Protect the Adirondacks offered its first witness Wednesday in a civil trial that could clarify the meaning of Article 14, the section of the state constitution that declares that the Forest Preserve “shall be forever kept as wild forest lands.”
Historian Philip Terrie spent several hours on the stand, establishing his credentials and testifying about the meaning of timber circa 1894, the year Article 14 (then Article 7) was approved.
Article 14 mandates that timber on the Preserve shall not be “sold, removed or destroyed.”
Protect the Adirondacks contends that the state’s construction of “community connector” snowmobile trails violates this provision and will destroy tens of thousands of trees. The nonprofit group is suing the state Department of Environmental Conservation and Adirondack Park Agency.
Governor Cuomo’s proposed new public-private initiative to revitalize Northway Exit 29 in the Adirondack Park, the former Frontiertown theme park, and to create a new visitor center and “gateway” there to benefit not just the town of North Hudson, but Essex County and the entire Adirondack Park is a good proposal.
After the Governor spent public funds to acquire the nearby Boreas Ponds for the Forest Preserve as a kind of gateway to the High Peaks and Dix Mountain Wilderness, this well-traveled sector of Essex County so close to I-87 deserves a gateway information and interpretive center that helps attract, orient, inform and inspire curious travelers – whether or not those visitors intend an outdoor adventure at Boreas Ponds.
What concerns me is one sentence buried in that same State of the State report (on page 271): “Specifically, DEC will construct infrastructure at Boreas Ponds in the Adirondacks and build trails as part of the “Hut-to-Hut” system that links State lands to community amenities.” » Continue Reading.
A rose is a rose is a rose, Gertrude Stein said. Defining a tree is not so simple.
That question — what is a tree? — has emerged as a central issue in a long-running dispute over the construction of “community-connector” snowmobile trails in the Forest Preserve. These trails, which link hamlets, are nine feet wide (twelve feet on curves) and graded to make them smooth. » Continue Reading.
A new preliminary injunction has been handed down today by a full panel of the Appellate Division, Third Department, of the State Supreme Court, to sustain a temporary ban on tree cutting by state agencies on the forever wild Forest Preserve. This preliminary injunction will remain in place until a decision is made on an appeal of a denial by the State Supreme Court for a preliminary injunction against tree cutting during construction of a network of new class II community connector snowmobile trails on the Forest Preserve.
Tree cutting was stopped for 25 days in mid-July thru mid-August 2016, resumed for one week, and then was halted again on August 19th by one justice of the Appellate Division. The new ban is expected to remain in place well into the fall. » Continue Reading.
A justice from the Appellate Division, Third Department, of state Supreme Court, issued an order to show cause Friday to stay further tree cutting on the Forest Preserve by the Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) as it builds a new 9-12 foot wide snowmobile thoroughfare between Newcomb and Minerva.
Last week a Supreme Court decision denied a motion for preliminary injunction against tree cutting by DEC, which had work crews cutting trees on the Forest Preserve this week. Tree cutting had been stopped for 25 days in mid-July thru mid-August. This new decision will halt tree cutting for the next ten days while the Appellate Division considers whether to issue an injunction during Protect the Adirondacks’ appeal of the Supreme Court decision.
The DEC has cut over 7,500 trees on 6.5 miles of the new community connector snowmobile trail from Newcomb to Minerva, including many located in old growth forest habitat. The DEC is planning to cut another 7,500 in the weeks ahead. » Continue Reading.
It can be an arcane field, the Forest Preserve. Article XIV, Section 1 of the State Constitution, the “forever wild” clause, is comprised of 54 words which appear clear enough. Its authors in 1894 thought it should slam the door on those late-19th century abuses of the Preserve.
The century-plus since has seen (mis)interpretations of law, purposeful evasions of law, statutes that contradict the NYS Constitution, contradictory opinions of attorneys general, contradictory rulings by our highest courts – the list goes on and on.
How to keep it all straight? For years, advocates have relied on the writings of Bob Glennon, Al Forsyth, Norman J. Van Valkenburgh, Neil Woodworth, and others to get to the heart of these inconsistencies. » Continue Reading.
A judge has denied a request by Protect the Adirondacks to prohibit the state Department of Environmental Conservation from cutting Forest Preserve trees for a snowmobile trail while the trail’s legality is being contested in court.
State Supreme Court Justice Gerald Connolly ruled that Protect failed to demonstrate that it is likely to prevail in its lawsuit against DEC and the Adirondack Park Agency.
A justice of the Appellate Division, Third Department, of state Supreme Court issued an order on Friday that halted tree cutting by the Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) on a new 9-12 foot wide snowmobile trail between Newcomb and Minerva in the central Adirondacks.
According to a survey commissioned by Protect the Adirondacks, the DEC cut over 4,000 trees on 2.9 miles of this trail in the fall of 2015, had recently cut thousands of trees on a new 3-mile section in June and July 2016, and was about to cut thousands more trees, including many located in old growth forest habitat. » Continue Reading.
The Daily Gazette in Schenectady opined recently that the latest post-budget legislative session in Albany was an essentially useless, squandered opportunity that didn’t accomplish much of importance to New Yorkers. In many areas, it may be true – much more could have been accomplished. Selectively speaking though, there were some accomplishments and compromises which took significant leadership.
One legislative accomplishment was catalyzed by serious PFOA groundwater pollution in Hoosick Falls and other upstate communities. (PFOA is described as a synthetic perfluorinated carboxylic acid and fluorosurfactant.) If Governor Andrew Cuomo signs the bill it will allow someone to file a claim for personal injury due to exposure to hazardous or toxic substances up to three years after a site has been designated a state or federal Superfund area. This is a very big deal for folks from Hoosick Falls and many other polluted locations. » Continue Reading.
Legislation in the form of a constitutional amendment has been introduced in Albany this session which would “convey certain Forest Preserve that was never intended to be included in the Forest Preserve.” That land is the 92-acre former Camp Gabriels prison in the Town of Brighton, formerly part of Paul Smith’s College, and before that a tubercular sanitarium. How this property and those interested in its conversion from a prison to another use came to this stage is a bit of a long story.
Given that this legislative session has just five days remaining, this 11th hour introduction of a constitutional amendment to Article XIV, the forever wild clause, should be viewed as both very surprising and controversial. It is neither. It’s a lesson learned, I trust, for the State of New York which turned a deaf ear in 2011 to the warning and recommendation of Adirondack Wild: Friends of the Forest Preserve, Protect the Adirondacks and the Atlantic Chapter of the Sierra Club. » Continue Reading.
We’re moving into an era of one-agency rule in the Adirondack Park and that should be very troubling to everyone. For nearly 45 years, management of the public Forest Preserve has been based on checks and balances between the Adirondack Park Agency (APA) and the Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC). The APA set management policy and the DEC administered the on-the-ground management of trails and other facilities. The APA created and updated the Adirondack Park State Land Master Plan, while DEC drafted individual Unit Management Plans (UMPs), which the APA reviewed for compliance. By and large this joint administration, which provided oversight, accountability, and public participation, worked well for the natural resource protection and public recreational use of the Forest Preserve.
All that is changing. There is little effective oversight by the APA and little accountability by the DEC. We’re in a new era of one-agency control. » Continue Reading.
During his years as a senior advisor to many younger Adirondack conservationists, Paul Schaefer told some interesting stories. He witnessed the following incident in the New York State Legislature in 1953, when he was about 45-years-old, at the height of his effectiveness as a conservation organizer. The following story is about passage of what was called the Ostrander Amendment, an amendment to Article 14, Section 1 – the “forever wild clause” – of the New York State Constitution.
In 1953, the Ostrander Amendment had been twice passed by the State Assembly and the bill was on the floor of the State Senate, then being chaired by Lieutenant Governor Frank Moore. The Clerk of the Senate began to read the bill when a State Senator came up to the Lt. Governor’s desk, grabbed the bill from the Clerk, and quickly left the Senate Chamber. The Lt. Governor sent one of his aides after him and as the aide rushed out of the Senate chamber, he saw the Senator headed into a washroom. Following him, the aide found the State Senator about to flush the bill down the toilet. The aide, a big man, grabs the Senator by the collar, snatches the bill from his grasp and takes it back to the Senate Chamber and hands it back to the Lt. Governor, who said, according to Paul, “the next man who tries to take this bill I will personally hit with this gavel.” » Continue Reading.
A new report by Adirondack Wild: Friends of the Forest Preserve concludes that “New York’s Adirondack Park faces serious threats due to the failure by State agencies in recent years to protect and preserve the Park’s wild forest character and natural resources. ”
The report, The Adirondack Park at a Crossroad: A Road Map for Action [pdf], argues that APA and DEC are failing to fulfill their legal obligations to protect and preserve the Adirondack Park. The report outlines what the organization considers “a pattern of state agencies straying from their historical mission of science-based conservation and resource protection.” » Continue Reading.
Protect the Adirondacks conducted an investigation into the role of the Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) in support of the 2013 Constitutional Amendment to allow NYCO Minerals, Inc., a mining company in Essex County, to undertake mining activities and obtain 200 acres of “forever wild” Forest Preserve lands.
The investigation started in early 2014 and used hundreds of documents from the DEC and Board of Elections obtained under the Freedom of Information Law. PROTECT’s investigation found what the group is calling “a startling and illegal commitment of DEC’s staff time and resources to support NYCO’s bid to buy Forest Preserve lands.” » Continue Reading.
In 1892 the New York State Legislature created the Adirondack Park and in 1894 placed “Forever Wild” forest protection into the State Constitution. Thus began a process of wilderness protection for what today covers thousands of lakes and millions of acres of forests.
During the following sixty years however, there were scores of determined efforts by developers, local governments, and subsequent legislatures to weaken that protection to promote mining, logging, hydroelectric power, roads, commercial recreation and off-road access by jeeps, snowmobiles, floatplanes and motorboats. To repel these threats, America’s first modern grassroots wilderness protection campaigns began. » Continue Reading.
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