Tuesday, May 4, 2021

Court of Appeals: Snowmobile trails violate state constitution

  • Court of Appeals Rules in Favor of Protect the Adirondacks, Finds Cuomo Administration Violated Forever Wild Clause of State Constitution
  • The Cuomo administration’s plan to expand motorized use on the public Forest Preserve in the Adirondacks by building hundreds of miles of wide Class II snowmobile trails was ruled unconstitutional by the state’s highest court.
  • This historic decision will shape Forest Preserve management for decades to come.

 The New York Court of Appeals, the state’s highest court, released a  historic 4-2 decision today in favor of Protect the Adirondacks that upheld Article 14, Section 1, of the New York State Constitution, the famed “forever wild” clause. In 2013, Protect the Adirondacks sued the Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) and Adirondack Park Agency (APA) alleging that construction of “Class II Community Connector” snowmobile trails on the Adirondack Forest Preserve violated Article 14, Section 1, due to excessive tree cutting and destructive changes to the land. Today’s ruling found that the cutting of over 25,000 trees and the clearing of 27 acres of forest, to build the first 27 miles of Class II trails violated Article 14. The APA and DEC have approved a network of hundreds of miles of Class II trails in the Adirondack Forest Preserve. The Court’s decision is likely to put an end to those plans, while still allowing for less destructive building and maintenance of other types of trails on the Forest Preserve.

Article 14, Section 1 states, in relevant part, that “[t]he lands of the state, now owned or hereafter acquired, constituting the Forest Preserve as now fixed by law, shall be forever kept as wild forest lands. They shall not be leased, sold or exchanged, or be taken by any corporation, public or private, nor shall the timber thereon be sold, removed or destroyed.”

The Court stated:

“We now affirm and hold that the planned construction of the Class II community connector trails would violate the constitution.” (p. 4)

“Further, the Class II trails require greater interference with the natural development of the Forest Preserve than is necessary to accommodate hikers. Their construction is based on the travel path and speed of a motorized vehicle used solely during the snow season. The trails may not be built like roads for automobiles or trucks, but neither are they constructed as typical hiking trails.” (p. 10)

“If the people of the State of New York decide that these Class II community connector trails are sufficiently beneficial, despite their impact on the Forest Preserve, then that determination may be realized through constitutional amendment. Indeed, other projects to enhance recreation or provide access by motorized transport have required constitutional amendment. Since its enactment in 1894, the forever wild provision has been amended 19 times; 4 of those amendments have come in the past 15 years. Those constitutional amendments have authorized, among other initiatives, the construction and maintenance of specific highways, ski trails, and bike lanes in the Forest Preserve. If a constitutional amendment is required for projects that enhance recreation (bobsleigh runs; ski trails) or improve mobility (roads) or do both (bike lanes within preexisting roads), then a constitutional amendment is also required to construct rights of way for a different form of motorized transportation (snowmobiles).” (p. 12-13)

“If the trails at issue here are equally important to New York as those projects were, then the people can express their will accordingly through the democratic process. Until they say otherwise, however, the door is closed because the planned Class II trails are constitutionally forbidden.” (p. 13)

“Protect the Adirondacks and conservationists across New York are delighted with the Court of Appeals decision. Forever wild means a lot more today, which will ensure that the Adirondacks are truly protected for the generations to come,” said Chuck Clusen, Chair of Protect the Adirondacks.

“This decision affirms the wisdom and foresight of the framers of Article 14, Section 1 at the Constitutional Convention of 1894 when they recognized that the executive branch of state government could not be trusted to protect the Forest Preserve from destruction, and so enshrined its protection in the Constitution, where the courts and the People of the State could protect it whenever the Executive Branch failed to,” said John Caffry, the lead attorney for Protect the Adirondacks in the case.

The Court of Appeals decision today follows a decision in July 2019 by the Appellate Division, Third Department, which ruled 4-1 in favor of Protect the Adirondacks that the tree cutting by the state to build the Class II trails violated Article 14, Section 1. The Appellate Division reversed the trial court’s ruling in favor of the state that was issued in December 2017 following a 13-day trial in State Supreme Court in Albany in early 2017.

In 2013, Protect the Adirondacks launched this lawsuit to challenge the constitutionality of Class II trails based on the unprecedented high level of tree cutting and environmental damage to the Forest Preserve’s terrain from extensive grading and flattening with heavy equipment. The first 27 miles of Class II trails (those constructed or approved for construction between January 2012 and October 2014), out of an overall plan to create hundreds of miles of such trails, involved the cutting of about 25,000 trees and the clearing of over 27 acres of forest in the Forest Preserve.

“The Court’s decision upholds longstanding precedent, and the public’s overwhelming support, for defending the unique and important constitutional protection given to the Forest Preserve. I’m proud to have been part of an amazing team that advocated for years to stop the state from cutting trees in the Forest Preserve in violation of that constitutional protection,” said Claudia Braymer, an attorney for Protect the Adirondacks in the case.

Here is the link to the decision: https://www.nycourts.gov/ctapps/Decisions/2021/May21/21opn21-Decision.pdf

Court of Appeals Decisions Upholds Forever Wild Clause in State Constitution

Today’s decision by the Court of Appeals is not only historic in its upholding of the forever wild clause, but also clarified key points in the public understanding of it. First, the Court ruled that the level of tree cutting by the state to build Class II trails was unconstitutional and exceeded the level of tree cutting permitted by prior court decisions in 1930 and 1993 regarding compliance with Article 14, Section 1.

Second, the Court’s decision stated that the framers of the State Constitution’s forever wild clause did not limit protections against substantial tree cutting to only large, merchantable “timber”, as DEC and its allies had argued. Third, the Court found that the use of the word “timber” in its historic context in the forever wild clause included all trees regardless of their size. Small trees that are less than 3 inches diameter at breast height (DBH), which can often be over 75 years old or older, are ecologically important to the functioning of the forest ecosystem and must be considered in state management decisions. Today’s decision should help to clarify state Forest Preserve management practices going forward.

Tree cutting is permissible on the Forest Preserve to facilitate public recreation, but that tree cutting has been strictly limited for the last 90 years by prior court decisions. In 1930, the Court of Appeals issued the Association for the Protection of the Adirondacks v MacDonald decision in which it ruled that state plans to clear 4.5 acres and cut down over 2,500 trees to build an Olympic bobsled track near Lake Placid violated Article 14. The Court established that limited tree cutting for a proper purpose was permitted, so long as it was not done to a “substantial extent” or a “material degree”. (Protect the Adirondacks is the successor organization to the Association for the Protection of the Adirondacks, which prevailed in the 1930 case; MacDonald was the Commissioner of the New York State Conservation Department at the time.)

In 1993, in the Balsam Lake Anglers Club v DEC decision, the Appellate Division, Third Department, held that very limited tree cutting on the Forest Preserve for building trails was permitted. The Appellate Division adhered to the 1930 decision when it found that cutting 350 trees over 1” DBH over the course of 2.3 miles, to extend a cross-country ski trail on the Forest Preserve in the Catskill Park, was allowable under Article 14. This level of tree cutting was neither substantial or material.

These two seminal cases had guided state tree cutting policy until the Cuomo administration decided to go in a different direction and the DEC under Commissioners Joe Martens and Basil Seggos embarked upon the greatest amount of tree cutting ever on the public Forest Preserve to build a new type of motorized recreational trail, the Class II snowmobile trails. The state’s decision to cut almost 7,000 large trees over 3” DBH and over 18,000 smaller trees between 1-3” DBH blew past these longstanding historic standards but has now been found to be illegal. Today’s decision in the Protect the Adirondacks case is the now the third seminal legal case about the forever wild clause in the State Constitution.

The forever wild clause in the State was approved by voters in 1894 as part of the new State Constitution. Not a single word has been changed since then. By protecting the public Forest Preserve in the State Constitution, generations of New Yorkers have determined that major changes to the Forest Preserve can only be undertaken through an amendment to the Constitution approved by the voters and cannot be undertaken by legislation or by administrative actions by the Governor or a state agency. The decision to build a network of hundreds of miles of Class II trails in the Forest Preserve should have been undertaken through a constitutional amendment, not unilaterally by state agencies, but the Cuomo administration chose not to ask the voters for their approval, and decided to violate the Constitution instead.

The court ruled today that the Constitution does not provide protections to some trees but not to others. The forever wild clause protects all trees. State agencies have been allowed to undertake any number of management activities on the Forest Preserve in order to maintain and protect it and provide for public recreational activities, provided that tree cutting does not occur ‘to a substantial extent’ or ‘to a material degree.’ The court reaffirmed the forever wild clause and past legal decisions and precedents when it determined that cutting of about 25,000 trees to build a network of Class II trails was unconstitutional and violated standards that have been in place for decades.

“There are many ways that the state agencies responsible for managing the Adirondack and Catskill Parks provide access for the public to enjoy these special places. Nevertheless, as the Court has confirmed, the avenues that the State provides for accessing the Forest Preserve cannot violate the Constitution’s ‘forever wild’ clause. The public has retained its ability to decide the fate of the Forest Preserve through the constitutional amendment process,” said Claudia Braymer, an attorney for Protect the Adirondacks.

The Impact of the Court Decision on Forest Preserve Management

Today’s decision will not prevent trail crews in the Adirondacks from building or maintaining hiking trails, mountain bike trails, and other trails. The amount of tree cutting needed for narrow foot trails is significantly less than the amount needed for wide Class II snowmobile trails. There simply are not foot trails in the Adirondack Forest Preserve that require cutting 700 to 1,000 trees of 1” DBH or greater per mile during construction or maintenance. A well-designed hiking trail weaves between trees, avoids critical habitats, and follows the contours of the land. Class II trails remove high amounts of trees and require long straight sections where motor vehicles can operate safely at high rates of speed.

The Cuomo administration has made the expansion of motor vehicle use in the Forest Preserve one of its biggest priorities in the Adirondack Park, pushing longstanding policies and laws to the breaking point. Today, we see clearly in the decision by New York’s highest court that the Cuomo administration broke the law. Hopefully, this decision will put the brakes on the Governor and his state agencies. There are a wide variety of public recreational activities that can be facilitated on the Forest Preserve, but they must be managed in a way that complies with the State Constitution and the forever wild clause. It’s time for the Cuomo administration and the DEC and APA to get back on the right side of forever wild.

Protect the Adirondacks looks forward to working with the administration to update DEC and APA’s policies and procedures to ensure that future state activities on the Forest Preserve comply with the Constitution.

Photo: Peter Bauer measures a snowmobile trail near Newcomb. Photo by Mike Lynch/Adirondack Explorer, file photo. This release was provided by Peter Bauer, Protect the Adirondacks. The information, views and opinions expressed by these various authors are not necessarily those of the Adirondack Almanack or its publisher, the Adirondack Explorer.

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85 Responses

  1. Boreasfisher says:

    Thank you Protect, ADK Wild, and all the others who made this possible….I am more than a little surprised…it could not come at a better time… I am jubilant!

  2. Joan Grabe says:

    This is a wonderful decision and another example of overreach by our governor to please a really small part of our population who have sufficient terrain upon which to recreate. It is depressing to think that eternal vigilance on the part of environmental non profits is the price that has to be paid to force governmental agencies to step up to the plate and protect the environment.

    • lauren pereau says:

      I don’t know how the people of the Adirondack’s ever survived without people from other places, telling them how to live.

      • Onno Oerlemans says:

        That’s what it means to live in a park, though. It’s a place that the whole state has an interest in, by definition, and by history. If you don’t like that, you could move to a heavily forested place that isn’t in a park.

  3. Phil Fitzpatrick says:

    Huge kudos to PA. Well done. Thank you all.

  4. Peter R. Borrelli says:

    Congratulations to Protect for standing its ground on this issue. The court has cleared the way for an intelligent and environmentally sensitive management program for the Forest Preserve ongoing.

  5. Tom Kligerman says:

    The Ct of Appeals used a very sensible approach in their reasoning – if a constitutional amendment was necessary for ORDA to widen ski trails at Whiteface and Gore (arguably already much disturbed areas), then certainly a constitutional amendment is required to create snowmobile trails in relatively undisturbed forest preserve, especially considering that snowmobile trails require design standards for high speed vehicles and clearance for grading equipment. The maintenance of existing and yes, even the occasional addition of the footpaths we all use and enjoy (muddy or not) are UNaffected by this clarification of MacDonald, Balsam Lake and the 127 years of Article 14.

  6. Boreas says:

    Kudos to the Court for bringing some common sense to the meaning of “timber” WRT Article 14.

    Kudos to Protect and others involved with bringing the case against at least ONE of this administration’s policies.

    Now let’s move on, put an end to DEC’s hissy fit moratorium, and get back to proper and legal trail work.

  7. Steve Signell says:

    Excellent news. So my question is this: will the state now be required to remediate the miles of (now illegal) Class II trail they’ve already built?

    • Ben says:

      No, at the time those trails were built they were LEGAL!!!!!!!!

      • Dale Jeffers says:

        How so?

        • Ben says:

          NO trail were built in violation of the law. The issue in question was not settled until yesterday, so you CANNOT go back & try to apply it to trails already built. This whole court case was about the size of trees to be cut in THE FUTURE to build trails, not about the size of trees cut in the past! How far back do you want to whine about this! I hope the DEC figures out how to go after you trail knuckleheads!

          • Dale Jeffers says:

            I think that you would find that a course in Constitutional Law would be enlightening

            • Martin Ivan says:

              The State, DEC, should be required to replant the trees they cut and return the trail to the wild.

              • Gary Broderick says:

                And should be required to restore the trails that were closed after adoption o f the ‘plan’. Moving trails back into remote areas of the park, as opposed to out of those areas, as was agreed upon to make community connector trails, which are a lifeblood for towns within the park, especially in the winter. If anyone goes out and tries to cut or fix up hiking trails, they will also be in violation of the law……

                • Ben says:

                  Yep, we should go back after those old logging roads. No trees need to be cut down, a bit of grading & some culverts & we’d have ready made snowmobile trails.

  8. Zephyr says:

    Fantastic decision!

  9. David Pietkiewicz says:

    I feel strongly that the “Forever Wild” Designation should be revised to include management of our forests particularly for wildlife (perhaps timber as well but I’m not completely sure on that). Also some snowmobile trails should be permitted. I love the Adirondacks but feel they can be better managed and utilized by “we, the people”.

  10. Bob Meyer says:

    YES!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
    Thank you to The New York State Court of Appeals, our “Supreme Court,”
    for upholding the Forever Wild Clause {Article 14 , Section 1} of our Constitution!

  11. Joseph M. Dash says:

    Congratulations! Protect the Adirondacks once again emerges as THE major guardian of Article 14. Nice going.

  12. daniel f. vellone says:

    Too bad the ruling doesn’t extend to the trails that were obscenely widened in the past, not for the passage of snowmobiles, but for high speeds.

  13. louis curth says:

    The decision of the Court of Appeals that “community connector” snowmobile trails are in violation of the Forever Wild Clause should be seen as a welcome return to common sense regarding the protection of our unique and fragile Forest Preserve.

    The modest snowmobile trails across Forest Preserve lands that I worked on as a young ranger back in the 1960s were deemed allowable because snowmobiles only operated when the land was covered with ice and snow. It was a flimsy interpretation even back then, and it made me uncomfortable to be part of it. What followed was far worse!

    Over the next half century, that chink in the forever wild armor has been stretched like a rubber band to wink at ever more trail refinements to accomodate the bigger, faster and more dangerous snowmobiles that are being promoted successfully by the industry. Sadly, those early, low horsepower, slow moving snowmobiles that hosted many a family outing back then, are out of favor and mostly forgotten nowadays.

    Perhaps this ruling by the Court of Appeals might offer an opportunity for all sides to come together and take a fresh look at our precious Forest Preserve, away from the glare of partisan agendas. Can we maintain effective protection for our future generations, and yet accommodate reasonable public activities which will not erode the integrity of this unique natural resource? It would be a challenge, but worthy of the undertaking.

    • treeman says:

      It wasn’ that long ago, we were debating the classification of the boreas Ponds area. The environmentalist’s campaigned on the idea, that unless that was classifed as Wilderness, all the way to the blacktop, the whole park was doomed.
      There’s two sides to every case. Somewhere in the middle, lies the truth.

      • Dana says:

        There certainly is no “truth” in your characterization of the environmentalists’ campaign. So let’s stick to facts.

    • Boreas says:

      Great point! The snowmobile trail network was essentially built on a house of cards. Eventually, a constitutional amendment will be sought – why not start a reasonable dialog between ALL stakeholders now?

      • Peter Kaminski says:

        Thousands of acres being clearcut by loggers who leave destruction where ever they cut vNothings being done about that but they worry about a few snowmobiles! This State is pathetic.

        • Todd Eastman says:

          Ya got a lot to learn, lad…🙄

          • Gary Broderick says:

            Right. Estimate of one acre, per mile (27 miles). Out of how many acres in the Park? How many? If you have something to contribute, contribute, otherwise, be silent while people talk.

            • Lillian says:

              Nothing like silencing people who do not agree with you. As Boreas said let’s “start a reasonable dialog between ALL stakeholders”…we all stand to learn something if we can just LISTEN to each other. It’s become a lost art…

  14. Keep up the good work, Peter!

  15. Todd Miller says:

    Bravo Protect the Adirondacks! The outcome of the court decision clearly follows the intent of the founders of the Forever Wild Clause of the Constitution. Shame on the Cuomo Administration and the NYSDEC. I’m also disappointed in the ADK Mtn Club for not supporting Protect the Adirondacks, it seems to me that that would have been a natural decision for that organization.

    • Phil Fitzpatrick says:

      Well said, Todd.

      • lauren pereau says:

        ADK recognized the unintended consequences of this restriction. Trail building, that needs doing, just got more difficult.

        • Boreas says:

          Nonsense. No one is suggesting building hiking trails anything like connector trails.

          • Gary Broderick says:

            The ruling says all, regardless of size is a considered a tree/timber. Based on this ruling, you cannot cut anything on public land now. A foolish, short-sighted ruling. Have to make sure there is a law enforcement presence stopping any hiking trail building or maintenance.

            The law of unintended consequences in action.

            • Boreas says:

              Did you read the decision? Starting around Page 12, here is just a snippet:

              “On a more pragmatic note, there are approximately 2,000 miles of hiking trails in the Preserve. Because maintenance of those trails requires the clearing of seedlings and saplings, as well as side cutting (see United States Department of Agriculture, United States Forest Service, Trail Construction & Maintenance Notebook, Clearing and Brushing; Removing Trees, https://www.fs.fed.us/t-d/pubs/htmlpubs/htm07232806/page07.htm [accessed Apr. 9, 2021]), adoption of plaintiff’s interpretation of the term “timber” to include seedlings and saplings would disincentivize trail maintenance and thereby unreasonably increase the risk to the millions of people who use the Preserve each year. Any interpretation of the constitutional provision that would discourage the maintenance of existing facilities for the public would be contrary to our recognition in MacDonald that the “Forest Preserve and the Adirondack Park within it are for the reasonable use and benefit of the public” and that “the use of the park by campers and those who seek solitude of the north woods” is entirely appropriate (253 NY at 240-241).
              3″

              The lawsuit and decision are regarding connector trail construction, not every maintenance/building activity in the park

        • Todd Miller says:

          Maybe the question shouldn’t be What is the easiest way to maintain trails? Rather it should be– what is the right way?

        • Peter Bauer says:

          Lauren:

          I feel that ADK is being dishonest with its membership. Please ask for on-the-ground examples of where ADK needs to remove nearly 1,000 trees per mile that are 1″ DBH (4.5 feet high) or greater in order to build or maintain a hiking trail. It’s time for ADK to back up its accusations. Perhaps you could help with that. Seems to me that any hiking trail that requires destruction of 1,000 trees 1″ DBH or greater per mile is not a “sustainable” trail.

          • Bill Ingersoll Bill Ingersoll says:

            Peter,

            Here are some examples of excessive tree cutting conducted by DEC directly related to trail, lean-to, and bridge maintenance / construction:

            https://adirondackwilderness.org/wilderness-drop-zones/

            These activities are not approved by ADK or any other conservation group so far as I know, but they have been vigorously defended by DEC. This is above and beyond the mere clearing of a few saplings to make way for foot paths.

        • Jim S. says:

          I was a long time member of ADK and left because of their support of those trails.

          • Jim, It has always been the case that the major environmental organizations ( especially the ADK and the Ass. for the Protection of the Adirondacks) have had fierce debates within their ranks – over Toboggan runs (Olympics – 1932), Closed Cabin Amendment, Hewitt Reforestation Amendment – a.k.a. Tree Cutting Amendment, truck trails and ski trails (1930’s) and in the construction of the Northway (1950’s). It is high time someone did a history of the stance taken by these large, influential organizations. Even more important, however, would be to do a study of the leadership within the DEC (a.k.a Conservation Department). Many of these conflicts are documented and illustrated in the Apperson archives (at the Kelly Adirondack Center and also available in a digital archive under construction by yours truly, Ellen Apperson Brown). It is high time that scholars get access to the documents that have been preserved, especially since government archives often do not have any records of the political struggles going on, back in the day. I am convinced that Robert Moses controlled the policies and actions of the state with regard to promoting development throughout the park. This story is also fully illustrated by what happened at Lake George, as John Apperson had to be a watchdog and whistleblower concerning the state’s stewardship (and neglect) of the constitution in its management of the state-owned islands and shores. I’m glad that Protect is stimulating this debate!

  16. Emil K says:

    Better not see any new hiking trails being built. Us snowmobilers pay a lot of money each year to enjoy our hobby while the hiking community pays ….

    • Ben says:

      If I was the DEC, I would close a lot of land to any activity now! No new hiking trails!

    • John says:

      Right? We should weigh all activities in the Park based on how much money the users pay each year. This is the correct analysis, not looking to the state constitution.

    • Zephyr says:

      There are a thousand times more hikers and snowshoers than snowmobilers. These hikers probably pay at least a thousand times more in state taxes than snowmobilers do. Snowmobilers enjoy the same rights in the public forest preserve as the rest of us, but no more. There are already thousands of miles of snowmobile trails in New York State.

      • Ben says:

        let’s see what was the last reported income that snowmobilers generated in the ADK each year. I believe it was around 245 Million? How much do hikers generate. And if you question that figure go read the a report generated in 2011 when NYSSA tasked the SUNY Potsdam Institute for Applied Research NYSSA to undertake an economic assessment of snowmobiling on the New York State economy. Based on the nearly 6,000 responses, the assessment determined that snowmobiling delivers an economic impact of $868 million annually. Broken down by region, snowmobiling has an economic impact of $245 million in the Adirondacks, $165 million in the Tug Hill and $163 million in Central New York. The study showed that snowmobilers spend an average of 22 days on the trails each season, with 8.5 days being spent in another region of the state from where they reside.
        Now I am sure you’ll whine that snowmobiling has declined in the last few years, but even if that were true, we still generate more revenue than you hikers can ever do!

        • Todd Miller says:

          Protecting the Adirondacks and rights to conduct activities in the Park has nothing to do with who are the cash cows. This isn’t even a debatable point. The cash cows of 1800s (the lumber and mining barons) nearly destroyed the Adirondacks. That was why reasonable minds decided enact Article 14 in the State Constitution, so that monetary interests aren’t the driving force to protect this special place.

          Todd

        • John says:

          This “survey” was paid for, designed by and targeted at members of the New York State Snowmobile Association. The survey mixed online self-reporting and targeted mailings. Even if you ignore any difficulties with the methodology, there is no finding in the survey of the specific amount of dollars that snowmobilers spent in the Adirondacks. The 245 million dollar amount appears no where in the study. The main expenditures captured by the study were made in the respondents’ home communities (trailer expenses, insurance, etc.). Sure, everyone that travels to the Adirondacks spends some money. To draw any further conclusions from this “survey” would be in error.

        • Gary Broderick says:

          Actually, we had quite the surge in memberships and registrations this recently finished season. And costs have not gone down (especially since January when gas prices started shooting upwards). Very simply, the towns in the Adirondacks know that snowmobiling is the lifeblood that keeps them alive during the winter.

          We agreed to the ‘Plan’ years ago and started removing trails form the remote interior in exchange for building community connector trails. We accepted far fewer miles under the ‘plan’. SO, now, should we re-open those trails since the ‘plan’ has now been dashed by the overzealousness of the New York Court system?

          BTW, hiking trails? No more maintenance-cannot cut any trees. NONE, based on this ruling…..the citizens of New York State should be able to use the park they pay for, but they cannot because of the short -sightedness of people like Bauer and his ilk.

          • John says:

            I think that a good rule for comment boards would be that professional advocates/lobbyists should disclose that information when posting. If you are being paid for your point of view, perhaps we should consider that when reading your comments.

          • What organization are you referring to?

            • Zephyr says:

              A Gary Broderick was president of the NY State Snowmobile Association. Don’t know if this commenter is one and the same.

          • Dave G. says:

            > BTW, hiking trails? No more maintenance-cannot cut any trees.
            > NONE, based on this ruling…..

            To put it bluntly, this is simply not true. It’s a serious misunderstanding of the court ruling. Anyone who thinks it might be true should please read either the court ruling itself, or the last section of the article that we’re supposed to be commenting about here. See the subtitle “The Impact of the Court Decision on Forest Preserve Management”.

            Saying that this decision allows no tree cutting — “NONE” — makes about as much sense as saying that a 25mph speed limit sign on a road means you’re only allowed to stand still on it.

            Well… the DEC just got pulled over for speeding (so to speak).
            The court has reminded us that everyone really does have to follow the existing rules.

            Hiking trail maintenance can continue as usual — that’s not really the issue.

            The issue is that the DEC really significantly exceeded its authority, in its negotiations about these connector trails. It seems to have promised to do things that it can’t legally do.

            A Constitutional amendment would make DEC able to cut these connector trails legally after all — but Constitutional amendments are much easier said than done, on a controversial issue like this one!

            It’s too bad that things got to this point, with various stakeholders negotiating in good faith and then not getting what they were promised — but it wasn’t the courts who made those over-ambitious promises.

  17. Boreasfisher says:

    see Chicago Manual of Style, 2017, 14.1.

  18. Ryan Finnigan says:

    So proud to be a member of Protect the Adirondacks!!! Cheers to a job well done by all involved from the leadership, legal counsels, administrators and interns! Thank you so much!

  19. Vanessa Banti Vanessa says:

    Well, that’s that, isn’t it? Honestly it seems reasonable enough. Ditto re the extra care to define timber, and I’m glad that “forever wild” still holds the clout it should. I think Protect also won the PR competition, because the DEC and ADK were never super clear (until very late in the game, anyway, and only ADK) as to how this would effect hiking trail maintenance. As in, the majority of the public wasn’t won on their side.

    I love the ADKs for the lack of motorized access, so hopefully it will continue to stay this way.

  20. Gary Broderick says:

    What a foolish decision. Snowmobilers and towns agreed with the plan to move existing snowmobile trails out of remote areas to accommodate the wild forests in exchange for community connector trails (life lines for these towns during the winter and fewer miles than before the ‘plan’). So, do we go back and open up all those trails again because the court ruled against the agreed upon plan? Additionally, based on this ruling, there will be NO tree cutting for any recreational reason on state owned lands in the park-so if we see hikers clearing ‘hiking trails’ will they be subject to arrest? Based on this foolish ruling, every piece of greenery that pokes up through the ground is now considered a tree/timber. A win for Bauer is a loss for everyone else in the park.

  21. Charlie Stehlin says:

    Zephyr says: “Snowmobilers enjoy the same rights in the public forest preserve as the rest of us…”

    Yeah but why, if they do? There was no such thing as snowmobiles when our forefathers wrote the NY State Constitution. Little did them great thinkers realize that somewhere down the road noisy, polluting contraptions could be deployed roughshod over that landscape they so loved! Snowmobiles are noisy, they pollute, they take away the magical charm “silence” which some of us go to the woods ever-seeking. Plus those corridors could possibly become convenient vectors for aliens, or invasive species, which are surely going to become more frequent as the Earth continues cooking due to the very source that snowmobiles emit…carbon emissions, contrary to what the anti-science crowd has been spouting.

    Thank you Peter for all your efforts. Surely you feel like like the lone stranger sometimes in what you do, which is generally utilizing that wonderful gift of yours, and which is a major deficit in a good chunk of this society…..foresight.

  22. Charlie Stehlin says:

    Ben says: “snowmobiling has an economic impact of $245 million in the Adirondacks, $165 million in the Tug Hill and $163 million in Central New York.”

    It shouldn’t always be about dollar amounts Ben. What’s more important….short-term pleasures, or what’s left of our eco-systems here on planet Earth? What’s more important…us or future generations? Therein our problems always lie…dollar amounts! We’re a pitiful excuse for good stewards of the Earth….if that is what we’re supposed to be, which we’re not!

    • Ben says:

      You whine over a few trees being cut down to build trails, so that the local towns in the area can survive in the winter when the snowmobilers who generate millions of dollars every year in the ADK come thru. I’ll take supporting the towns in the ADK, over protecting a few trees!

      I guess the DECF will just have to go amending the State Constitution route then. It ain’t over till the fat lady sings & she is just getting warmed up!

  23. Charlie Stehlin says:

    “The cash cows of 1800s (the lumber and mining barons) nearly destroyed the Adirondacks….”

    Yes Todd! And if it weren’t for people with vision such as our Peter Bauer……. the same would come to fruit. Maybe not in an outright way like what those butcher barons of our past induced, but in a more subtle, slow, incremental way, which would have eventually resulted in the same end result. Maybe worse what with all the issues we have today compared to then, including global warming and all of the environmental crises combined! There’s looking ahead and there’s seeing only day to day, or what we confront in our mirrors on a daily basis. It matters who we are and what we think, especially regards how that thinking effects others, effects the environment, or this whole earth, because after all….this Earth is the only home we know.

  24. Charlie Stehlin says:

    Gary Broderick says: “Very simply, the towns in the Adirondacks know that snowmobiling is the lifeblood that keeps them alive during the winter.”

    Money is the lifeblood Gary! Not snowmobiling. Like it is everywhere else….money! Maybe if we were a little (or a lot) more creative we can figure this out, keep everybody going, keep ecosystems thriving and pure, without having to continually destroy what’s left all so that a few may benefit while taking away from the rest. So that maybe our grandkids can experience the same things we were able to experience before they were took away….and which now are but fond memories only!

  25. Charlie Stehlin says:

    Gary Broderick says: “the citizens of New York State should be able to use the park they pay for, but they cannot because of the short -sightedness of people like Bauer and his ilk….”

    Peter short-sighted? Your values are different Gary, which isn’t a bad thing as much as what may come out of the policies due to those values, and which you may not even be aware of. Some people love the smell of oil and gas, so much that they would love to see wells sprouted up on every which acre…..to the detriment of those who see value in trees and clean water, bees and flowers. Some of us see the Cosmic forces in play with long-departed souls such as Thoreau, while others see not even an inkling of good in that most wonderful of souls. We’re all different, and just because things don’t go the way we always wish them to, this doesn’t mean it’s a bad thing, only that we see things in a different light, which can go either way good or bad. Unfortunately, a space in time, oftentimes a generation or two, has to pass before reality comes to light! Take the Iraq War per instance!

  26. Peter zubal says:

    Let’s see, 27 acres of roughly 3,000,000 acres is ooooo8666 percent of the area that is “destroyed”
    A rough estimate if the number off trees per acre may be as high as a few thousand, including mature thru seedling individuals.
    Using only 1000 per acre that is 3 billion trees
    Again an almost less than miniscule number

    • Boreas says:

      You aren’t seeing the forest for the trees.

      If the trees being destroyed were evenly distributed over the FP, your reasoning would be somewhat more valid. But if you were allowed to fly a drone over a connector trail vs. a hiking trail, you would see a night and day difference. A clearcut gash vs. a winding thread barely visible. The same holds for wildlife, soils, and sub-surface flora and fauna. All contribute to maintain a healthy forest. A 12′ gash fragments a forest as any other road would.

      • Charlie Stehlin says:

        Boreas! You can explain aways till the end of our days, but when your talking to anybody who relies on a puppet moreso than a scientist….your efforts will be in vain.

        • Boreas says:

          Charlie,

          As you know, the Forest Preserve can’t defend itself. I have gotten much enjoyment from the FP – I consider it my duty to help defend it where I can, even if it involves tilting at windmills.

          • Charlie Stehlin says:

            I always felt you to be of the right mind over the years by your comments here Boreas, which has less to do with me being in agreement with you as it does with me knowing right from wrong!

  27. Cary Fassler says:

    Ya–I think we can do without the oily fumes and screamingly loud/obnoxious noise of snowmobiles in the public’s Forever Wild.

  28. Charlie Stehlin says:

    ” I’ll take supporting the towns in the ADK, over protecting a few trees!”

    Of course you will Ben! Yours is a legitimate gripe, and I’m not whining by the way. But what if there were no snowmobile’s or snowmobiler’s? Where would they get the money from then? And at what cost? And whom or what would pay the price? Times-they-are-a-changing and I think we’re way overdue to get our thinker’s a-changing too….so that maybe fifty years from now those yet-to-be scholars will be growing up with some kind of hope, not just for them but for what’s left of what will surely be a much more fragmented and fragile ecosystem also. And on and on we go spinning our mortal webs…without any thought whatsoever of futurity.

    A snowmobile we can do without. Trees! That’s a whole new ballgame altogether. My dad once or thrice used to tell me…”If you can’t replace you have no right to destroy it!” I miss the old man! I miss his wisdom and his clear-headed thinking which didn’t always come with his generation either!

  29. Eric says:

    Really people shouldn’t be allowed into the Adirondacks , think of how many plants , insects , even frogs and toads are stepped on annually. Just thinking about it makes me tear up.

  30. Todd Miller says:

    Maybe this line of comments should end. It appears the discussions has disintegrated into meaningless and sarcastic statements such as this.

  31. Charlie Stehlin says:

    Yep…let us be sarcastic and stick to our apathetic, narrow views and let’s not talk about this anymore because what doesn’t benefit man and his short-term pleasures at the expense of all else is all just so meaningless talking about. 

  32. Charlie Stehlin says:

    “”If you can’t replace you have no right to destroy it!” ……….

    ……….was meant to read ”If you can’t replace it you have no right to destroy it!”
    I hereby clarify!

  33. Hi all, there seems to be a few newcomers to this site in this thread, so posing our commenting policy as a reference: https://www.adirondackalmanack.com/commenting-policy. I had to remove some comments that were out of line (thanks to those who flagged them!), so just a reminder to keep the conversation civil and respectful.

  34. Craig Catalano says:

    Please change the constitution. There is room for everything.

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