The Adirondack Park Agency (APA) and NYS Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) presented a draft of their joint Visitor Use Management (VUM) and Wildlands Monitoring tool during the State Land Committee Report at the APA Meeting in Ray Brook.
ADK applauds the formation and release of this document, which is seen as a big step towards establishing a visitor use management framework consistent with standards set by the Federal Interagency Visitor Use Management Council (IVUMC), something ADK has routinely advocated for over the years.
Costello: I’ve got shoes on…. It doesn’t mean I’m walking.” – One Night in the Tropics, 1940
“Things are not always what they seem; the first appearance deceives many; the intelligence of a few perceives what has been carefully hidden.” – Phaedrus, 428-348 B.C.
Usually, when I hear someone refer to a “philosophical problem,” it is safe to assume they have stumbled upon something contested or murky. Anything without clean borders and an obviously correct side that good people can agree on is often dismissed as a “philosophical problem.” Also consigned to this fate are questions that seem simple until you look closely and discover a thicket of overlap and conflicts. In my experience this is usually because what appears to be the question is either not the real question or not the whole question. I’m going to try to untangle a situation that falls into the latter category, but before you chuck this column onto the philosophical slash heap, stay with me, and let’s talk timber.
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.
It seems pretty clear at this point that the state agencies that manage the High Peaks Wilderness Area, and adjacent Wilderness areas, are not interested in limiting public use.
The state is investing in new parking areas, new hiking trails, and a new hiker transportation system that are all designed to facilitate ever-higher levels of public use in the High Peaks, not limit it.
DEC manages 4.6 million acres of public lands, including three million acres in the Adirondack and Catskill Forest Preserves, more than 5,000 miles of formal trails, campgrounds, day use areas, and hundreds of trailheads, boat launches, and fishing piers. » Continue Reading.
Fifty years ago this August, Goveror Nelson Rockefeller’s Temporary Study Commission on the Future of the Adirondacks met at Eagle Nest, the great camp of its chairman, Harold Hochshild.
Members brought their spouses, and it seems as though the gathering was a long, country house weekend as much as it was an official meeting. There was horseback riding, water skiing and tours of the nearby Adirondack Museum, which Hochshild had created and which he subsidized until his death in 1981. And, no doubt, cocktails on the veranda at the violet hour.
Experts advising the Commission were invited to present talks on topics related to its work – protecting the Adirondacks from suburban sprawl, over-use and threats to the Forest Preserve. Among those experts was Vincent Schaefer. » Continue Reading.
Alternative snowmobile corridors proposed in the Remsen – Lake Placid Travel Corridor Draft Amendment violate the law and the “forever wild” mandate of the NYS Constitution and should be immediately removed from the draft according to Adirondack Wild: Friends of the Forest Preserve.
“The Department of Environmental Conservation’s inclusion of highly controversial alternative snowmobile routes which violate the law and a July 2019 court decision in a document dedicated to a Travel Corridor makes no sense to us,” the group’s managing partner David Gibson said in a statement sent to the press.
“This plan should stick to its topic, meaning the future of linear Rail and Recreational Trail segments from Big Moose to Lake Placid, and avoid mapping snowmobile community connectors outside of the Corridor on Forest Preserve which needlessly raise red flags and which blatantly violate wilderness law and a recent court decision.” » Continue Reading.
Many years ago my wife, our Newfoundland dog, and I paddled past what appeared to be many rather unnatural clearings on Long Pond in the St. Regis Canoe Area. Here and there, partially underwater, I saw a piece of plastic water pipe or an old rusty pipe that might have been a dock support. They are the remains of tent platform sites.
In the early 1970s, these camps on “forever wild” New York State Adirondack Forest Preserve Lands were built on leases to private individuals. There were somewhere in the vicinity of 600 individual leases throughout the Adirondacks at that time. Many tent platform leases were on Lower Saranac Lake, where there were 187 tent platforms leased in 1961, and on the various ponds that today comprise the St. Regis Canoe Area. There were also tent platform sites on such popular lakes as Forked, Seventh, Lewey, and Indian Lakes, along the Raquette River, and in many other areas. » Continue Reading.
Noah Shaw, former general counsel for the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA), contributed to the drafting of New York State’s groundbreaking 2019 climate legislation. This September, he wrote an op-ed in the Adirondack Explorer, “What New York’s Bold Climate Law Means for the Adirondacks.”
The Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act of 2019 “outlines a so-called ‘carbon offset’ program as a counter-weight to the 15 percent of emissions that may remain after all our other emissions-reducing actions are taken,” he wrote. “These will likely come from hard-to-clean-up activities like aviation, agriculture, shipping and heavy industry. New York’s most valuable carbon offset resource, also known as a ‘sink,’ is its forestland. This is good news for the Adirondack Forest Preserve.” » Continue Reading.
In the July 2019 legal decision in favor of Protect the Adirondacks, regarding the constitutionality of excessive tree cutting by state agencies to build a network of Class II community connector snowmobile trails in the Adirondack Forest Preserve, the Appellate Division, Third Department, ruled that the cutting of over 25,000 trees to build these trails violated Article 14, Section 1, of the state Constitution, the famed “forever wild” provision.
This article looks at the meaning of Article 14, Section 1, in light of this new ruling. (A related article dealt with use of the word “timber” in Article 14 of the state Constitution). This article looks at how small diameter trees have long been protected in Forest Preserve legal practice. Article 14 reads: “The lands of the state, now owned or hereafter acquired, constituting the forest preserve as now fixed by law, shall be forever kept as wild forest lands. They shall not be leased, sold or exchanged, or be taken by any corporation, public or private, nor shall the timber thereon be sold, removed or destroyed.”
The Adirondack Council on October 4th sent a letter to Adirondack Park Agency Deputy Director for Planning Richard Weber urging that the proposed Sentinel Range Wilderness Area Unit Management Plan be incorporated into a larger landscape-scale plan for all public and private lands around the High Peaks Wilderness Area.
The Council also urged the APA to improve its monitoring of impacts of recreation on the ecology and wild character of the Forest Preserve, especially in wilderness areas. As it does with other unit management plans, the APA must decide whether it complies with the Adirondack Park State Land Master Plan. » Continue Reading.
Adirondack Wild: Friends of the Forest Preserve will make free hard copies of its guidebook Pathways to a Connected Adirondack Park available during its Keene Valley meeting on Saturday, October 12, 2019 at the Keene Valley Congregational Church.
The illustrated guidebook, authored by conservation biologist Dr. Michael Klemens, was written to de-mystify the process of ecologically-informed land use and development for a general audience. It defines and describes the threat to people and wildlife of fragmentation of large contiguous areas in the Adirondack Park by being broken up into ever smaller, isolated patches of land. The publications describes ten strategies for localities and for regional entities like the Adirondack Park Agency (APA) to adopt which can lead to better land use decisions that avoid or minimize fragmentation, reduce the ecological footprint of development and still accommodate vibrant human communities, working forests and outdoor recreation. » Continue Reading.
The Adirondack Council’s 2019-20 State of the Park report is subtitled “Challenged by Success,” noting that the success of state tourism campaigns is straining the park’s lands and waters, as record numbers of hikers climb the state’s tallest mountains and as recreational boating and off-road vehicles gain popularity.
The challenge is especially noticeable in the High Peaks Wilderness Area, but can be seen in popular locations throughout the park, the report notes. State of the Park is the organization’s annual comprehensive assessment of the actions of local, state and federal government officials. This 38th edition rates 106 separate government actions. » Continue Reading.
Longtime grassroots Adirondack Park environmental activist Joe Mahay died in early August at home with his family. Joe and his wife Naomi Tannen had been living in Florence, Massachusetts, where for the past year and a half Joe had dealt with metastatic cancer and chemotherapy.
Joe was one of the founders of the Residents’ Committee to Protect the Adirondacks and twice served as its Chair, tactfully leading the organization through its formative years and a raucous debate over the future of the Adirondack Park in the 1990s and early 2000s.
Joe had a long career as an administrator at a non-profit agency working with people with developmental disabilities in Essex County and poured his volunteer time for many years into the protection of the Forest Preserve and Adirondack Park.
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.
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