Recent pieces in the Adirondack Explorer (see here and here) have attempted to assess the implications of the decision by New York State’s highest court in Protect the Adirondacks v Department of Environmental Conservation and Adirondack Park Agency. The Court of Appeals found that these state agencies violated the state Constitution in their efforts to build a network of new extra-wide snowmobile trails in the Adirondack Forest Preserve. These commenters have derided the decision because they say it’s focused on tree cutting, which they argue is a poor standard to evaluate the constitutionality of management actions by state agencies under Article 14, Section 1, the Forever Wild Clause.
Posts Tagged ‘Article 14’
Protect the Adirondacks supports a proposed Article 14 Constitutional Amendment for the Mount Van Hoevenberg Olympic Sports Complex outside Lake Placid. At the Mt. Van Hoevenberg complex, the Olympic Regional Development Authority (ORDA) currently manages around 1,220 acres of Forest Preserve classified as Intensive Use by the Adirondack Park Agency (APA). Abutting these lands is 319 acres of land owned by the Town of North Elba. Together this complex houses the Olympic bobsled and luge track, cross-country skiing and biathlon trails, and associated facilities, with most of the intensive buildings and facilities located on the town lands.
Hemlock grove of old trees, Wilcox Lake Wild Forest
As my friend and I hiked underneath groves of large eastern hemlock trees in the part of the Adirondack Forest Preserve called Wilcox Lake Wild Forest we thought about what this forest is and the vast ecological system – the community of life – that the forest and we are are interdependent parts of.
What towered above us, hemlocks well over a century in age, are dwarfed in scope by the vaster yet unseen root and fungal synapses and microbiota that sustain this wild forest in the soil beneath our feet.
The watershed feeding Tenant Creek flowing downslope of the trail we were on is one of thousands upon thousands of watersheds, large and smaller, whose ability to store and slowly release water were once under threat by deforestation and which motivated passage in 1894 of New York’s “forever wild” provision in its State Constitution, now encompassing 3 million acres in both Adirondack and Catskill Parks. Wilcox Lake Wild Forest, more than 100,000 acres in size, is part of that forever wild system.
The State Legislature has just adjourned, but on a good many nights this past month I grew sleepy watching legislative TV or legislative proceedings on the internet. For the non-debate pieces of legislation, meaning when the legislative majority is not allowing minority debate on bills, the viewer is treated to the following exchanges in a monotone, one after the other: The speaker or his representative, or the Senate president or her representative: “The clerk will read the bill.” The clerk: “a bill to” …whatever it does. The speaker or his representative: “The clerk will read the final section.” The clerk: “this act shall take effect immediately.” The speaker, president or their representative: “The vote: 63 in favor. The bill is passed.” All of that has taken less than ten seconds. Next.
- Court of Appeals Rules in Favor of Protect the Adirondacks, Finds Cuomo Administration Violated Forever Wild Clause of State Constitution
- The Cuomo administration’s plan to expand motorized use on the public Forest Preserve in the Adirondacks by building hundreds of miles of wide Class II snowmobile trails was ruled unconstitutional by the state’s highest court.
- This historic decision will shape Forest Preserve management for decades to come.
Previously, the Almanack has asked “which side are you on” when it comes to a court case involving Article 14, the “forever wild” provision of our state constitution.
Recently, dueling press releases from plaintiff Protect the Adirondacks and the Adirondack Mountain Club, Open Space Institute, Adirondack Council, Sierra Club Atlantic Chapter and Adirondack Wild: Friends of the Forest Preserve, the group I work for – indeed suggest that all of us are retreating to our separate corners.
In truth we are longstanding and natural allies and proponents of the “forever wild” provision and much else. Politicization has not completely engulfed the world of wild nature – yet.
This is the last article in a 5-part series on possible amendments in 2020 to Article 14, Section 1, of the NYS Constitution, the famed forever wild provision.
This article looks back at the amendment for NYCO Minerals, Inc., in 2013, that authorized exploratory drilling on 200 acres in Lewis Lot 8 in the Forest Preserve in the Jay Mountain Wilderness. This amendment was barely approved, passing by the narrowest margin of any successful Article 14 amendment. The NYCO Amendment was different from all other amendments to Article 14 because it marked the first time that a private corporation used the amendment process to seek and obtain Forest Preserve lands for no other purpose than benefitting its bottom line. Every other amendment had a public benefit and purpose. The NYCO Amendment did not.
Happy Independence Day!
Article 14, Section 1 — the “Forever Wild” clause of New York’s constitution — has been amended 16 times since 1938, and talks have been under way about three new amendments that could be put before voters.
In the Almanack, Peter Bauer, Executive Director of Protect the Adirondacks, has been working on a five-part series about these proposed amendments.
This is the fourth article in a series that looks at three possible NYS constitutional amendments to Article 14, Section 1 (the “Forever Wild” clause) that are being debated in 2020. This article looks at the issue of utilizing Forest Preserve lands around Cathead Mountain, in the south edge of the Silver Lake Wilderness area, to locate a new emergency communications tower, similar to such towers on Blue Mountain and East Mountain.
Protect the Adirondacks has reviewed the options for the future of the Camp Gabriels complex, a former state prison in the Town of Brighton in Franklin County in the northern Adirondack Park. The site is located between Saranac Lake and Paul Smith’s just outside of Gabriels. The land that the prison complex was built upon is Forest Preserve, protected under NYS Constitution Article 14, Section 1. The prison complex was part of a state purchase in 1982 of over 224 acres. This facility has been dormant since 2009 when the state closed the prison camp.
Editor’s note: This is Part 1 in a five-part series that will run over the next few weeks.
Article 14, Section 1, of the New York Constitution, the famed “Forever Wild” provision, has been amended 16 times since 1938. It has been amended five times since 2007, making this period the most active and intensive in Forest Preserve history for amendments.
Several Article 14, Section 1 proposed amendments are being drafted and organized by the Department of Environmental Conservation and Cuomo Administration that focus on bringing the Mt. Van Hoevenberg Winter Sports Complex (pictured here) into compliance with Article 14, removing the former Camp Gabriels prison complex from the Forest Preserve, and for locating an emergency communications tower on, and possibly providing public access, to Cathead Mountain in southern Hamilton County, which would involve neighboring Forest Preserve.
Protect the Adirondacks recently won a major victory in its lawsuit to enforce Article 14, Section 1 of the state Constitution, the well-known forever wild clause. The case challenged the excessive tree cutting undertaken by state agencies to build a vast network of Class II Community Connector snowmobile trails in the Adirondack Forest Preserve.
The case began in 2013 and this result has been six years in the making. Previously, the Appellate Division, Third Department, of the state Supreme Court had issued a preliminary injunction against this tree cutting in 2016 after the Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) and Adirondack Park Agency (APA) had constructed or roughed out over 20 miles of new trails.
In order to cut a lot more trees on the Forest Preserve for new snowmobile corridors, Governor Andrew Cuomo’s Department of Environmental Conservation and the Attorney General’s Office have announced that they will appeal July’s court ruling against the State and in favor of Protect the Adirondacks.
That ruling by a 4-1 court majority declared that the extent of tree cutting for snowmobile trail construction, when considered cumulatively, violated our state’s constitutional limit on destruction of timber on the Forest Preserve “to a material degree” (Article XIV, Section 1, NYS Constitution, and court interpretations). » Continue Reading.
Adirondack Forest Preserve advocates Protect the Adirondacks announced Monday that they plan to appeal one of the July 3rd rulings by the Appellate Division, Third Department, in its lawsuit challenging the tree cutting and terrain alterations for snowmobile trails on the Forest Preserve by state agencies. The State announced last week that it also planned to appeal part of the ruling.
The court issued a mixed decision in July. It ruled that the cutting of over 25,000 trees on the Forest Preserve for wide class II community connector snowmobile trails violated Article 14, Section 1, of the NYS Constitution. At the same time however, the court ruled that the construction practices used to clear, bulldoze and grade these trails did not violate the famous forever wild provision of Article 14.
The New York State Constitution’s Article 14 protects the Adirondack Forest Preserve as “forever wild.” Adirondack Forest Preserve lands form the basis of the Adirondack Park. » Continue Reading.
There are more than three million acres of Forest Preserve in the Adirondack and Catskill Parks today. Yet, the most consequential New York State Court decision restricting the ways we can develop and use the “forever wild” Preserve was all about a few acres of land below Mt. Van Hoevenberg, close to Lake Placid.
There, in 1929, the state planned a “bobsleigh run or slide on state lands in the forest preserve.” About 2500 trees would need cutting to create the bobsled course for the 1932 Olympics. The lower court, the Appellate Division, Third Department, ruled that this activity was unconstitutional on grounds that this was wild forest and therefore must be preserved in its wild state, stating that “we must preserve it in its wild nature, its trees, its rocks, its streams. It must always retain the character of a wilderness.” » Continue Reading.
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