Through most of the last few years, Protect the Adirondacks stood alone in its opposition to the proposed amendment to Article 14, Section 1, the famed Forever Wild clause of the New York Constitution, to privatize and remove six acres from the Forest Preserve at the north end of Debar Pond. The affected lands provide the best public access to a popular beach and canoe launching area on Debar Pond in the Debar Mountain Wild Forest area and include some decrepit buildings that should be demolished and removed around the boarded-up Debar Lodge. Protect the Adirondacks has made the case that the Debar Lodge site should be reclaimed and restored to a wild forest setting and the site should remain highly accessible and easy to reach for swimming, hiking, canoeing, fishing, hunting, and camping, and be a place that can grow wilder each year and one day be like another Lake Lila.
Posts Tagged ‘Protect the Adirondacks’
In 2022, Governor Kathy Hochul signed the “30 by 30” law that establishes a conservation goal for New York State of protecting 30% of the State’s “lands and inland waters” by the year 2030. This landmark environmental protection legislation enjoyed broad bipartisan support, passing the State Senate by a vote of 58 to 3, and the State Assembly by a vote of 137 to 8. The 30 by 30 law commits New York to do its part to reach a similar national goal established by President Joe Biden in 2021, to protect 30% of the nation’s lands and waters by 2030, and is a major step forward to protect New York’s open spaces, forests, and wetlands, which are cornerstones of the State’s long-term climate resilience and mitigation efforts.
Protect the Adirondacks released a new special report 20% in 2023: An Assessment of the New York State 30 by 30 Act that assessed the level of protected lands and waters in New York State in 2023, the types of lands protected, what constitutes protected lands, and the amount of land that needs to be protected by 2030 to reach the goal of protecting 30% of New York State’s lands and waters as set out in the 30 by 30 Act. The new report also lays out recommendations for needed actions by the State of New York and includes tables for all 62 counties that details the types of lands and total acreages currently protected in each county.
North Creek, NY— It’s nearing peak fall colors in the Adirondack Park. There are many places to see the leaves as mountainsides and valleys turn bright orange, yellow, and red. Protect the Adirondacks has put together hiking guides to 25 hikes that are easy, moderate, and challenging, but lead to terrific locations to see the fall colors in all corners of the Adirondack Park. These guides include maps, information about hiking conditions, and pictures.
This list includes short, easy hikes of one mile or so, such as Azure Mountain, north of Paul Smith’s, Coney Mountain outside of Tupper Lake, Cook Mountain in Ticonderoga, Balm of Gilead outside of North Creek, the Bloomingdale Bog outside of Saranac Lake, Cobble Lookout in Wilmington, or Black Bear Mountain near Inlet and Old Forge.
Moderate hikes of 2 to 4 miles include Poke-O-Moonshine, Catamount Mountain and Silver Lake Mountain south of Plattsburgh, Haystack Mountain outside of Lake Placid, Owl Head Lookout near Elizabethtown, Goodnow Mountain in Newcomb, Moxham Mountain in Minerva, Hadley Mountain outside of Lake Luzerne, Five Mile Mountain north of Bolton Landing, or Owls Head Mountain in Long Lake.
On January 20, 2023, Protect the Adirondacks filed a lawsuit challenging the reconstruction by the Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) of a previously closed and reclaimed road in the High Peaks Wilderness Complex. DEC’s road construction activity in the High Peaks violates the Adirondack Park State Land Master Plan (Master Plan) which prohibits roads in Wilderness areas.
By Brian Wells
This is a story that should have had a happy ending.
A story of five Adirondack towns working with state government and environmental non-profits on an agreement to expand the taxpayer-owned Forest Preserve, improve public recreation and bring new economic growth to the area.
The Community Connector Trails agreement would have helped turn the page on decades of Adirondack Region job losses brought on by industry disinvestment and Forest Preserve expansion, and established a model for the type of common-sense, compromise solutions needed for many problems confronting the Adirondack Park.
Instead, it’s a sad story of misplaced trust and lost opportunity, ending with the towns and the people who live there getting left out in the cold.
By Harsh Vaish, Skidmore College
The Department of Environmental Conservation – henceforth referred to as DEC – has been developing plans for major community connector snowmobile trails between Adirondack communities for a number of years. Protect the Adirondacks first sued the DEC in 2013, contending the trials cause significant environmental damage and violate the Constitutional clause for the ‘forever wild’.
Peter Bauer, executive director of Protect the Adirondacks, the environmental organization that sued to block the construction said the litigation is about Class 2 snowmobile trails and not hiking trails. He specifically called out the Adirondack Mountain Club and Open Space Institute’s concerns “specious claims.”
A timeline of events that lead to today’s court decision:
- Protect the Adirondacks launched this lawsuit against the Department of Environmental Conservation and Adirondack Park Agency in 2013 alleging that Class II trails violated Article 14, Section 1, of the New York State Constitution due to excessive tree cutting and terrain alterations.
- Protect the Adirondacks and its expert witnesses undertook extensive fieldwork in 2012-13 and in 2015-16 to document abuses to the Forest Preserve. Counts of over 16,000 tree stumps on Class II trails, with diameter measurements and GPS locations, including photographs of over 12,000 tree stumps, were made.
- In the summer of 2016 Protect the Adirondacks obtained a temporary restraining order that stopped all tree cutting by the state on Class II trails after the first 34 miles of trails were in various stages of development. The DEC and APA had approved plans for a network of hundreds of miles of Class II trails in the Forest Preserve in the Adirondacks.
- In early 2017, a 13-day trial was held in state Supreme Court in Albany. In December 2017 the trial judge ruled against Protect the Adirondacks. In 2018, Protect the Adirondacks appealed to the Appellate Division, Third Department, which in a 4-1 decision overturned the lower court’s ruling in July 2019. In 2020, the DEC and APA appealed to the Court of Appeals. Oral arguments were held in March 2021 at the Court of Appeals. Today, the Court of Appeals ruled 4 to 2 in favor of Protect the Adirondacks that the DEC and APA have violated the forever wild clause of the New York State Constitution.
- 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.
The eagerly awaited final report of the High Peaks Strategic Planning Advisory Group (HPAG) is out. It was worth the wait. The report is ambitious and thorough and comes at a point in time that could potentially mark a new beginning, where we’ll start to see a leavening in the overall management of the High Peaks Wilderness in particular and the Forest Preserve in general. Or, this report could be filed away to rust, lost to time. I hope that this report sees serious follow-up and implementation.
Bringing serious reforms to the management of the High Peaks Wilderness, and the Forest Preserve, is no easy task, but the HPAG report is the most serious blueprint we’ve seen since the days of the Pomeroy Committee and Temporary Study Commission on the Future of the Adirondacks the 1950s and 1960s.
A few weeks ago, Adirondack Mountain Club (ADK) submitted an amicus brief in Protect the Adirondacks! Inc. v. New York State Department of Environmental Conservation and Adirondack Park Agency, wherein Protect challenged the constitutionality of the state’s decision to cut down thousands of trees while building new snowmobile trails in the Forest Preserve. (I am on the Board of Protect the Adirondacks! and testified as an expert witness in the trial for this litigation. What I am saying here is not endorsed by Protect.)
This litigation began in the Supreme Court in Albany and was appealed to the Appellate Division, where a crucial element of Protect’s interpretation of Article 14, section 1, of the NY Constitution, was upheld. Then the state appealed to the NY Court of Appeals, our highest court, where oral arguments will be heard on March 23. The ruling there will be final and cannot be appealed further, although it’s possible the Court of Appeals could return the matter to the lower courts. This is a historic case and will determine the future of state policy with respect to the Forest Preserve and the viability of wilderness in the Adirondacks.
Our Covid-19 socially distanced excursion last week took us to the Debar Tract on NYS Route 30, north of Paul Smith’s College and south of Malone. I wanted to see this area for myself after reading about the controversy over removal of the historic buildings on the shore of Debar Pond. (Click here for the latest article from Adirondack Explorer.)
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.
In celebration of the 50th anniversary of Earth Day, everyone is invited to take part in a national virtual action event. Today through Thursday, activists, performers, thought leaders, and artists will all be collaborating on a 3-day live stream. Organized by the US Climate Strike Coalition and Stop The Money Pipeline Coalition, who together are made up of over 500 organizations, have come together to organize Earth Day Live.
Photo: Students from the University of Wisconsin Green Bay march on the first Earth Day in 1970.
New York State’s expedient evasion of its own State Environmental Quality Review Act (SEQR), has no better recent example than the Cedar River Snowmobile Bridge. The new bridge is being built north of Indian Lake, six miles inside the Adirondack Forest Preserve across a river designated by the State as Scenic.
A Supreme Court just rubber-stamped DEC’s actions in a ruling against Adirondack Wild and Protect the Adirondacks. There is plenty to say about how the Court’s decision (and DEC’s self-issuing Permit and Variance) sets a negative precedent for protection of Scenic Rivers under the State’s Wild, Scenic and Recreational Rivers Act, but for the present let’s address the SEQR evasion. » Continue Reading.
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