Wednesday, December 8, 2021

NYSDEC’s Management Fiasco in the High Peaks Wilderness Area

A very strange thing happened this fall in the High Peaks Wilderness Area. The Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) worked for weeks in 2021 with heavy machinery to rebuild an old logging road in the Dudley Brook area of the MacIntyre East section of the High Peaks Wilderness. This is the same area where the DEC had worked for months in 2019 and 2020 to tear apart old logging roads. However, the DEC says they’re not rebuilding the road; they say they’re simply correcting a massive mistake that somehow its leaders in Albany had failed to notice for the last two years.

This is one of the strangest things I’ve seen in Forest Preserve management at the DEC in the last two decades.

In 2019, DEC approved a work plan to do something new and different. The DEC set out in 2019 and 2020 to expedite ecological restoration and reclaim a series of old logging roads in newly purchased and newly classified lands in the MacIntyre East section of the High Peaks Wilderness. These lands are on the south side of the Opalescent River, include the southwestern flanks of Allen Mountain, and are bordered by conservation easement lands and a Primitive Corridor logging road. Since DEC work plans are not published, and since this is a trailless section of the High Peaks Wilderness where public access is difficult, involving a deep ford of the Opalescent River, we did not learn about this work right away. We had heard about similar road reclamation work in the Boreas Ponds area, but public access to that area has been limited and restricted in recent months.

There are many old logging roads in Wilderness Areas, such as the Burn Road in the William C. Whitney Area, among many others, that see slow change over the decades as the forest steadily, but incrementally, eats away at them and reclaims these roadways. Many of these old roads retain old culverts and human geometric forms from benchcuts, banking, grading, and borrow pits, among other road construction features, for decades. In the MacIntyre East and Boreas Ponds areas, DEC organized work crews in 2019 and 2020 to tear apart these road corridors, and build a series of pits and mounds (see below) that mimic the natural forest, with the objective of changing the long linear geometry of these road corridors and expediting forest reclamation. (Click here for pictures of abandoned roadways where pits and mounds were built to restore the road corridor.) This work covered nearly 20 miles total of abandoned roads.

A section of ecologically reclaimed road.

The DEC reversed course suddenly, and without any public notice, at some point in 2021, DEC leaders in Albany did an about-face. After field visits, DEC’s Albany team organized a new effort to go back in to the old logging roads and tear out the mounds and fill in the pits. This effort had the effect of reconstituting a roadway. DEC leaders say that rebuilding a roadway was not their aim. Their objective, they contend, was to correct mistakes made in 2019 and 2020 that had escaped their notice, to protect water quality and public safety, and improve forest regeneration.

Protect the Adirondacks saw the restoration work on the abandoned logging roads around Dudley Brook, and similar work that was undertaken on the Boreas Ponds area, as an ambitious and positive management action by the DEC. We not only see the DEC’s decision to reverse course and reconstitute these roads as illegal, but also as fundamentally poor Wilderness policy and management. We had looked forward to monitoring the restoration of these abandoned roads into healthy and robust forests in the years and decades ahead. We were very interested in contrasting the new forest in these areas with other abandoned roads in Wilderness areas left to benign neglect.

When I initially hiked in to the Dudley Brook area to see this work, starting at the Mount Adams/Allen Mountain parking area on the Tahawus Road, on November 11th, the DEC had taken out about a dozen pits and mounds and put in a temporary culvert and bridge to support its heavy machinery. (Click here to see pictures of DEC’s heavy machinery.) DEC had stockpiled machinery and supplies at a log landing along the Primitive Corridor that cuts through that section of Wilderness and connects conservation easement lands, one part long leased by the Opalescent Club. A follow-up trip on November 21st found that 51 pits and mounds (see picture below) had been removed along a 0.83-mile stretch of the abandoned road. The DEC’s work was clearly returning this roadway to a condition that makes it accessible for motor vehicles. (Click here for pictures where the DEC has torn out pits and mounds and rebuilt the road.) DEC’s current work has made this abandoned roadway once again into a wide, flat road. DEC has supposedly stopped for the season and pulled its heavy machines out of the Wilderness area. I’m told that DEC has reconstituted more than one mile of the abandoned and reclaimed roadway.

A section of reconstituted roadway, where pits and mounds were removed.

The DEC rebuffed our concerns and argued that the work it’s doing now is simply to correct mistakes made by DEC staff in 2019-20 that somehow escaped the notice of senior DEC officials in Albany for two years until they discovered problems in the late summer of 2021. They say that the faulty restoration work must be dismantled in order to protect water quality, protect public safety, and facilitate revegetation. DEC’s rationales seem fanciful.

Our field assessments on November 11th and the 21st did not find water quality or public safety issues. We have a hard time accepting these as rational or reasonable explanations to justify the work underway. The reality of the situation, as it appears to us, is that the DEC is reconstituting and rebuilding a roadway in a Wilderness area, which is a direct violation of the Adirondack Park State Land Master Plan. This rebuilt roadway will be accessible for use by motor vehicles and this illegal incursion and non-conforming use will remain in the High Peaks Wilderness Area for the foreseeable future.

Let’s look at water quality. Many places among the hundreds of places where work was done in 2019-20 to reclaim the roadway resembled large waterbars, similar to over-sized waterbars on Class II Community Connector Snowmobile Trails and wide trunk trails in the Forest Preserve. We fail to see how DEC’s new work, where mounds over a water trench were dismantled and the roadway was flattened on both sides of a new trench is either a correction or an improvement in water quality protection.

If this is DEC’s new water quality protection standard for the Forest Preserve, we’re left to wonder about the thousands of other places across the Forest Preserve, including a dozen areas on the trail to Allen Mountain from the Mount Adams trailhead parking area that is used to access the MacIntyre East site, where poor trail management has led to far worse water quality issues and habitat degradation. The water quality claim is without merit.

Let’s look at public safety. DEC leaders claim that the pits and mounds on the reclaimed roadways are a public safety hazard. DEC argues that lost hikers utilize old roads in the Forest Preserve, such as those in the MacIntyre East area, to find their way out. The DEC argues that the reclaimed roads are dangerous and difficult to walk upon, and because they were intentionally constructed by the DEC they raise a liability issue. These arguments strain credulity. First, this part of the MacIntyre East area is currently a trailless area. Public access is very difficult and requires a ford of a major river. Second, traversing the pits and mounds on reclaimed roads is far easier than bushwhacking through forest dominated by younger trees. Third, the State Land Master Plan does not authorize retaining roadways in Wilderness areas for public safety. Fourth, the liability concerns are not credible. The public safety claim is without merit.

Let’s look at forest regeneration. DEC also states that the reclamation work had failed because no trees had grown on the mounds within the last two years. The soils in the reclaimed roadway, where prodigious amounts of gravel and sand have been used over the years, can hardly be seen as optimum soils for tree growth. Moreover, these areas were heavily disturbed and mounds of mineral soils will take years to see tree growth. The DEC knows this. There are many upslopes on wide benchcuts on Class II Community Connector Snowmobile Trails that were built in 2011-2015 on the Seventh Lake Mountain Trail and Harris Lake Trail that have not regrown trees in years in far more fecund soils. Given that it’s been only two years at the longest point in time where the first mounds were built, that’s hardly adequate time for forest regeneration. Moreover, if tree growth is a concern of DEC leaders, a crew with shovels could easily transplant into the new mounds in the center of the roadway thousands of small trees that have grown up on the edges of the roadways. We also note that the older restored sections from 2019 show more vegetation than the sections restored in 2020. The forest restoration claim is without merit.

We also question the vast expense that the work to reverse ecological restoration and reconstitute a road is costing New York State taxpayers.

For years I’ve heard DEC staff in Albany complain about the DEC staff in the field. For years I heard DEC staff in the field complain about DEC staff in Albany and the throngs of political appointees who work there. DEC in Albany claims they simply did not know what was going on in 2019 and 2020. That raises questions about management and oversight at the very least, if not competence.

The reality is that DEC leaders in Albany have taken over this project and are undoing the ecological reclamation work. They are adamant that what will remain on the ground after the big machines stop their work will not be a road. Yet, to my eye (and click here for pictures of DEC’s recent work and judge for yourself) what the DEC is doing now sure looks a lot like a road, cuts through the forest like a road, lays across the land like a road, and functions like a forest road. It’s hard to believe that what will remain after all is said and done will continue to look like, and possibly be used as, a road for years to come.

More important, this is a dirt road in a Wilderness area, in arguably the most important Wilderness area in the Northeast U.S. And we all know that roads have no place in a Wilderness area.

This is a big moment for the Adirondack Park Agency. We saw a new change at the top in Albany that is supposedly ushering in a new respect for the rule of law and transparency in state government. Will the APA uphold the Adirondack Park State Land Master Plan’s prohibition on roads in Wilderness areas? Will the APA buy the DEC lines about corrective actions, water quality, public safety and forest regeneration? Will the APA show newfound independence?  Click here to see our letter to the APA calling for a full investigation.

To its credit, the APA says it has opened an enforcement investigation into the DEC’s work on this roadway in the High Peaks Wilderness. We’ll all be interested to see their report. It’s been a long time, many years, since the APA has managed to hold the DEC accountable for Forest Preserve management violations. But at one time, the APA did it on a regular basis. The APA staff and Board may want to dust off those files and relearn how such things were done.

This episode is a headscratcher. This episode shows a Department of Environmental Conservation that is in conflict with itself, that does not know what it thinks on fundamental Forest Preserve management issues, and has major operational problems when senior officials in Albany can’t manage to get out in the field for two years to check in on a novel cutting-edge project. It shows a state agency that spends tens of thousands of dollars on ecological restoration work to remove roadways in Wilderness lands one year and then spends tens of thousands of dollars the next year to undo that very same restoration work and reconstitute a road in Wilderness lands.

No matter how one tries to spin it, this is a NYS Department of Environmental Conservation management fiasco.

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Peter Bauer is the Executive Director of Protect the Adirondacks. He has been working in various capacities on Adirondack Park environmental issues since the mid-1980s, including stints as the Executive Director of the Residents' Committee to Protect the Adirondacks and FUND for Lake George as well as on the staff of the Commission on the Adirondacks in the Twenty-First Century. He was the co-founder of the Adirondack Lake Assessment Program (ALAP) in 1998, which has collected long-term water quality data on more than 75 Adirondack lakes and ponds. He has testified before the State Legislature, successfully advocated to pass legislation and budget items, authored numerous articles, op-eds, and reports such as "20% in 2023: An Assessment of the New York State 30 by 30 Act" (2023), "The Adirondack Park and Rural America: Economic and Population Trends 1970-2010" (2019), "The Myth of Quiet, Motor-free Waters in the Adirondack Park" (2013), and "Rutted and Ruined: ATV Damage on the Adirondack Forest Preserve" (2003) and "Growth in the Adirondack Park: Analysis of Rates and Patterns of Development" (2001). He also worked at Adirondack Life Magazine. He served as Chair of the Town of Lake George Zoning Board of Appeals and has served on numerous advisory boards for management of the Adirondack Park and Forest Preserve. Peter lives in Blue Mountain Lake with his wife, has two grown children out in the world, and enjoys a wide variety of outdoor recreational activities throughout the Adirondacks, and is a member of the Blue Mountain Lake volunteer fire department.Follow Protect the Adirondacks on Facebook and Threads.

67 Responses

  1. Joe Hansen says:

    It seems that just one lame excuse for rebuilding the road was not enough so many lame excuses were proposed instead. Adults realize that makes the response LESS credible.

    • Chris savarie says:

      In spite of what Peter would like you to believe, there was no logical reason for the roads to be destroyed to the extent that they were. There was a lot of resource wasted and very little was being done on the Gulf Brook road during this period. 2 yrs after the storm and the road is currently closed to everyone including pedestrians.It is troubling that all this work was being done without the approval from higher-ups in Albany. The ones responsible for making these decisions need to be held accountable.

  2. Rick says:

    Time after time it is an Adirondack environmental group that uncovers DEC mismanagement and sometimes actual unlawful action in the Forest Preserve. It is beyond frustrating that these incidents continue to occur, because of either negligent or non-existent oversight.

  3. Tony Goodwin says:

    I was incredulous when I saw the initial work being done in 2020 – both for the obvious expense of it and the fact that these old roads would have grown in naturally in relatively few years. Witness the road on the west side of the Opalescent that as of 2001 was a two-lane gravel “highway” for salvage logging operations after Hurricane Floyd in 1999. Now it is a narrow trail with only an incongruous gate still in place as a reminder that this was once a road. Last spring, I also hiked the lumber roads in the William C. Whitney Wilderness Area, and those too are naturally narrowing to trails from the wide gravel roads that they were at the time of state acquisition.

    But the fact that the DEC is now reversing some of that work is even more inexplicable. I do know that the Forest Rangers who participated in the search for the lost hiker on Allen Mt. in November, 2020 were very unhappy that the road could no longer be driven – something, like the use of snowmobiles on Mt. Marcy for a critical winter search, is permitted in wilderness areas when human life is at stake. I can only speculate that the ranger complaints may have been the “trigger” for this effort; but as Peter points out, it is clear that the DEC staff in Albany does not seem to know what the DEC staff in the Adirondacks is doing.

    I don’t know how much of an investigation into this work is justified. The most recent work just puts things back to where they were when the state acquired the property. Going forward, the natural regeneration will work its own “renaturalization” as it did on the other roads I mentioned above.

    • Eric says:

      This is exactly what I was thinking. They had that multi day search on Allen last year and they found that they couldn’t get in there with their trucks, six-wheeler, or snowmobiles. Must have been super frustrating having to walk all the way in there day after day with a human life at stake. Your point about the road on the other side is on point also. Used to be wider than the street I live on. Now it’s an arms length wide trail and that old gate kinda makes you say “oh yeah this used to be a road”. Just drop everything and leave it alone. Don’t flatten anything and don’t build back the mounds. Just let nature take its course. For my part I was planning on using those roads to mix up my regular winter trip to Allen this year (once the river freezes) so I’m kinda glad the mounds aren’t there. But jeez don’t build a freaking road again either. Sometimes the best thing to do is nothing.

  4. This is bizarre. DEC would not be committing to such an expensive project without have a good reason (to them). What could the road be used for?what could it connect to? Could it be used as a snowmobile trail?

    I have been in that area several time, both before Floyd, and after. I often wondered if they could open up an easier route to Allen Mountain. This may do that.

    Good article. Thank you for your vigilance.

    • Boreas says:


      I agree it is bizarre. As far as the possibilities you mention, remember that DEC can’t do squat until changes to the existing UMP plan have been agreed to and amended. DEC can’t unilaterally make “improvements” – regardless of the potential benefits. If the existing UMP of this Wilderness area dictates that buildings be removed and roads “naturalized”, then that is what they legally must carry out. As Peter says, it seems there is a significant disconnect between DEC in Albany and feet on the ground. I am popping my popcorn as we speak…

  5. ADK Camper says:

    I did a bit of exploring the roads around Allen this past Summer. I thought the attempt to “rewild” these roads by digging holes and leaving mounds of dirt was ridiculous and unsightly.

    For what it’s worth these roads lead to some scenic places. Also, the approach to Allen is in atrocious shape. Why not figure out a way to incorporate these old roads as a new trail to Allen? They’re way more sustainable than the current approach.

  6. ADKBCSkier says:

    I won’t bother with a lengthy rebuttal on this one. All I want is a huge dose of whatever drugs Pete Bauer took before writing this one.

    • mike says:

      Good idea. Don’t need your 2-cents anyway. Which drugs are you on that you believe you have any reason to rebut what is a legitimate piece about what is going on out there in the forest by taxpayer funded fools? Spare us all.

      • Pablo says:

        I’m sure you _don’t_ want an opposing point of view. I knew without looking at the byline that Peter Bauer wrote this. Legitimate piece? Peter has an agenda and he sticks to it.

        • Dana says:

          I am glad he does – who else is looking out for the Forest Preserve?

          • ADKBCSkier says:

            Given the fact that Bauer and his chummies over at Protect have actually been more detrimental to legitimate land conservation efforts than helpful, you could say virtually everyone is doing a better job than them.

            Next time you’re knees deep in some ADK bog of a trail that should have been re-routed away from
            marsh lands, fall lines, etc, thank people like Protect and Bauer.

      • ADKBCSkier says:

        “Legitimate piece”? Spare me. This is more of Bauer’s agenda peddling; stating his narrative as fact.

        Nobody with a brain is going to say that the DEC’s decision to “rewild” those roads in the way that they did was anything short of maniacal. However, correcting their initial mess is in no way “illegal,” and anyone trying to cite Protect’s opinion as a fact is undoubtedly trying to sell you a bridge to nowhere. That organization and their cultish supporters have done virtually nothing to actually protect anything at all, and have actually made it difficult for legitimate agencies to perform necessary improvements to existing trails that would have saved countless acres from the devastation wrought by lack of trail engineering, planning, and infrastructure.

        Reading a completely valid opposing point of view is probably very triggering for you, but if you can set your ego aside and think rationally about this, Bauer’s self-righteous word salad is nothing more than a sales pitch to gain more support for Protect by using a low-hanging fruit example of the DEC’s poor land management.

        • Bill says:

          Still waiting for your valid opposing point of view. All you’ve offered are ad hominem attacks on the author instead of a reasoned rebuttal of any of the specific points he made.

          For example, the argument about it being illegal is based on the Adirondack State Land Master Plan prohibiting the rebuilding of a road in an area classified as Wilderness, which is exactly what DEC did in their effort to “undo” the previous project.

          • ADKBCSkier says:

            The ASLMP makes it abundantly clear that existing roads that were not previously scheduled for closure by the ASLMP’s designated road closure date(s), which the existing roads through the tract of land in question were not, may still be maintained for use as administrative road use.

            The DEC made a major mistake by carving up those established roads that would have rewilded themselves into highly sustainable trails. If they’re willing to admit to this mistake, which by all accounts it appears that they have, and repair them, then they should be acknowledge for doing something right.

            People have very short memories and have apparently forgotten the drawn out and very public chest pounding match over improving snowmobile trails, and how it set a horrendous precedent in regards to the state being able to re-route/improve existing routes for the sake of sustainability, public safety, and land conservation without being challenged by supposed “green” groups.

            If you’re having that much trouble
            seeing the forest for trees, look elsewhere to pick your childish fights. Anyone who sides with Bauer and Protect is a hindrance to legitimate land management.

            Have a nice day, Bill.

            • Tom Paine says:

              Yes they have short memories of the McCulley lawsuit and how Jack Rabbit was illegally taken. It appears NYS may have another case of abandon roadway and thought they had clear title. One wonders how many abandon roadways in the Park where taken illegally to benefit a certain few. More Albany dirty deeds.

              • ADKBCSkier says:

                You’re right, Tom. At the end of the day it all circles back to Albany’s pockets. Certain green groups appear to have benefitted just as much as the politicians they support, in some cases, and they’re staying oddly quiet about this latest debacle while Protect rattles the cages.

    • ADKGuide says:

      Bravo ADKBCSkier. I totally agree.

  7. Pete says:

    IThe 2019-20 ‘reclamation’ was mostly a WASTE OF TAXPAYER MONEY. The only activity that I could see as really worthwhile would be to take out abandoned vehicles or equipment that might leak gas.oil, or similar pollutants. Possible also some work to prevent excessive artificial erosion on steep sections of roads. Building pits and mounds? Waste of time.

    • Boreas says:

      Seems to me, pits and mounds are a good way of assuring there will be no illegal motor vehicle access in the near future. It also helps destroy the unnaturally level roadbed to speed up naturalization. Disturbed soils with no vehicles compacting it will naturalize much quicker than a compacted roadbed simply left alone – hopefully not used as a herd path, ski trail, or an illegal snowmobile/ATV trail.

      • Eric says:

        What do have against ski trails? And there are plenty of gates to keep out vehicles. Plus a large river.

        • Boreas says:

          Why do you think I have anything against ski trails? I don’t have anything against hiking trails or roads either.

          Gates keep large vehicles out. Others just find a way around them.

          This is a Wilderness area with a UMP that isn’t very old. If you understand what a UMP is, you will likely understand the legal reasons to follow it. UMPs can be changed, but it is a process, not just shooting from the hip.

  8. ADKGuide says:

    Bravo ADKBCSkier. I totally agree.

  9. Todd Eastman says:

    Cowboy management at its worst.

    It will be interesting to see how the DEC spins this debacle…🙄

  10. AlpineTMC says:

    Why not use the roads as ski trails. Or incorporate into the Allen approach. Could also make awesome bike trails or for ranger roads. I think if the authors of many of these articles had it their way they would be sitting in the woods alone…… Undisturbed….. Forever….. All to themselves. At some point NY is going to stop spending money up here if we can’t incorporate a plan to better the area rather than keep people out. I’m all for intelligent conservation but it seems most want a gate around the park with one or two keys. I love the park. I would love it even more if there were places to park. Less snowshoe activists .. and a stronger community around activities in the woods instead of keeping people out of the woods. If you have tourists you complain ( but you still want the money ) .. If the roads are left behind you complain to get rid of the roads. If the roads are fixed you complain about water quality. Frankly it’s tiring and my playground is losing it’s flavor. A small hill walking community hold the keys and I can’t tell if it’s about conservation or keeping others out. Maybe approach these arguments with more clarity. Is this because of a hate for snowmobiles or is it to restore the forest? I’m sorry man but hate and complaints rings all over these articles. More forest education less drama is in order.

    • Dana says:

      If you love the Park so much, why not learn how the Forest Preserve actually works? Whining is neither an argument or a solution. “Hate and complaints”? Try a a mirror.

      • Pablo says:

        Maybe you could teach us all how it “works,” there, Dana. I agree with AlpineTMC.

        • Dana says:

          Do your research BEFORE commenting. It isn’t my job to educate you. Start by googling DEC, APA, UMP, and APA forest classifications. It is all spelled out.

    • Tom Paine says:

      Well said Alpine TMC. Unfortunately, this is his church and his religious followers website. Free thought will not be tolerated inside the blue line or in the halls of power in Albany. As we see, his attempt to force NYSDEC/APA personnel swear an oath of allegiance to him and his followers by eliminating people who do not think like him. Yes, he does hate the user groups that don’t fit his religious beliefs, and the word compromise only exists when the cameras are running and it sounds good in Albany. His ultimate goal is the complete elimination of people from the Park that will not follow his religious dogma.

  11. David Pell says:

    I am on the Field Staff’s side over the office staff. As that’s the reporter’s position too it seems. Ain’t no Republican, but I can see why Cuomo is so hated. Too much political grifting in Albany. Hoping new female leadership will put a stop to this. Probably it’s not a partisan cause — but office managers in general, public or private, they suck!

  12. Zephyr says:

    The DEC has a history of such inexplicable actions taken with no public input. Witness the AMR parking/hiking permit fiasco. I have no insight into what is going on here, but I have heard of other government agencies that find extra money in a budget and then use it to essentially reward connected contractors with some nice extra work. There are strong incentives to spend every penny in a budget to prevent that budget from being reduced in the future.

    • Crew member says:

      Just gonna tell you that I was on the trail crew that was told to do some of this initial work… we get 15$/hr with no benefits, no health insurance… so this wasn’t a way for them to just spend money. We would’ve rather been actually building trails. Don’t take this out on us trail workers.

  13. Everett McNeill says:

    Shame on the NYS DEC and NYS for this violation APA. Please take action

  14. Tim says:

    On my way back from Allen some years ago, I (illegally) hiked around the area to the east of Lake Sally and Lake Jimmy and noticed a lot of construction material piled up.

  15. LeRoy Hogan says:

    Looking like a rail trial.

  16. francis nolan says:

    The whole episode seems like a massive waste of funding resources to me. Let the old roads simply revert to forest and provide better foot borne access into these areas meanwhile. To dig up holes and mounds seems ridiculous. To then go in and level them back out seems simply insane. Surely there are better uses of these scarce funds. Shame on all involved!

  17. Larry Roth says:

    If DEC seems at odds with itself, that’s not a surprise. Under Cuomo job one for all state agencies was making Cuomo happy. Competence and consistency was not a priority.

    But the deeper problem is that schizophrenia is built in to ‘managing’ the Adirondacks. There are competing agendas and competing constituencies all insisting that only they have the one true vision for the region.

    There’s also a fundamental crack in the Forever Wild foundation that is supposed to underlie ADK policies and priorities. Forever Wild is no longer possible.

    In the simplest sense, Forever Wild is all about leaving wilderness on its own, untouched by the hand of man, minimizing human impact. Climate change makes that impossible.

    Plant communities and the fauna that depend on them are changing because man-made climate change has changed the baseline conditions to which they were adapted. Less snow, snow that doesn’t last as long affects winter survival for both plants and animals – and snowmobilers.

    The stress from climate change makes the region less able to cope with invasive species, or things like severe weather events which are becoming more frequent. Ditto for the impact of both visitors and residents alike.

    Policy trade-offs need to look at the larger context of climate change. Removing seasonal tourist rail lines may make both wilderness purists and snowmobilers happy, but policies that instead incentivized using those rail corridors to their full potential as full time travel options and freight movers could make a real difference.

    Both energy consumption and emissions would go down. It would be an overdue shift away from car dependency, reduce congestion, cut the number of trucks on the roads, and reduce the need for ever more parking.

    That’s just one example of how priorities need to take Climate into account. Neither DEC nor the various groups that claim to speak for the Adirondacks seem to have fully realized that yet.

    • Tom Holden says:

      Larry is correct. We need rail to carry people and freight. Reduce cars and trucks in the park.

      Car parking lots at trailheads should be eliminated. People should walk or ride bikes to the trails.

      No more motorboats on lakes.

      The Park will suffer in the long term if we don’t reduce CO2 emissions.

      Going all in is the answer.

  18. Jean Van says:

    Old Logging roads are necessary to access wild forest in the event of forest fires!! I have lived in the Adirondacks all my life. Man and Natural need to live in a shared Environment. Let DEC do their job.

  19. Bob Meyer says:

    The comments below range from well thought out sensible comments to ridiculous and hilarious. Let the circus begin!

  20. ben says:

    Looks like it could & should be a great snowmobile trail. If I cannot cut down any trees to build connector trails, I guess I should use the old logging trails/roads! Way to go DEC, help out the snowmobilers!!!!!!!!!!

  21. Donald Slick says:

    I don’t agree with Peter Bauer at all.

    The Fiasco is destroying the road in the first place. Hurrah for the DEC for starting to fix this disaster.

    I’d been on these roads several times since reopening hiking to Mt Allen. The second to last time was when I passed workers on the spur from the Opalescent Park Road to the River. The workers used the word re-naturalizing. To my eye this effort looked more like the Tahawus mine than anything natural in the surroundings. Parts of the Adirondack Park Road are already getting overgrown.

    Just leave things alone, will you? Nature will do the work for you!

  22. Barbara Fallon says:

    The ripping up of culverts and sections of road, piling up mounds and excavating trenches was done without the appropriate safeguards to water sources. That should not have happened. The efforts to correct that debacle by removing the mounds and backfilling the trenches will allow for the original drainage and flow to return to the state it was before the destruction occurred.. Meanwhile, the destruction to ecosystems caused by this ripping and trenching of old logging roads was not necessary. As we see in abundance throughout our beloved Adirondacks, old logging roads throughout are in various stages of natural reclaimation, and are used abundantly by the wildlife. Bravo, for correcting that which should not have happened.

  23. Joe Rollins says:

    Thank you you for all work on this. Please do not give up on this. NY needs to held accountable

  24. John says:

    Forgotten in most of this blather is the simple fact that The Forest Preserve with its Article XIV was created as a playground for Mother Nature, not for we mere humans. If we would only get out of the way, we could learn to enjoy watching her play.

  25. Fast says:

    Protect means limiting access to enjoy the land? Protect the adirondacks should be ashamed

    • Sara says:

      Yeah. They believe there should be no trace of humans in the ADK. Not a footprint in the mud. They are very proud to do whatever they can to keep everyone out.

  26. Robert White says:

    Keeping old logging roads open will help in times of disaster such a forest fires and rescue emergencies. They could be used as hiking trails to divert hiking populations off main over used hiking trails.

  27. Mike m says:

    Excellent article! You worded and laid out that article perfectly. Who else needs to see this??? It shouldn’t continue

  28. albert relation says:

    Personally I think the “Protect the Adirondacks” group is like a misfit toy trying to claim governance over the kingdoms. There is far too much governmental administration, over reach and control of lands privately owned. If they want to have the say so and control let them get out their own wallet and pay for the land

  29. Julie Moran says:

    This article makes Adirondack Journal appear as the Fox News of Adirondack reporting. A logging road with pits and mounds in it is no more “conforming” in a wilderness area than one without such artificial features. Let’s face facts. The logging that took place in this area damaged wilderness areas for generations; we should be fighting all logging in the Adirondacks, full stop. A former logging road in this area I’ve observed were reinforced with gravel; no tree growth there. This particular road, used by Opalescent Club members as a snowmobile corridor, was not going to stop being a road-like corridor just because pits and mounds were created.

    The writer’s bottom line is obvious: His editorial advocates less access to this area; the recent road improvements threaten to invite more access. These are the same activists that have recently bemoan overuse of the relatively few hiking trails that exist in the High Peaks … a slippery slope that’s already led to trailhead restrictions, increased ranger enforcement, and new permitting requirements. Given this more restrictive political climate, we need MORE access opportunities in the High Peaks — not less — if for no other reason that to spread out the inevitable interest hikers and adventure-seekers will forever seek in our Adirondack Park.

  30. Nate says:

    I hope they do rebuild this road! It never should have been destroyed to the extent it was. I personally have hiked that several times and I’m a young fit man with years of experience hiking and hunting. This was a eye sore and on the knees too. For safety reasons and potential fire reasons in the future only makes sense to have a accessible road.

  31. Todd Eastman says:

    The lack of legal process and unintended environmental impacts is the issue brought up by the author. If the DEC is not held accountable for its actions, it will continue to violate the rules and laws that govern land management in the Adirondack Blue Line.

  32. Laurenshaffer says:

    Spend tax payers money on hiking trails and snowmobile trails not dumb stuff

  33. Mike V says:

    This is why NYS is in such a mess from a financial standpoint. I’ve hunted on the same 2000 acres of land just outside the park for 50 years and roads just disappear. Nature is a wonderful reclaimer of what people mess up. Add to the mess are people who think they know how to play Mother Nature better than she does, no matter what side they sit on.

  34. JB says:

    Remedial landform grading belongs in the domain of industrial mine reclamation, not in a protected forest preserve! However, going BACK to rebuild an extralegal road in a Wilderness Area is bizarre. I think that all of this points to the pitfalls of bureaucracies and the associated “laboratory hermits” who inform them. Maybe that is not such a problem for organizational management of artificial systems, like cities, infrastructure, or logistics. But there is a long history of academia, and bureaucracy, really getting the environment wrong. (“Laboratory hermits” is a term from agriculturalist Sir Albert Howard, via environmentalist Wendell Berry, whom I first heard about from an organic farmer who himself had a horror story to tell about the academic land management utterly destroying the land). Abolishing bureaucracy is impractical, but limiting conflicts of interest is doable. The hard part is ideological–we cannot see what we are not looking for. Academia in the American environmental movement has turned into one enormous conflict of interest.

  35. Jim says:

    Haha. It’s just like when Dec builds boat access and puts boulders on the ramp.

  36. OffBelay says:

    TBH, This seems like a tempest in a teapot. What are the specific and demonstrable environmental impacts? The worst part seems to be the initial distubance to create the mounds and pits. The forest will reclaim it. Where it is explicitly blocking a watercourse, mitigate it, otherwise, leave it be.

  37. A.C. says:

    In all honesty in my opinion this work and all the taxpayers money spent should’ve not been done and not been used as they should’ve just avoided doing this stupid reclamation job in the first place. Old logging roads aren’t a bad thing anyway unless they are deteriorating or washing out, in which case they can be fixed. They actually are helpful and useful if they are kept in good condition as they can be used for hikers, snowmobilers, tourists and so on wanting to see the wilderness as they can be used to have easier access into the area to see the wilderness. Also they can be used in emergency situations as if someone was lost and or hurt out in the wilderness the people that would be looking to find and or help the one(s) lost and or hurt would have easier access into the wilderness. So that being said I think they should just leave the old logging roads there and alone unless they need to be fixed up somehow.

  38. Mike fedak says:

    I think you have this wrong. What DEC had done was a travesty. They destroyed roads that have a history and which still had a useful function. To go out and destroy them in the way they did was vandalism. The roads were important access routes and safety routes for both hikers and potentialrescuers. The should have been left as they were for the forest to reclaim, not be turned into piles of debris that a walker could not use. If there is worry about access, the entry points should be properly gated and unauthorised entry by motorized vehicles should be monitored and punished. The solution is certainly not institutional vandalism.
    There should have been wide public consultation before any such policy was set to begin with. This destruction should not have been initiated. The people in DEC who approved it should themselves have their positions within the organization considered. When the sensible decision was taken to reverse the damage, it should have been done in a way to reconstitute public access by non motorized means.
    This area has a rich history. What Dec might have done is spent some of its resources maopping ans studying the old roadways and paths. They were “paths laid where people walked”. That is, there were reasons for the access maintained by those routes, some related to past industry, some related to recreational uses on what was once private land. Now that the public has access to these places, non motorized access should not be restricted, either along the Opalescent River or around the Boreas Ponds. Both those routes provided important access route by hikers wanting to enjoy their new land. On top of that, the public safety aspect is not, as your correspondent suggests, fanciful. I.e “DEC argues that lost hikers utilize old roads in the Forest Preserve, such as those in the MacIntyre East area, to find their way out.” That statement is true. And they are were important routes for rescuers.
    The idea of “forever wild” is an ambition that is built on a naive, idealized view of the area and its rich history. The area has a long history of human occupation going back to long before Europeans appropriated the land from native Americans. It is now an invaluable resource for both conservation and public enjoyment. It must be managed so that both co-exist. When those roads were dug up, the opportunities for responsible public access were destroyed in a way that leaves scars far worse than the old roadways they obliterated. DEC was misguided in instituting the policy; it is misguided in what it is doing to redress it. Good footpaths are key to people enjoying the areas of land made public and realizing the benefits of the public money spent to make the land public.

    • Peter says:

      Well said, waste of time and money. Nature will reclaim this area in 20-30 years. These funds could have been spent in areas that really did need them, what a shame.

  39. Ed says:

    Great work, Peter. Any update to this?

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