Make Tahawus tracks wilderness

In his article in the November/December issue of the Explorer about the prospect of a trail being constructed on the mining company NLI’s thirty-mile D&H rail spur to Tahawus, Alan Wechsler noted that if the rails are removed, the seventeen miles of so-called permanent easements and the thirteen miles of temporary easements on the Forest Preserve will be extinguished. Actually, the legal issues are much more extensive and serious, not to mention the fact that many people do not think it a good idea to have a trail that would be used by snowmobiles ending on the doorstep of the High Peaks Wilderness Area.

These right-of-way easements were taken by eminent domain by the federal government in 1941, solely for the purpose of hauling ore from Tahawus, over the strenuous objections of the state and the Association for the Protection of the Adirondacks, which took their case all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court. The railroad spur was built in 1942 by the federal government and subsequently leased to National Lead (now NLI) by the federal government, which bought it at auction in 1989.

Because the sole purpose of the federal taking was to haul ore, other purposes for the rail spur, such as for a tourist train or for a trail are precluded. Further, active mining stopped in 1982, and the railroad was abandoned in 1989. The sole purpose of the rail spur has been fulfilled; ore will never be hauled again; and the easements on the Forest Preserve should be extinguished. The trail idea should be dropped, and the Forest Preserve should be restored to its pristine pre-WWII condition.

NLI also should be required to remove the huge amount of waste rock it dumped in the Hudson River under DEC permit, to get to its reserve ore deposits at Cheney Pond, and restore the river to a natural free-flowing stream.

Charles C. Morrison, Saratoga Springs
Morrison is former natural resources director
for the state Department of Environmental Conservation.

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