About Gwendolyn Craig

Gwen is an award-winning journalist covering environmental policy for the Explorer since January 2020. She also takes photos and videos for the Explorer's magazine and website. She is a current member of the Legislative Correspondents Association of New York. Gwen has worked at various news outlets since 2015. Prior to moving to upstate New York, she worked for a D.C. Metro-area public relations firm, producing digital content for clients including the World Health Organization, the Low Income Investment Fund and Rights and Resources Initiative. She has a master's degree in journalism from the S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications at Syracuse University. She has bachelor's degrees in English and journalism, with a concentration in ecology and evolutionary biology, from the University of Connecticut. Gwen is also a part-time figure skating coach. Contact her at (518) 524-2902 or gwen@adirondackexplorer.org. Sign up for Gwen’s newsletter here.

Reader Interactions


  1. David Gibson says

    What APA completely disregards in their year-long debate: This is one Park of public and private land. Dozens of miles of motorized dirt roads open to the public exist on private land under agreement by conservation easement. None of those easements existed in 1972. Some of those routes open on private land since 2000 could and should substitute for roads in “forever wild” Wild Forest. In short, there are many hundreds of miles of routes open, no shortage at all. For a planning agency to not even to examine where those private land routes are, map them, and consider their possible role in reducing road uses on public Forest Preserve “forever kept as wild forest” makes no sense to Adirondack Wild.

    • Bill Keller says

      Forever-wild is the highest available protection for land in the United States. To be forever-wild, a piece of land is legally and permanently protected, often through a conservation easement. Without easements you would not have the land conservation we have today.

  2. Todd Eastman says

    Boils down to whether the Adirondack Park should be primarily focused on protecting the natural environment and ecosystem services that ultimately save NYS $ millions by protecting air, water, and forests…

    …or, whether adding motorized access for recreation that reduces air quality, water quality, and impacts forests, is more important.

  3. Walter Linck says

    First, a correction: The Galusha case settlement (the “Consent Decree”) did not require DEC “to open about 26 miles of forest preserve trails to people with disabilities.” Only existing DEC administrative roads (roads by State Land Master Plan definition) could be opened to people with disabilities for motor vehicle use. No “trails” could be opened to such use, because the court recognized (by stating it in the Decree) that the provisions of the Master Plan (its many guidelines and criteria) needed to be honored. Also, just to be sure something else of importance here is understood, the court did not direct DEC and APA to open up any particular mileage of such roads for such use. The final mileage was worked out through a long period of DEC, APA and stakeholders’ field work and meetings, and in the end, Judge Kahn accepted what we had all finalized together. (I was personally involved in the tail end of all that work.)

  4. Bobojones says

    What Dave Gibson is suggesting is a complete rewrite of the SLMP and ECL Article 49 title 3 authorizing CEs in NYS. To start counting mileage on CEs is to treat them as Forest Preserve lands, which they specifically are not. By statute, if said CE lands are ever to be treated as Forest preserve lands they would be “void ab initio.” That means almost 1 million acres of permanently protected lands goes away like the CEs never existed. Not sure that is the outcome Dave is looking for.

  5. Walter Linck says

    So what’s happened here is the APA Board has totally mixed up / mixed together their responsibilities in administering the Adirondack Park State Land Master Plan. There is: 1) WRITING the document (deciding how they want it to direct certain aspects of land planning and management, followed by inserting/adopting the language they think best reflects that); and there is: 2) INTERPRETING the document (answering the question, “What was meant, here?” back when these particular words were written?). The first is often sausage-making (understandably and acceptably), but the second is supposed to be an objective, logical analysis and consideration of the language as others wrote it and interpreted it – and hopefully followed it – historically. APA has just completed one giant, very ugly sausage-making process under the pretense that they were interpreting it. At least, that is, regarding whether or not the mileage of CP3 roads count in the “no material increase” mileage limitation.

    To be as brief as I can be…

    There are three defined types of roads in the Master Plan, and one of those is the type that is “open to public use” and – in Wild Forest classified lands – subject to the mileage limitation. There are no caveats or exceptions to this written or implied anywhere in the document.

    The APA Board has just decided that CP3 roads OF A CERTAIN CATEGORY are indeed of that type of road “open to public use” and subject to the mileage limitation written in the Master Plan, while CP3 roads also “open to public use” but OF A DIFFERENT CATEGORY are not, and so their mileage escapes subjection to the limitation. This of course begs the critical question: What IS this important categorization they’ve come up with – what is it based on?

    Is it based on the nature of the “public use”? No. The “public use” is exactly the same.

    Is it based on the roads themselves – their widths or any other aspects of their construction or maintenance? No. These roads are apparently the same in such characteristics.

    Is it based on some assessment of the various detrimental impacts that roads and motor-vehicle use are known to have on wild areas? (And this focus, as all should know, is the primary focus of the Master Plan.) The answer is, again, no.

    It turns out that the supposedly critical difference between the two groups of CP3 roads has nothing to do with anything except THE DECISION-MAKING PROCESS that was behind their opening. That’s all: the nature of the decision-making process. Those first CP3 roads opened to public use were not opened through any APA/DEC initiative. They weren’t opened as a result of some enlightened APA/DEC planning and management actions as they COULD HAVE BEEN (by the existing language of the Master Plan) and as they SHOULD HAVE BEEN (by the existing language of the Master Plan – see the UMP guideline regarding development of opportunities for people with disabilities). They were instead opened because a federal judge finally said to them, “YOU CAN DO THIS” [by the existing language of the Master Plan], “AND SO NOW YOU WILL DO THIS [by the existing language of the Master Plan].

    Almost laughably, the APA Board is basically saying, now, “These roads get a “pass” on the limitation because we were so negligent of our responsibilities that we were forced to do what we could have and should have done, but just hadn’t.”

    There is no existing language of the Master Plan that can be interpreted to allow for this. Now APA can look forward to even more litigation they are bound to lose. Yet again.

  6. Kierin Bell says

    This is doubtlessly a challenging issue, but I’m surprised by the rationale given for the 11.6% increase in road mileage.

    People have consistently broached the issue of linking material increase to newly acquired lands (e.g., calculating allowable road mileage relative to total acreage of Wild Forest), but the official response of APA/DEC has been: “Wild Forest Basic Guideline #4 does not identify a relationship between the acreage of Wild Forest and the mileage of public motor vehicle roads.” (see September 2022 APA Meeting Materials)

    Whether that is a reasonable interpretation of Basic Guideline #4 or not, I’d make the argument that there are in fact good reasons for avoiding such “mile per acre”-based decisions on road mileage.

    For one, it’s very hard to get the logic right. As an idealized example, let’s say that we have a 100 acre “Wild Forest” in the shape of a perfect square, and there is a road from one corner to its center. Such a road would be approximately 1,500 feet long. Now let’s imagine that we acquire another 100 acres such that we now have a 200 acre “Wild Forest”, once again (miraculously) in the shape of a square. We want to ensure that there is a road from a corner to the center of our new “Wild Forest”. We have twice as much land, but do we need twice as much road? As it turns out, we do not; we only need about 40% more road. Doubling road mileage as acreage doubled would, in this idealized example, considerably increase access.

    If a mathematical calculation is going to become the basis of a de facto standard, we should be abundantly clear on the implications of the math. Rather than determining total road mileage as a function of miles of road per acre of Wild Forest (relative to the situation in 1972, of course), my suggestion would be to calculate road mileage in terms of square miles of Wild Forest squared. All things considered, this ends up allowing for about 10 miles more road on Wild Forest as it exists today, which won’t make some happy, but it also means that 140,000 more acres of Wild Forest would need to be acquired in order to justify the 11.6% increase in road mileage that APA is proposing.

    Or, maybe numbers shouldn’t be the focus of the conversation at all. Either way, the policy needs to be logically consistent. Hopefully the discussion isn’t over yet.

  7. Tom Paine says

    Based on the court ruling McCulley vs NYSDEC roadway miles were in fact illegally confiscated by NYS to create the Wilderness classification. How many more miles beyond the Old Mountain Road have been illegally confiscated from the Adirondack counties, towns and villages in the Park? Before any plan is to move forward an independent investigation by the NYS Attorney General’s office into the total number of miles that have been illegally confiscated by NYS.

  8. Walter Linck says

    I suppose it’s just for the record at this point, but since this article includes a “Recap of the Policy Questions,” I have to argue with its statement about policy that in Wild Forest areas (as a generality, regarding DEC’s management) motor-vehicle use “is discouraged.” Of course illegal motor-vehicle use is, but in all my years here and in my twenty years of APA work in the State lands program, I never saw DEC staff practicing policy that could be called discouragement of public motor-vehicle use.

    In fact, when APA staff went public with their first draft of the State Land Master Plan language for basic guideline #4 for Wild Forest areas, the original language DID read that public motor-vehicle use would be “discouraged.” The back story as to why it came out on the other end of the public process weakened to “will not be encouraged” I never did learn, but I was able to make an educated guess. It probably had a little to do with how showing true discouragement would have required DEC to show actions along those lines. Looking sideways and upwards while whistling a little tune would suffice for, “I’m not encouraging that… Nope!”

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