By Gerald Delaney, Executive Director
Adirondack Park Local Government Review Board
Adirondack Park Agency Commissioners are currently faced with a particularly thorny question:
What did their predecessors mean in 1972 when they created a “guideline” in the Adirondack Park State Land Master Plan (SLMP) that says:
“… there will not be any material increase in the mileage
of roads and snowmobile trails open to motorized use by
the public in wild forest areas that conformed to the master
plan at the time of its original adoption in 1972.”
Did they mean no increase in road mileage after 1972? Are 100 more miles allowable or only 10? What if the number of wild forest acres increased after 1972?
Add in a wrinkle the 1972 Commissioners could never have seen coming – the federal requirement under the Americans with Disabilities Act that certain roads be established specifically to accommodate people with disabilities – and you have a question that can only be answered in one way:
With common sense.
Let’s take a closer look.
What is a “wild forest?”
According to the SLMP, a wild forest designation means the land is capable of withstanding higher levels of recreational use, provides fewer opportunities for solitude, and will be managed to provide opportunities for a greater variety of recreational activities and a higher intensity of recreational use.
How often does the state build roads on wild forest lands?
It doesn’t. The hypothetical roads the APA commissioners are discussing are pre-existing roads located on private lands that the state may purchase in the future and incorporate into the Forest Preserve as “wild forest.”
What does a “material “increase in road mileage mean?
The SLMP does not define “material increase.” Dictionaries assign no specific number, percentage, or other measurement to the term. Merriam-Webster says “material” means something with “real importance or great consequences.”
What is very clear, in any definition you find, is that a material change is a subjective term, but clearly doesn’t mean zero or none.
Similarly, it can safely be assumed that the 1972 Commissioners anticipated and were comfortable with some increase in wild forest roads in future years or else they would have written, “there will not be any increase.”
How many acres of wild forest and miles of wild forest roads are there?
According to the APA, there were 1,186,747 acres of wild forest in the Adirondack Park in 1972. The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) estimates the wild forest road mileage at that time was 211.6.
Today, the APA says there are 1,324,025 acres of wild forest lands. DEC says there are 206.6 miles of roads on those lands (a reduction of five miles since 1972). Or, if you include the roads designated solely for motorized use by people with disabilities (referred to as CP3 roads, short for Commissioner’s Policy No. 3), the road mileage has increased to 244.7.
CP3 roads were established by New York State in 2001 as a result of a lawsuit filed under the American with Disabilities Act. They are pre-existing roads that were previously open only to state vehicles for property maintenance purposes. There are only approximately 1,000 people who have applied for and received the necessary CP3 permit to use these roads.
In summary, there were .000178 miles of road for every acre of wild forest land in 1972. Today, even if you include the CP3 roads, the ratio is .000185 for every acre.
Clearly, there is no wild forest roads crisis to address.
So, what should the Park Agency do?
If the APA Commissioners decide that some arbitrary road mileage cap should be placed on wild forest lands – something the authors of the SLMP had the wise foresight not to do – the CP3 lands should be excluded as they are open only to a small percentage of the public and were mandated rather than selectively chosen for their benefit to the public at large.
I believe, however, that the most appropriate solution is to forget trying to put a number or percentage on the clearly subjective term “material” altogether and to instead look at the road mileage question on a case-by-case basis any time a new property is added to the wild forest landscape.
Every new property acquired by the state and added to the Forest Preserve is subject to the highly rigorous Unit Management Plan (UMP) process. Through this process, DEC and APA, with input from the public, closely evaluate the natural and physical resources of the property, the opportunities for public use and recreation, and the ability of the land and ecosystems to accommodate such use, before the APA makes the final determination as to which land classification the property will be given.
When classifying a property as wild forest, the UMP process provides an opportunity for the regulators to examine the existing roads on that land and determine which should be closed and which should be left open for motorized use so that as many taxpayers as possible will be able to access the lands that the state spent millions of taxpayer dollars to acquire.
With the state’s major acquisition of the lands and extensive road network formerly owned by Finch Paper, for example, the UMP processes for parcels designated as wild forest, such as the Essex Chain Lakes portion of the property and the Boreas Ponds portion of the property, determined that some existing roads should remain open and some should be closed.
It’s also important to remember that the SLMP guideline regarding future road mileage – and it is only a guideline – refers to increases in road mileage on “wild forest areas that conformed to the master plan at the time of its original adoption in 1972.” (emphasis added)
As noted earlier, the wild forest landscape has increased by more than 132,000 acres over the past 50 years due to state acquisitions, and will no doubt continue to grow as the state buys more land. It only makes sense that the number of pubic road miles should be increased as well. At the Commissioners’ discretion, and on a case-by-case basis.
There will be no undue burden on the land by continuing to keep existing roads open under public ownership — and the public will have the opportunity to enjoy the lands that were paid for with their hard-earned tax dollars.
At top: A map from the Adirondack Park Agency shows public motor vehicle roads in the Moose River Plains Wild Forest.
On the face of it this makes sense ( common sense). There does have to be a balance of interests as long as Article 14 is not eroded.
I think the more important issue is involves
illegal use of ATVs on Forest Preserve lands and keeping snowmobiles close to established roads & out of the deeper woods.
Mr. Delaney’s article is exactly correct regarding decisions of Wild Forest Roads. Indeed, the guideline of Common Sense taken with the obvious fact that life and the Forest Preserve have both changed dramatically since the APA inception in 1972 should be applied to all decisions regarding management of the Adirondacks.
The wording is entirely clear that the state cannot add additional road mileage in the Forest Preserve. “there will not be any material increase in the mileage of roads and snowmobile trails ”
Is a clear statement that the state shall not be adding road mileage in the Forest Preserve. Its also essentially saying that any new found roads added to the preserve as a result of land acquisition shall be removed, with benign neglect being the preferred method, in other words, let the forest take back the land.
My take on ADA is if you were to be building new infrastructure, it must be ADA compliant and that existing infrastructure shall be made to be ADA compliant. I do not think the intended meaning of the ADA act would desire that a hiking trail to the top of Mt. Marcy become ADA compliant. I am reminded though that the Appalachian Mt. Club was required to make the New Hampshire Lake of the Clouds hut ADA compliant as part of a renovation, even though the club was aware that no trails accessing the hut would ever be ADA compliant. I also recall a person with physical disabilities used climbing ropes to winch themselves up a trail to the hut, just to make a point with the AMC.
I think the author may need a bit of education about how to read documents…🙄
This helps frame Mr. Delaney’s text:
“4. Public use of motor vehicles
will not be encouraged and there will not
be any material increase in the mileage
of roads and snowmobile trails open to
motorized use by the public in wild
forest areas that conformed to the
master plan at the time of its original
adoption in 1972.”
Adirondack Park State Land Master Plan
New York (.gov)
https://apa.ny.gov › Laws_Regs › APSLMP
Thank you for contextualizing the phrase. It’s deceptive and self-serving to write an argument around a phrase ripped from the sentence in which it was embedded.
This park, this state, this country has more than enough roads. Take out a map or for the younger generation, look at google maps and you will see we need no new roads. ANYWHERE. Are we insane to think building new roads in the park will improve our experience of the wild. It makes no sense to want the wild but then pave or gravel it for our easy access. Show me a person in this day and age who cant access the wild. NO MORE ROADS.
The APA is supposed to put the protection of the resource first. Balancing of interests is NOT in the statute that created the APA. Roads are not an accommodation that secures the NYS Constitutional requirement of “forever wild.” Roads eviscerate that requirement and in the face of our existential threat of Climate Change undermine the State’s mitigation of that threat. Sorry, but I disagree with the author’s premise that more roads allowed equates with “common
Being the Forest Ranger in the Moose River Area for 33 years from 1966 to 1999 I saw lots of changes in roads open to the public. Bridges washed out, culverts washed out some repairs were made new bridges and culverts were put in place others were left alone and roads closed. When classification of state lands was put in place much of the land was made wilderness and then Indian was made a wild river which moved the Indian River Road barrier moved back to Indian Lake making that three miles of road wilderness with no vehicle use. Then when the Moose River Wild Forest plan was put in place DEC made more of the area Wilderness and the barrier on the Indian Lake Road moved back another three miles to a half mile before the Squaw Lake Trail even though the road to Indian lake was and still is in wild forest. Now the culvert at Falls Pond Outlet has been washed out for three years so that moves that drive able road back another mile and a half. A bridge is hopefully going to be put in Falls Pond Outlet. DEC was fast to build one going in on the Boreas Ponds Road which was washed out in the same storm as the one in the Plains, but we are still waiting. So, you can take some of that mileage in red off the Moose River Area Map which seems to come up every time this mileage issue is shown and give it too someplace else. I know this land was bought in 1963 but let’s not forget we are still here and open to the public free of charge which I fought for years.
The SLMP does not define “material increase.” Dictionaries assign no specific number, percentage, or other measurement to the term. Merriam-Webster says “material” means something with “real importance or great consequences.”
Material has more meanings than that, roads are made out of things, materials are things, rock, soils, blacktop, why leave that out? Seems more feasible than defining it the way you do, although, still irrelevant.
Dictionaries do not assign a measurement,
The sentence does, “there will not be any” material increase in the mileage, it doesn’t matter what material means, there will not be any, puts a specific number on it, there will not be any, meaning zero, none.
There are lots of places people cannot get to, even people without disabilities, are you going to build an access road to the top of Cascade mountain?
Are you going to make the roads, that do exist, 10 feet wider so people can drive there houses down the roads?
People have limitations, we have to keep our wild forests, wild, there are more than just humans that live in ny, we have encroached enough.
“There will not be any” and “increase” are the key words here, “material” is irrelevant.
I have read and even commented on this subject. I cannot agree more with this one. Lets stay focused. NO MORE ROADS.
If you don’t approve it let me know and i will put it in my column which is run on the Adirondack Almanack.
I wish I could agree with this. I have said, some months ago in this forum, that the APA’s quest for a “magic” number makes no sense, that decisions about roads ought to be part of a much larger view of the landscape. That may have been when I said the decisions need to be “acre by acre” and JB corrected me, appropriately enough. saying that one must consider a larger context.
But I am unable to agree because, in nearly 5 decades of this work, I have learned that “common sense” is inevitably a code word for what you and your buddies down at the coffee shop or the bar (or wherever you gather, even online) all agree on. And that is no more sensible a basis for the management of public resources than the APAs counting the number of angels that can dance on the head of pin.
It is sometimes painful, but decisions about roads (etc, etc) ought to be made in an open public process that is well-informed by the facts at hand (of which the gross number of miles of road is not a very helpful one). There is even such a process at work in the Adirondacks, the UMP process. It is woefully underfunded, of course, and could perhaps be improved, But if we’er going to talk about numbers that are (or at least could be meaningful) let’s talk about the budget needed to answer the questions about roads and so much more.
I agree. “Common sense” alone cannot be used to legislate. Common sense tells me that I should be able to drive 100 mph on a wide-open interstate highway if conditions allow. Common sense tells me I should be able to build any structure I want on my own land, burn brush when I want, or not bother with a septic system and just dump my waste into my creek. In other words, MY common sense is not YOUR common sense is not my neighbor’s common sense. Everybody’s common sense is different.
We essentially elect and pay legislators to tell us what to do and how to do it. We do this so we can all follow the same set of rules – backed up by the rule of Law, not common sense. In 1972, people were tasked with writing down and codifying how the Park would handle – among many things – the road issue. The policy wasn’t written in a secret language. It reads pretty clearly to me that no material increase in roads was the desired path forward, at least at that time. Now, decades later, perhaps we have changed our understanding of what the Park is and what the Park should be. Nothing wrong with that, but until constitutional changes are made to the Master Plan, it seems to me we are bound by the language as written.
Peter Bauer will say there should never be any changes made to anything regarding the park. I think he would ban all vehicles from the park if he could. He will do all he can to see that the guidance passed in 72 is forever unchanged
Thank you for the fine article. Unfortunately, as we are well aware common sense in NYS is a very rare entity. Chances of getting a constitutional amendment to change things are even more rare. Since one party is in complete control nothing is going to change. This is nothing more than a backdoor attempt to make every piece of land that NYS has purchased or will purchase into defacto “Wilderness” classification.
The key to constitutional amendments is to have a good argument that voters of all political persuasions can understand and vote their conscience on a ballot. If you don’t have a good argument that the voters can get behind, it doesn’t matter what party is “in power”. Upstate NY certainly has enough GOP representation to get a constitutional amendment started. Not that long ago an amendment was proposed for something as narrow as a mine land swap and was voted on. Broader land-use designations and changes within the Park are usually going to be a tough sell to voters across the state, but it isn’t impossible. First you need a good argument to change the status quo.
A constitutional amendment gets to be on the ballot by politics. You want some thing and I want something else. The Democrats are in complete control of the NYS government. The Amendment of a land swap, that was an easy. Why the status quo, why the pre-deciding in Albany behind the scene to get an amendment on the ballot? Let the voters be the first and last to decide.
One party rule. At least I’m not the only one feeling it
There may be good Republican representation in the Adirondacks but we are still in a one party state unfortunately
In a democracy, we favor the rule of law over the rule of man. By using terms like “no material increase” or “common sense” all we are doing is leaving it up to some board or person to interpret. When the board agrees with us that’s good, but as we know things can change when someone new gets elected. Let’s figure out a new standard that makes sense and is less likely to be argued over in the future.
Last I heard this was still a Constitutional Republic.
Given these latest comments, it was probably a mistake for Mr. Delaney to have used the phrase “common sense”. What should be taken from his statement is that a) the State is not building new roads, and b) roads that are on new acquisitions should be evaluated on a case by case basis whether they should continue as roads. Most of the many roads that were present on the Boreas and Chain Lakes tracts have been closed to ordinary public use by motor vehicles. There were those who favored closing Gulf Brook Road to Boreas Ponds. In the end however, after a series of public hearings where those favoring closure were allowed to state their case, the APA decided to keep that one road in the Boreas Tract open while closing the many miles of other roads that were on the tract. Seems that’s how decisions should be made; and whether you wanted more access, or wanted less access, the APA’s decision should be accepted.
“roads that are on new acquisitions should be evaluated on a case by case basis whether they should continue as roads.”
That would imply that roads existing as part of a land Aquisition should remain as roads, which seems to be in violation of “no material increase”. That phrase does not say “no material increase of roads built by the state”. It’s pretty basic, simple and clear. I think an easement road that exists to allow access to properties embedded inside new state properties would legally have to be allowed, as the conditions of the state purchasing would be allowing these properties, AND access, to remain. An example would be if the state were to purchase the bulk of the Whitney Park property, there are existing properties owned by others, with road access, those roads would remain, thus there would be a material increase that is unavoidable in these conditions.
The map shown at the top of this article is pretty misleading. The map title claims that it shows roads in the Moose River Plains Wild Forest. The main road running through the Wild Forest is actually not technically in the Wild Forest. It is in a narrow Intensive Use Corridor that was created by the APA. This change enabled the APA to claim that road mileage in Wild Forests went down by reclassifying the land the road was on. Nothing on the ground actually changed. This move allowed the APA to add about 22 more miles in other areas.
Common sense. Great to see it returning towards how this asset is managed.
AHa, Common sense! Everybody knows what that is. But I could not really define it, so I thought Wikipedia must have a handy description. It does, for 11,834 words. But the first paragraph is all one needs to read: “Common sense (or simply sense) is sound, practical judgment concerning everyday matters, or a basic ability to perceive, understand, and judge in a manner that is shared by (i.e., “common to”) nearly all people.”
But is it “common sense” that I may quote Wikipedia. The first thing that popped up is its unreliable, and the second was that we are free to do so.
Says the guy who wants to use “common sense” as a cover to expand road (and thereby business) development in and around Wild Forest lands.
I am against business development. That could lead to all kinds of other development. A new road or snowmobile trail I have no issues with
What makes the Adirondack Wild Forests so amazing and beautiful and sets this park apart from any other forests in the Eastern U.S. is its wild character.
The people of New York have a jewel here. One of the beautiful and protected mountain areas, and CLEAN watersheds in the country. It was given to us by people who devoted their lives to protecting the Park. People who knew enough to keep roads to a minimum. I don’t know why we are not respecting these people and continuing in their footsteps. I don’t know why we do not have their forethought and want to continue their legacy.
It is obvious and true and without dought that roads degrade wild character.
Why do you think you need roads into woods for recreation to be increased?
Then you are recreating in the woods accessed by motor vehicle, , but it is no longer a wild land you are enjoying.
The High Peaks are heavily used now. As far as I know no new roads have provided access to these mountains. What makes you think the rest of the park will not be used as heavily in 10 or 20 years without increasing road milage allowed.
I am a first hand witness to APA & DEC acceptance of an illegal mile long extension of Lens Lake Road across private property, state land in Stony Creek and Day, NY terminating at The Livingston Lake Club in Day, NY.
This illegal, mile long, road was used by DEC to grant tax exempt status (Fisher Act) to this 810 acre private in-holding that has no access to a legal public road.
Very sad that our NYS government is so pathetic at enforcing the protection of the Forest Preserve.
All this discussion of legal road mileage is silly when the illegal mileage that benefits wealthy landowners is ignored.
Yes, a great point about legal. Let us talk of illegal roads, their confiscation and closing by NYSDEC. As we have seen in the McCulley vs NYSDEC case the state of New York has illegally confiscated and closed roads to benefit a certain few. How many miles in the Park have been illegally confiscated in the past and will be in the future from the Park towns, villages and counties by the NYSDEC? A thorough legal investigation into all roads in the Park appears long overdue before any discussion of moving forward.
When land with roads is acquired, wouldn’t that automatically add those roads into inventory. The Finch lands must have had 50 miles of roads.
What is the correct legal procedure for “closing” a public town road? Can the state simply close a road they don’t want to be open. No, they cannot. Many of these roads are not legally closed. Therefore they are open.
Hey let us let out of state folks tell us how to run our fine state park. That will show others how smart we aren’t. NYS taxes bought that land not some out of state “DAK”
Amen There is nothing that can happen in a one party state.
It’s the NYS residents that support the conservation actions within the Park…
… and your point is…?🙄
Exactly & my? as well.
Rob says: “I’m against business development. That could lead to all kinds of other development. A new road or snowmobile trail I have no issues with.”
A contradiction in terms!
How?? I don’t want to see businesses or industry built. No housing developments. But if a road is built to access the park or new snowmobile trails are built to reach other towns or areas of the park I am fine with that. But knowing you Charlie you’ll have an issue with it.
Joe Kozlina says: “This park, this state, this country has more than enough roads…….. It makes no sense to want the wild but then pave or gravel it for our easy access.”
Now there’s some real common sense, quite much more of what society in general could use and should employ so as to better itself.
Gary N. Lee says: “and then Indian was made a wild river which moved the Indian River Road barrier moved back to Indian Lake making that three miles of road wilderness with no vehicle use….”
I recall my dad talking about his drives back to Indian River before they closed that road Gary as I have previously shared. That road has since grown over and turned into a trail. I’ve been on it only once and would love to be on it again just for old times sake alone! A car wouldn’t get one foot past that trailhead nowadays. Nature has a way of restoring itself if we let it be as can be seen over and again; just in the change of seasons from winter to spring alone we see how nature restores herself! How much longer this will last, after millions of years of doing so….is in question! Especially so when built in the American psyche is a huge partiality towards cars and roads over boots and trails.
“knowing you Charlie you’ll have an issue with it.”
For one, you don’t know me Rob. For two….I do have an issue with any thing or body whose heart is bent on removing what so little purity is left in this ever-shrinking dysfunction we call society which, in my book (which I hope to have out before the next arrival of Halley’s Comet) is a mixed bag of traditions, values and standards which are at odds with what some of us see as sacrosanct! My dad had on occasion said to me before he slipped off into the netherworld, and which has stuck with me since….”If we can’t replace it we have no right to destroy it!”
I look forward to reading it.
Lee Nellis says: “It is sometimes painful, but decisions about roads (etc, etc) ought to be made in an open public process that is well-informed by the facts at hand…”
This sounds good in context Lee, but in reality an open public process isn’t what it used to be and neither is society, especially since televisions began to watch us how many years ago was it now? To think of the generations of Americans passed which have been shrunk intellectually, principally, morally….since that Godhead came into our dream-homes, where nowadays life evolves around a tv. And then along came the internet! Need I say more. Look at us! Look at who and what we worship! We ought to be ashamed of ourselves!
I know it seems like I’m drifting but no! To get people out of their homes and away from their devices, to go to a Town Hall meeting to voice their concerns, dissent, whatever, in front of suits who have the best healthcare in the world (some of whom do not wish for us to have the same by the way), and who now time you on a clock to have your say, or set the meets at an undesirable hour, etc., etc…. to think of the roadblocks! To think of the stiffness produced in our leaders whose aim is generally self, or net gain, some by far more than others. These and so much more which impedes progress. Society isn’t what it used to be Lee. We’re losing our energy to fight, to a large degree, which I truly believe is by design.
Who are these people that don’t want people to have health insurance??? I’m sure they wish for all to have health insurance. They just don’t want to pay for it
“the wild forest landscape has increased by more than 132,000 acres over the past 50 years due to state acquisitions, and will no doubt continue to grow as the state buys more land. It only makes sense that the number of pubic road miles should be increased as well.”
Why should there be an increase in roads? Why! Payola! The old way of doing business. It’s a mentality. You give me this I’ll give you that. The whole idea, or one with rationality would think, of obtaining a large tract of wild forest for preservation, would be to keep it wild forest. ‘Wild forest!’ The crux of the matter! “Wilderness” is the terminology they should be using for reasons obvious. There’s design in everything lawyers do so far as wording goes.
Gregory Wait says: “It was given to us by people who devoted their lives to protecting the Park. People who knew enough to keep roads to a minimum. I don’t know why we are not respecting these people and continuing in their footsteps.”
Because we have no respect for the past Gregory, our history. No respect for the dead! No respect for any ‘thing’ outside of our wee little spheres Gregory! It’s all about us! I can go on and on, and can cite example after ample example. There’s no need to as we all know by now how corrupt the human animal is. There will never be enough! Especially to those who already have too much, or more than they’ll ever need.
JEFFREY A LEVITT says: “Sorry, but I disagree with the author’s premise that more roads allowed equates with “common sense. “
Common sense to some is pure nonsense to others Jeffrey. You know that. Values! This is what all of our decisions, right, wrong, or indifferent come down to!
Bill Ott says: “Common sense (or simply sense) is sound, practical judgment concerning everyday matters, or a basic ability to perceive, understand, and judge in a manner that is shared by (i.e., “common to”) nearly all people.”
> Those last 3 words in the above definition throw me as I just don’t see this to be the truism it was proposed to be by Wikipedia. If nearly ‘all people’ had common sense, surely there’d be more stability in this society and this world, so common sense does not fit the above definition.
Cambridge defines ‘common sense’ as “the basic level of practical knowledge and judgment that we all need to help us live in a reasonable and safe way.”
Cambridge’s definition has more clout as it takes the position of disengagement, it doesn’t go too far as Wiki does, it has more of an air of hopefulness to it than the ‘certainty’ which Wiki seems to determine.
It’s kind of hard to see why the state would want to aquire any more land, if I’m already at the upper limit for what roads can stay or have to go. Seems to me when the state buys land, if it comes with already existing roads, they need to analyze the need to keep some of the roads & then increase the upper limit in any State Laws. We don’t need to keep all the roads in a tract of land when bought, but a full analysis should be done. We should be able to turn some of those roads into snowmobile trails/hiking trails/cross-country skiing trails & close others down. We can have the best of both worlds – keeping a majority of the land wild, while allowing limited development on some of it. If we CANNOT adjust the laws of the State that are way past due being amended, then the State SHOULDNOT buy any more land.
There is a story in the Explorer about declining turtle populations in the state. I wonder if the loss of many of these older dirt woods roads has anything to do with it? Turtles love to use the edges of these dirt roads to lay their eggs. It’s incredible some seasons all the nesting turtles you see on the edges of these roads, with their nests marked by orange cones left by some folks trying to keep them from getting run over. Also, I found two large vernal pools this past weekend teeming with frogs. Both created by culverts under a woods road. These things are not all bad.
“….then the State SHOULDNOT buy any more land.”
Sell it off to developers instead maybe Dave?
“declining turtle populations in the state.”
It is very obvious why turtle populations are declining. Because human nature is a gluttonous nature! I would think the decline would be from those turtles that frequent fields and woodlots spread across the state Paul, fields and woodlots which are rapidly shrinking….. not in Wilderness areas.
Nope, they are declining in wilderness and wild forest areas too. Look at the report, it is not as simple as you would like. They are even declining in areas where there is more habitat for them. Charlie, I’m sorry, your usual “people are all bad” mantra won’t work here.
I’ve never proposed that “all people are bad” as you infer above Paul: though if your wording is what your true assumption is of me, then yes, you are correct…I do feel that some people, too many, are ‘all bad.’
So far as your reply to my post goes, regards turtles “declining in wilderness and wild forest areas too. ” I am sorry to hear this! It’s worse than I thought I suppose, which comes as no shocker really!
Rob says: “Who are these people that don’t want people to have health insurance??? I’m sure they wish for all to have health insurance.”
Come on Rob! You don’t really want me to answer this do you? Everyone would think I was going political if I did, even if it was the truth!
Quote the whole thing Charlie. And unfortunately health insurance is a political issue
This article by the Local Government Review Board asks for common sense policymaking at the APA. While that’s something that we all agree with, the problem with this piece is that it cherry-picks its evidence and gets basic facts wrong. Common sense, it seems to me, is based on facts and evidence.
Unfortunately, this piece plays fast and loose with the facts, but it’s understandable that the Review Board got some basic facts wrong because the APA Board and staff have played it fast and loose with the facts and the law on this issue.
This is an important issue for the Forest Preserve and we should all depend upon the Review Board, which is funded by the state to provide oversight of APA actions, to make sure that the APA is honest and accountable. Too often the Review Board has been satisfied with how the APA-DEC cut corners and sidestep the law if they agree with the outcome.
Here are the problems with this piece.
The article starts out by quoting part of Wild Forest Basic Guideline No. 4 in the State Land Master Plan: “… there will not be any material increase in the mileage of roads and snowmobile trails open to motorized use by the public in wild forest areas that conformed to the master plan at the time of its original adoption in 1972.”
They left out the beginning of this guideline, which is the most pertinent part, “Public use of motor vehicles will not be encouraged and there will not be any material increase in the mileage of roads….” Clearly this clause directs the APA on this matter. Why the omission? It seems to me that the Master Plan directive that “Public use of motor vehicles will not be encouraged” is important.
After cherry-picking Basic Guideline No. 4, the Review Board states that there is a “federal requirement under the Americans With Disabilities Act that certain roads be established specifically to accommodate people with disabilities.” This is false information. The ADA makes no such “requirement.” It requires only that states must make reasonable accommodations to ensure that disabled persons have access to programs offered by the state, so long as providing such access does not conflict with the program’s fundamental purpose. For those who want chapter and verse on this matter go here: https://www.protectadks.org/wp-content/uploads/2023/03/230307-APA-NMI-CP3-Galusha.pdf
The Review Board then states: “CP3 roads were established by New York State in 2001 as a result of a lawsuit filed under the American with Disabilities Act.” This is also false information.
The ”CP3” policy is the “DEC Commissioner Policy 3, Motorized Access Program for People With Disabilities,” which was established in 1997. It was not the result of a lawsuit. This mistake is understandable because most APA Board members regularly makes this same mistake too and when they do so they are never corrected by the APA staff who should know better.
The lawsuit referenced by the Review Board is “Galusha et al. v. NYS Dept. of Envtl. Conservation, et al,” which was settled in July 2001. There was no ruling, or “mandate” as is state above, that required the state to do certain things, but rather an agreement to more fully develop a variety of new opportunities for the disabled community for outdoor recreation. The “Galusha” settlement did not require any roads to be opened for CP-3 use; it only required that certain roads be proposed for such use and then go through the normal Unit Management Plan review process, where such use could be either approved or denied.
The “Galusha” settlement clearly states that all actions by the DEC must conform with Article 14, the forever wild clause, in the State constitution and the State Land Master Plan. Any new roads approved under CP-3, to enhance motorized access that was identified in the “Galusha” settlement, must pass muster in a Unit Management Plan as established through the State Land Master Plan. This settlement did not create any legal option to cut corners or divert from long-established legal process. There is no exemption from state law. For the Review Board to state that there is a legal requirement in this settlement that forces the APA to rule in one way or another is misinformation.
For some reason, the Review Board also fails to provide the definition of a ”road” in the State Land Master Plan as part of this article. The Master Plan plainly defines a road, which is important because Basic Guideline No. 4 is predicated on that definition.
The definition of a road matters:
“32. Road an improved or partially im¬proved way designed for travel by automo-biles and which may also be used by other types of motor vehicles except snowmobiles, unless the way is a designated snowmobile trail; and is,
(i) either maintained by a state agency or a local government and open to the general public;
(ii) maintained by private persons or corporations primarily for private use but which may also be open to the general public for all or a segment thereof; or,
(iii) maintained by the Department of Environmental Conservation or other state agency and open to the public on a discretionary basis.” (p 20)
The APA and DEC have weirdly distorted this issue and muddied the water by claiming that somehow CP-3 roads are not really public roads or that disabled people are not part of the public. A fair reading of this “road” definition holds that CP-3 roads are roads that are “open to the public on a discretionary basis.” Further, DEC uses its discretion to set up the CP-3 program and administer a process. It approves and disapproves permit applications. It opens and closes roads. It does all of this on a “discretionary basis.”
And, it should go without saying, that disabled people are certainly part of the public.
Because the Review Board did not include the definition of a road in the Master Plan and because it misrepresents CP-3/Galusha, its math gets fuzzy.
The Review Board states: “According to the APA, there were 1,186,747 acres of wild forest in the Adirondack Park in 1972. The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) estimates the wild forest road mileage at that time was 211.6. Today, the APA says there are 1,324,025 acres of wild forest lands. DEC says there are 206.6 miles of roads on those lands (a reduction of five miles since 1972). Or, if you include the roads designated solely for motorized use by people with disabilities (referred to as CP3 roads, short for Commissioner’s Policy No. 3), the road mileage has increased to 244.7.”
We agree with the Review Board that the total road mileage in Wild Forest areas of the Forest Preserve is 244.7 miles. This is a 33.1-mile increase over the 211.6 miles determined to have existed in 1972. The 206.6 miles of road number being used by the APA-DEC excludes the CP-3 road mileage, which doesn’t pass legal muster. It’s important to note that neither the APA or DEC has provided any legal analysis or guidance on this question. It’s understandable why they want to avoid talking about inclusion of CP-3 roads, because when they do so, then they would have to assess 244.7 miles of roads as part of their interpretation and compliance with Basic Guideline No. 4.
When CP-3 roads are counted, as they should be because they are open to members of the public and managed at the discretion of the DEC, then the increase of road mileage in Wild Forest Areas since 1972 is more like 15%. This compares with a growth of Wild Forest lands since 1972 of around 12% (1,324,025 current WF acres – 1,186,747 acres = 137,278/1,186,747 = 12%).
The math is important. So are historic facts about CP-3/Galusha. So, is the law. So is the Master Plan. The Review Board gets a number of things wrong here, but as I said above, that’s understandable because the APA Board and staff and DEC have done their best to muddy the record and confuse the issue. This has not been an honest discussion about public policy revision. The APA and DEC have put their fingers on the scale to push an outcome at every step of the way.
I am glad to see some of these environmental groups are starting to agree with what a lot of people have been saying over the years. The APA is dysfunctional. It is time for the legislature to get more involved and make fundamental legal changes to the APA and the act. All this should be thrown out and a more concise and understandable set of rules put in place, it will benefit everyone involved. It’s gonna scare a lot of people because everything is going to get thrown on the table but it’s time.
“health insurance is a political issue”
No! It’s a human issue Rob! Or shall I say ‘humane.’ Humane meaning marked by compassion, sympathy or consideration for others. Okay so maybe I take that back, maybe it is a political issue! Or shall I say a ‘political party’ issue!
How is it a political party issue?? Because Democrats feel everyone should have it and the taxpayers should pay for it?? Or that Republicans don’t feel it should be paid through taxes?? I wish everyone had health insurance. I just don’t feel taxpayers should pay for it. This is the same as free college tuition for all, or student loan forgiveness. Just pass it on to the taxpayers. Obviously your happy with the amount of taxes you pay in this state.
“They left out the beginning of this guideline, which is the most pertinent part, “Public use of motor vehicles will not be encouraged and there will not be any material increase in the mileage of roads….”
“the Review Board also fails to provide the definition of a ”road” in the State Land Master Plan as part of this article.”
Wording! It’s about, as you say Peter, cherry-picking choice (or omitting) words, words which sound good but which deceive if looked-at close, if it is we are even of the mind to do so. Somebody is doing some, what appears to be, credible footwork here contrary to what others may think. Thank you Peter!
Thank you Peter for this helpful expansion on the original piece.
People are free to dffer on the topic of roads, though not of course to willfully misread the law as it stands or to impugn the motives of those with whom we differ.. But this, along with the course of other issues, makes it clear that roads and other substantive matters are not really the issue before people who care about the park, no matter our positions.
The issue is how the decision-making process itself is proceeding, and whether it is serving any interest beyond the agency’s perception of a tightrope they must walk among competing interests, as well of course as their perception (publickly stated or not) of limited resources. I have my own thoughts on this, but I would be curious to hear what Peter has to say about “reform” of the APA and DEC.