It’s not every day that one gets to see a well-worn aphorism ring true. The philosopher George Santayana wrote, “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” In the Adirondacks this is now playing out at the Mt. Van Hoevenberg Recreation Area.
The Olympic Regional Development Authority (ORDA) manages this area for a variety of winter Olympic sports – cross-country skiing, biathlon, bobsled, and luge, among others. It’s also a popular cross-country ski area for the public, and starting in 2018 it became the staging area for a new trail to Cascade Mountain, where the public can start hiking in a safe parking area. The facility is located partly on land owned by the Town of North Elba Park District and partly on the State Forest Preserve. The Forest Preserve lands are protected as forever wild by Article XIV of the State Constitution. » Continue Reading.
This month three anti-environmental activists clashed with state agencies charged with protecting the environment in the Adirondack Park. In what appears to be a growing trend, all three men are using legal technicalities to attempt to enforce their own personal wills.
Earlier this month, Salim B. “Sandy” Lewis won the right to have three additional single-family houses exempted from Adirondack Park zoning rules because they were built on a farm. Lewis had refused to seek an APA permit because he claimed that the structures were for agricultural use, as farmworker housing. The APA Act says all structures on a farm count as a single principle building lot, and are exempt from density requirements and APA permits. After losing in a lower court, State Attorney General Andrew Cuomo’s Office appealed on behalf of the APA, but Appellate Division justices agreed with Lewis’s claim that the houses were farm buildings, equivalent say, to a barn, a greenhouse, or a chicken coop. » Continue Reading.
Protect the Adirondacks! will host the 7th Clean Waters Benefit on Saturday, August 22, 2009 at Hornbeck Boatworks off Troutbrook Road in Olmstedville, in the Town of Minerva to raise funds for its programs and services in the Adirondack Park. The event will begin at 11:30 AM with a canoe/kayak paddle on Minerva Stream, concluding at the historic Olmstedville dam.
Participants are asked to bring their own canoe and be prepared to pull over several beaver dams. Tours of Hornbeck Boat Works and of the owner’s Forest Stewardship Council certified forest will begin at 12:30 PM. A Reception begins at 3:00 PM and features author Bill McKibben as the event’s guest speaker along with Adirondack singer-songwriter Dan Berggren. » Continue Reading.
After months of discussion and evaluation, the decision was made on Saturday to formally consolidate the Association for the Protection of the Adirondacks (AFPA) with the Residents’ Committee to Protect the Adirondacks (RCPA) and to form a new organization called Protect the Adirondacks. The new organization will continue a better than 100-year history of protecting the Adirondacks so I thought I’d take a moment to take a look at the new group and how it developed historically. At their annual meeting last Saturday at Heaven Hill Farm outside the Village of Lake Placid, the memberships of both organizations voted in favor of consolidation, which enables the process to move through the final legal steps of incorporation. The membership of the Residents’ Committee voted 83-0 in favor of the consolidation. The membership of the Association voted 111-2 in favor. » Continue Reading.
We’ve moved one step closer to having a Constitutional Amendment on the ballot in November that affects a corner of the Adirondack Park in Colton in St. Lawrence County. Monday the NYS Senate passed (62-0) a bill that would allow the construction of a power line from Stark Falls Reservoir to the Village of Tupper Lake. The supplemental line would pass through a section of Route 56 roadside within the Adirondack Forest Preserve between Seveys Corners (near the Carry and Starks Falls reservoirs) and the hamlet of South Colton. The line is part of a project to improve power reliability for the Tri-Lakes communities of Tupper Lake, Saranac Lake and Lake Placid. » Continue Reading.
The Association for the Protection of the Adirondacks is calling upon the heads of the Public Service Commission (PSC), Departments of Transportation (DOT) and Environmental Conservation (DEC), New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA), and Adirondack Park Agency (APA) to adopt “the highest standards for protecting the wild forest character of the Adirondack Park when reconstructing electric power lines and highways.” Through a freedom of information request, the group received documents about an incomplete application now being reviewed at the APA for highway and power line reconstruction and realignment which would in their words “effectively clear-cut forests along 7.4 miles of scenic State Route 28 in the southwestern Adirondacks.” The route extends from Forestport to the South Branch of the Moose River in the Adirondack Park. Sections of this route involve the “forever wild” public Forest Preserve.
The application calls for a new “tree management area” that would mean the removal of all trees for 37.5 feet on either side of new utility poles, throughout the length of the highway project. The poles, which are now along the road, would be moved 16 feet from the highway edge, this area declared a “clear zone,” and the poles themselves increased in height from 40 feet to 57 feet.
David Gibson, Association Executive Director said that he was “astonished to find that the Route 28 project as currently proposed calls for clear cutting a swath of 53 feet from the highway shoulder for placement of super-sized power poles and electric lines,” adding that “clear-cutting trees in such a manner would drastically impact the Park’s scenic character, and violate numerous laws, policies and plans. The public will not stand for this kind of bad stewardship by our State agencies.”
“We contend that the Park’s history, State law, our State Constitution and, frankly, common sense, require all State agencies to take every precaution in design standards for Route 28 and for other combined highway-power line realignments throughout the Park. Our highways are the public’s window on the Adirondack Park and vital to positive public perceptions of the Park. The wild forest and rural character of the Park’s highways must be conserved,” Gibson said, calling the move an effort to “water-down” environmental guidelines by eliminating NYSERDA funding to establish a standard for the Adirondack Park for projects like the one proposed along Route 28.
Since the 1924 passage of the Adirondack Sign Law, the state has attempted to secure the scenic character of views along roadways inside the Blue Line. Scenic and historic highways programs have been developed over the years by state and local governments to exploit roadside opportunities, sometimes through significant investment.
According to the Adirondack Park State Land Master Plan, state agencies are required to plan for these Travel Corridors to “achieve and maintain a park-like atmosphere… that complements the total Adirondack environment. Attention to the Park’s unique atmosphere is essential.” The DOT’s Guidelines for the Adirondack Park, which were approved in 2008 after disastrous roadside cutting along Routes 3 and 56, states: “The Adirondack Park is a special state treasure and our work with in its boundaries must be conducted with great care.”
The Association for the Protection of the Adirondacks is calling for meetings to review standards for power line and road reconstruction that preserve the scenic character of the Park’s highways as potential “greenway” corridors.
On Friday, the Appellate Division of State Supreme Court, 4th Department, ruled in the Dillenburg Case that the state may continue to make tax payments on state-owned land. The ruling will ultimately protect the Forest Preserve, local schools and governments, and the local economy.
In December of last year New York State Supreme Court Judge Timothy Walker issued an order throwing out payments in lieu of taxes for state lands. The move threatened to have a huge impact on towns, schools, and taxpayers in the region. Town of Inlet Supervisor J.R. Risley, said his town has about 400 year-round residents, 10,000 summer residents, and that 93 percent of the land is state-owned. The ruling was expected to double the town’s tax rate. Twenty-two percent of the Saranac Lake Central School District tax levy comes from taxes on state land – the number is fourteen percent in Tupper Lake. The ruling had been stayed while awaiting appeal – it was #2 on Adirondack Almanack’s Top Stories of 2007. » Continue Reading.
The Association for the Protection of the Adirondacks believes the adoption of the new state Department of Transportation (DOT) Guidelines for the Adirondack Park – also called the “Green Book” – is a significant step for the protection and sound environmental maintenance of the park’s highways and greenways.
Completion of the Green Book and its revisions was one of the primary stipulations of a legal “Consent Order” that followed the unconstitutional cutting of several thousands of trees on Forest Preserve lands along the Route 3 scenic highway corridor between Saranac Lake and Tupper Lake in 2005. The Association for the Protection of the Adirondacks filed a civil violation of the Forest Preserve complaint against the cutting with the NYS-DEC at the time and then worked extensively to see the provisions of a strong “Consent Order” against DOT be brought to fruition. Association Comments on the Draft “Green Book” include:
The Association commends the Department in the tremendous amount of work undertaken in compiling the Draft NYS-DOT Guidelines for the Adirondack Park. The document in and of itself represents a comprehensive compendium of state policy, regulations, design criteria and case studies regarding roadway and highway engineering, design and environmental controls.
The Department is making progress on the requirements of the 2006 “Order on Consent” between the DEC, DOT and APA which required inclusion of policies directing the DOT with regard to addressing hazard tree management within the Adirondack Park, verifying the specific requirements for the application of needed temporary revocable permits (TRPs) and designating accountable Department staff expertise needed to guide and monitor parkwide program implementation. The DOT parkwide engineer position held by Ed Franze was one of AFPA’s recommendations.
The Association is also pleased that the Department has produced the Appendix Q outlining the “Environmental Commitments and Obligations for Maintenance (ECOM) that includes the environmental checklist for NYSDOT maintenance activities in the Adirondack Park and the outline for the needed Adirondack Park Baseline Maintenance Training program.
However, the Association felt these sections require further consensus between the State departments and agencies and public stakeholders in order to fully protect Park resources and to prevent reoccurrences of the 2005 Route 3 tree-cutting which led to the Order on Consent.
Dan Plumley, the Association’s Director of Park Protection, also called on all three state agencies (DOT, DEC and APA) to develop unite around a joint mission to create a planning process for all highway and greenway corridors in the Park. Plumley outlined strategies the agencies should take for enhancing the Park’s scenic, natural character; support walkable communities; advance mass transit opportunities; and mitigate negative effects of roadways and traffic.
A summary of the Associations’ major comments on the Green Book are available online.
Received from the Adirondack Mountain Club and forwarded for your information, the following press release:
ALBANY, N.Y. — The Adirondack Mountain Club (ADK), the Association for the Protection of the Adirondacks, the Sierra Club and the Residents’ Committee to Protect the Adirondacks filed a lawsuit in state Supreme Court in Albany on May 29. The suit asks the court to compel the state Department of Environmental Conservation to ban floatplanes on Lows Lake in the Adirondack Park.
The lawsuit was filed because DEC has failed to abide by legal commitments it made in 2003 to eliminate floatplanes on the wilderness lake. In January of that year, the DEC commissioner signed a unit management plan (UMP) for the area that committed DEC to phasing out floatplane use of Lows Lake over five years. The five-year window expired at the end of January, but DEC has not promulgated regulations to ban floatplanes. According to the Adirondack Park State Land Master Plan, which is part of the state Executive Law, “preservation of the wild character of this canoe route without motorboat or airplane usage … is the primary management goal for this primitive area.” “Lows Lake is a true wilderness within the ‘forever wild’ Forest Preserve,” said David H. Gibson, executive director of the Association for the Protection of the Adirondacks. “Eighty-five percent of its shoreline is bounded by designated wilderness. It is the true eastern border of the Five Ponds Wilderness Area. The public expects DEC to manage wilderness according to well established principles and legal guidelines, among which is the key provision that there shall be no public motorized use.”
“We take this action reluctantly and only after extensive discussions with DEC at the highest levels,” said Roger F. Downs, conservation associate for the Sierra Club Atlantic Chapter. “From the moment these lands and waters were acquired for the public in 1985, the state’s verbal and written intent was to treat this body of water as wilderness and to close Lows Lake to all public motorized use. Finally, in 2003, DEC committed in the UMP to doing just that over the ensuing five years, providing floatplane operators with a long time to adjust their business plans. Five years constitutes a very generous and lengthy public notice. We act today because DEC has failed to follow through on a very public commitment advertised far in advance and involving extensive public involvement and debate.”
At 3,122 acres, Lows Lake, which straddles the St. Lawrence-Hamilton county line, is one of the larger lakes in the Adirondack Park. The lake stretches about 10 miles east to west and is the centerpiece of a roughly 20-milelong wilderness canoe route. Floatplanes were rare on Lows Lake until recently. Sometime before 1990, non-native bass were illegally introduced into the lake, and as public awareness of the bass fishery grew, floatplanes and motorboat use increased. Motorboats, except those for personal use by the few private landowners on the lake, are now prohibited on Lows Lake.
A recent analysis by the Residents’ Committee shows that only 10 of the 100 largest lakes and ponds in the Adirondacks are “motorless,” and three of these are in remote areas that are not easily accessible. The vast majority of lakes and ponds in the Adirondacks are overrun with floatplanes, motorboats and personal watercraft.
“Motorboats have already been prohibited on Lows Lake, making this decision by DEC inconsistent as well as illegal,” said Michael P. Washburn, executive director of the Residents’ Committee. “The park should be the place where people know they can find wilderness. That will only happen if New York state follows its own laws.”
DEC’s proposed permit system would limit flights into the lake and allow DEC to designate specific areas for take offs and landings, but the plan creates a number of problems. For one thing, floatplane operators would be allowed to store canoes for use by their clients on Forest Preserve land designated as wilderness, an inappropriate and unconstitutional commercial use of public land. Floatplanes would also have to beach on the wilderness shore to drop off and pick up clients at the canoe storage sites.
During the peak paddling season, July through September, floatplanes would be prohibited from landing on and taking off from Lows Lake on Fridays and Saturdays and on Sundays before 2 p.m. This would increase pressure on the area because visitors coming in by floatplane would have to camp for at least three nights on weekends during the busy season. Floatplane customers would also be coming in on Thursday, allowing them to quickly fill up camping sites before weekend paddlers have a chance to get there.
DEC attempts to justify the proposal by manipulating the results of a survey of paddlers who visited Lows Lake in 2007. Generally, the survey results do not support continued use of floatplanes on Lows Lake. For example, 68 percent of the paddlers surveyed said they believe it is inappropriate for floatplanes to use the lake and 85 percent said floatplanes diminished their wilderness experience. These figures are consistent with the hundreds of letters the state received in 2002 supporting a floatplane ban.
“Lows Lake provides a rare wilderness paddling experience, but that experience is greatly diminished by the intrusion of floatplanes,” said Neil F. Woodworth, executive director of ADK. “It’s frustrating, after a hard day canoeing or kayaking, to discover that your favorite campsite has already been grabbed by someone who can afford to hire a plane.”
The suit is returnable on July 11 in Albany. Attorney John W. Caffry of Caffry & Flower of Glens Falls is representing the coalition in the case.
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