cutting anyway… even though, as you say, they should really have known that it wasn’t legal to do it that way.

  9. Julian Shepherd says:

    Thank you, David, for what we need and get so little of: a long, historical perspective. Given their gas mileage, air and noise pollution, snowmobiles are perfect machines for those who don’t care about the environment and climate change.

  10. Glen Mallory says:

    When snowmobile companies started voiding the gentleman’s agreement of the 1970s and selling machines bigger than 500cc for trail use instead of just for limited production work or race machines, you could see conflict increase over the years. They had that agreement because of the Arab oil embargo. It kept speeds and fuel consumption down and costs down and trail size small. Now look what you got? 20,000 dollar sleds the size of small cars that can’t run on tight trails and all can go over a 100 mph. No thanks. I’ll stick to my old school machines, ride slower and enjoy the outdoors without annoying my neighbors.

    • PHIL JEWELL says:

      You are misinformed sir., Modern snowmobiles are in no way the size of a small car you must be referring to side by side vehicles. And their is currently one model snowmobile in 2022 with list price over $20,000. ALL snowmobiles can run on current trails in the Adirondack Park and do.

  11. louis curth says:

    The value of in-depth articles by Dave Gibson, Peter Bauer and others are so important to help all of us, whatever our persuasion, to understand and appreciate the great treasure that is the Adirondack Park. They are a welcome addition In our world of Facebook and snarky soundbites that seem to add less enlightenment to benefit our many discussions.

    I appreciate the time and effort devoted to the enlightenment of all of us.

    Thank you.

  12. Steve says:

    Respectful I must say this decision is foolish. The positive economic impact this trail would have for the people who live in the Park should totally outweigh any negative impact that we would see on “timber”. In this day and age I’m shocked at the narrow sightedness of this ruling.

    • Boreas says:

      The ruling is based on interpretation of the Constitution – and it isn’t a new interpretation, but more of a reinforcement. What you describe would require an amendment. It isn’t impossible. In the long run, it is better to amend the Constitution than to bend it or ignore it altogether.

      • Steve says:

        It’s more of a political chest pumping game over the definition of “timber”. These obstruction groups need to move over for the greater good of those inside the blue line. Heck, most of those against the trail don’t even live there. The positive so outweighs the negative here, yet some can’t see that.

        • Boreas says:

          You do not speak for ALL people living in the Park.

          People living inside the Blue Line have had to deal with the consequences of Article 14 for over 100 years. We aren’t living here because of snowmobiling, which was not conceived of when the Forest Preserve was formed. We are living here because we want to live in or close to the FP and all that it offers. This decision has not shut down snowmobiling in the Park, but the people would stay even if it did. Your definition of the “greater good” being tied to increased snowmobile activity in the FP differs from mine and many other residents. But even if everyone inside the Park wanted these trails or other developments, the path is through a Constitutional amendment, not political shenanigans. The Park is owned by all NYS citizens, not just us.

          • Steve says:

            Have you been to Newcomer lately? This trail would not increase snowmobile traffic, rather make riding better with a financial arm to those who own, work at towns it will pass through. This is nothing more than political games to begin with, so why stop now? The word is timber, they used that word instead of trees for a reason. They figured anyone with an ounce of common sense would know the difference. The DEC knows, but obstruction groups can’t grasp the idea.

  13. Larry Enticer says:

    It’s sad that “timber”, by that I mean absolutely zero timber, is getting in the way of the massive economic impact these trails have on those who live in and own businesses in the Dacks. Down right shameful in this day and age. This park is most definitely for everyone to enjoy, that’s true. But it is also true that those living there need this trail, and it won’t hurt a damn thing. Politics needs to stay right the heck out of it.

  14. Charlie Stehlin says:

    “In 1995, Governor George Pataki came into office. Among his appointments was DEC Commissioner Michael Zagata. Zagata came from prior employment in Texas. Zagata came from prior employment in Texas. He was not only unfamiliar with the Adirondack Park and Forest Preserve, from my perspective in the Association for the Protection of the Adirondacks he was impatient with and actively hostile to its ‘forever wild’ strictures…”

    Texas! That thar’s a flaming ‘Red State’ aren’t it not? Deep red Texas. Hostile to ‘forever wild!’ That comes with deep red territory. Hostile to any ‘thing’ which is good for trees & minorities. How in dee world did he ever get a passport to New Yawk? Pataki! That’s it. Deep red Pataki! The math adds up! Those darn deep reds! When is it we are going to be learnt!

    • JohnL says:

      What’s your point Charlie? That was 26 years ago. Question: Are you happier now with this Flamin’ Blue governor?
      P.S. Lose the ‘accent’ mocking us common folk. It’s beneath you.

    • M.P. Heller says:

      Rude. I was born in San Antonio. I’m about as Republican as JFK.

      • Charlie Stehlin says:

        I’m just whispering an awareness and the first things that popped up in my mind when I read the above….tis all. Truth is in our faces, yet………..

  15. louis curth says:

    A widely respected conservationist once wrote;

    “There are some who can live without wild things,
    and some who cannot.”
    Aldo Leopold, A Sand County Almanac (1949)

    The environmental partisans who carry on the endless struggle to preserve our fragile remnants of nature, such as the Adirondack Park ecosystem, may find the source of their motivation in Leopold’s words.

    Sadly, without their continued vigilance, the triumph of money over nature will be a foregone conclusion.

  16. Jim S. says:

    Does anyone know what effect this decision will have on the controversial bridge over the cedar river?

  17. Tony Goodwin says:

    If you read the dissent by the two judges, you will see how they justify the new snowmobile trails. They put their own “spin” on the McDonald 1932 bobrun case by saying that these are narrow linear trails that don’t require wholesale clear-cutting with additional earth moving and blasting required for that facility. Look at the current bob/luge and try to say that looks like “forever wild”.
    The dissenting opinion noted that the 2009 guidance for snowmobile construction said that the proposed snowmobile trails would be required to retain the natural forest canopy even after the trees needed for the trail had been cut. The dissenters also noted that the plan called for the abandonment of more miles of interior snowmobile trails than these “Community Connector” trail would add. The dissenters considered this an overall gain for the Forest Preserve.
    And finally, the towns most affected by the 65,000 acres of new Forest Preserve as part of the great Finch.Pruyn purchase were promised that these connector trails and other attractions on the new Forest Preserve lands would help their town’s economies. Now that promise is being withdrawn, and these towns have every right to be upset. The addition of 65,000 acres to the Forest Preserve without objection by the towns of Newcomb and Indian Lake (to the ones most affected) should be weighed against the cutting of a few thousand trees on corridors near existing roads. The 65,000 acres of new public land (and the new Hudson Gorge Wilderness Area) should be worth the price of a few trees,

    • Zephyr says:

      You can’t make deals and “promises” that go against the Constitution or else the law is worthless.

      • Tony Goodwin says:

        The dissenting opinion noted that there had been snowmobile trails on Forest Preserve lands for 50 years, and that other Class 2 trails had been constructed without any challenge to say that these trails were unconstitutional. At the time the promises were made to the towns, there was not any question that these promises violated the constitution.

        • Boreas says:

          The state ended up with egg on their face because they made, and continue to make, promises based on political expediency and not Art. 14 or the will of the taxpayers. Just because there had been no previous challenge along these lines for 50 years doesn’t mean it was inconceivable. When playing poker, you can keep raising the bet, but at least be prepared to be called eventually.

          If DEC and local villages want to turn the Forest Preserve into an extensive winter snowmobile park, they need to back up and get some Constitutional amendments. First, get some wording specifically allowing snowmobile usage while somehow disallowing ATVs, motorcycles, and other activities currently prohibited in the FP. Then, add wording to allow the construction of this type of trail, and how much impact is allowable – both in construction and usage. Get the necessary amendments, THEN make the promises to local governments based on solid legal footing. Other organizations and businesses have been successful with obtaining amendments. It isn’t impossible, but the process may indeed span more than one political administration.

          It is terribly unfortunate local communities and sledding enthusiasts were promised a shaky bill of goods, but the fault doesn’t lie in the player calling the hand. The fault lies in Albany. How the mess gets sorted out remains to be seen.

        • Zephyr says:

          I disagree. Many people felt then that these connector trails were unconstitutional and argued so at the time. This article points out that Pataki thought they required amendments to the SLMP, which were not done. In any case, we now have the answer and they have been declared unconstitutional as have many odious practices that were done in the past that we no longer allow.

          • Steve says:

            “Many”? Interesting. Maybe many in the tiny obstruction group. I’t is this exact thinking that will eventually turn the Adirondacks into a place for the rich to live, comfortably numb.

  18. Dwayne Cifaratta says:

    If you never open up the trail system to faster ridding you’ll never get the riders, If you want tourist you need a faster trail and wider I don’t ride near star lake or Tupper on small tight trails because it’s dangerous..it only takes two seconds with a snowmobile and if the trail is not wide enough..well you can imagine a family ridding on a small senic trail and bamm someone goes wide on a corner because they don’t have studs .which is what you put in a snowmobile track for stopping on ice. And they hit and kill the kid…I don’t like small trails or my friends with their familyàa we spend about 125$a day I think we should have a say in the trails not the state..and no other sport do you have to register,get a club membership and insurance my reg is over a 100$ and a club is 55$ and that’s before I insure my snowmobile put gas in it and drive over 150miles one way to get to the trail. so tell me how this state gives a shit about anything but money….Coumo should not be our governor any longer he is a parasite he also intends to cut all the trees on the wire canal system and make that part of the trail so we have to pay for that crap also,he has that trail going through syacuse and Dewitt but they are blacktop trails so biked and crap use it ..well that’s nice my trail fees go to paveing that crap it’s part of the thruway athoritiy with takes money from the snowmobile fund last I knew…

    • Todd Eastman says:

      So how would you fix the current system to meet your needs, working within the provisions of the Forever Wild laws and rules?

      It was your choice to spend your money sleds for you and your family. The lack of certainty about sledding in the Adirondack Park was well known…

  19. Kyle Adamson says:

    We can do this

  20. wash wild says:

    The constitutional question may be settled but the cultural questions remain. A small segment of people have unlimited free time and unlimited dollars to spend filling that time with idle amusements. Snowmobiles, ATVs, dirt bikes, power boats, airplanes, indeed, any motorized toy imaginable and some unimaginable are the result. The criteria seem to be that they burn gas, emit carbon, make noise and don’t require too much physical effort. New York State claims to have ambitious carbon reduction goals. But their plan mostly involves siting solar panels on prime farmland. Little more than trading one problem for a more grievous one down the road.
    Given the facts of carbons influence on climate, why does anyone burn fossil fuels for recreation? One possible explanation – these snorting, belching playthings seem almost like opiates, powerfully addictive to those who get hooked. Instead of encouraging their use, maybe we should be helping people kick their ‘burn gas/spew carbon’ habit. Maybe those who have the money to buy all these expensive irritants should pay a few more taxes instead. This could be a two-fold gift to our children: lifting the crushing burden of deficit spending from their shoulders and giving them the possibility of a livable planet.

    • Steve says:

      Good gawd. They already make, and people are buying electric vehicles that you mentioned. Just like cars/trucks these too will transition to all electric. Maybe leap off your high horse and take a look around.

    • Lillian says:

      And, by all means, the hikers driving many miles in their cars to get to the Adirondacks, should also pay higher taxes. That is also burning fossil fuels for recreation…

  21. Charlie Stehlin says:

    Louis Curth says: “Sadly, without their continued vigilance, the triumph of money over nature will be a foregone conclusion.”

    Too many are still living in caves Louis, too many who have yet to see the light! You must be the same Louis Curth whose book “The Forest Rangers A History of the New York State Forest Ranger Force” 1987 is snuggled in my collection? I paid a quarter for that book up in Lake Placid some years back at the thrift store there. I surely got my money’s worth on that one!

    • louis curth says:

      Charlie Stehlin,

      If you haven’t already got it, go find an old copy of Sand County Almanac. It is a combination of poetry and nature ethic that would melt a heart of stone. I would consider it an honor for my book to share your bookshelf with Aldo Leopold’s works.

      After the total destruction of nature, where I played as a child, Leopold’s writings helped put me on a path, like so many others, to understand that nature is something fragile to cherished and protected, rather than merely a commodity to be exploited and manipulated for profit.

  22. Charlie Stehlin says:

    “Are you happier now with this Flamin’ Blue governor?”

    I’m not happy with either party but I’m less happy with the one JohnL! Why? Because I like clean air. I like wolves. I like birds. I like for our National parks to be public spaces not free-reign for the oil and gas giants. I liked that one of the last sacred havens on Earth, the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, went untouched until within the past four years. Racism abhors me. Arrogance and nasty demeanors send chills up and down my parts………………………….

  23. Charlie Stehlin says:

    Dwayne Cifaratta says: “Coumo should not be our governor any longer he is a parasite he also intends to cut all the trees on the wire canal system…”

    I always say… Cuomo would make a good republican!

  24. Charlie Stehlin says:

    wash wild says: “these snorting, belching playthings seem almost like opiates…”

    They sure do seem to have the same effect wash! Like television and cars…..you name it the things that we attach ourselves to like glue. A physical dependence! There most certainly seems to be a craving to hitch up to one of them playthings and shoot off into the wilds. An addiction! Control! Weakness! In order to feel normal….buy a sled, or sit yourself in front of a big screen tv! It matters not what the medication! What matters, as is with opioids, there are negative consequences that come with snowmobiles too!

  25. Charlie Stehlin says:

    “go find an old copy of Sand County Almanac…..”

    >I had this book in my collection probably thirty years ago louis. I am reading ten things at once right now.

    “nature is something fragile to be cherished and protected, rather than merely a commodity to be exploited and manipulated for profit.”

    > Tell that to Thoreau, or Rachel Carson, or countless others whose names are unheard of, but are out there nonetheless. Since dead persons have no hearing tell that to those politicos who see more value in cement than they do trees or soil! Don’t get me going!

    • louis curth says:

      Thoreau, Carson, Leopold and so many more men and women like them inspired some among us to learn about the natural world and to take action to protect it.

      Whether our younger folks will also care and become similarly involved in the numbers needed to save nature from collapse seems to be an open question. Our admirable Greta Thunberg can’t do it by herself, and time is running out.

  26. Charlie Stehlin says:

    What you say louis, “…save nature from collapse” & “time is running out.” Talk like this generally blows right over the average person’s head. Or is taken supra lightly! Until we all start gasping for air due to pollution overload, or until we all start coming to the realization that the water which sustains us and the air we breathe is worth more than monster truck derbies, or zipping through a forest on snowmobiles, etc…. until then there’s just no hope. Education is key but you know where we stand with that – not enough funds, defund, charter schools NOT public schools, sports not arts, ex-communicate reading & writing courses….. Dumb us down, or up, until we’ve become unfeeling, numb robots. If there be any hope it would be in our political leaders as they have the resources and the pull to shift the troubling course we’re on, but you know the story there. They’re making it worse! They pit us one against the other, the sensible versus the self-centered, or the wise against the unenlightened. I’m an optimist but I’m having doubts there’s going to be much left in possibly just one more generation. Mindsets like yours sure do take some weight off of my dashed hopes though, which goes a long ways thank you.

  27. Charlie Stehlin says:

    By the way louis! Your book is done up quite well! Very interesting & informative regards the Forest Ranger history in our state. Impressive!

  28. David Gibson says:

    My thanks for his several well informed comments to Dave Greene, Good to hear from you, Dave.
    Thanks for sharing the John Warren fascinating post on snowmobile history, one of you. John’s use of original sources is first rate.
    As for Lou Curth, you continue to influence me and many others, as you have for years. Thank you.

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