Protect seeks halt to roadwork in MacIntyre wilderness area
By James M. Odato
An environmental activist group with a history of success suing the state has filed a new legal challenge demanding that a one mile stretch of wilderness road be returned to nature and that barriers be erected to prevent using it.
Protect the Adirondacks! Inc. filed the lawsuit against the state Department of Environmental Conservation in state Supreme Court in Albany County on Jan. 27.
It seeks discontinuation of work at a previously closed but reclaimed road in the western High Peaks Wilderness within the MacIntyre East tract.
DEC started remaking the road in violation of the State Land Master Plan, Protect argues.
The master plan, some five decades old, prohibits roads in wilderness areas. Protect documented the alleged violations showing heavy equipment and crude, rutted and muddy roads. It sent complaints to the DEC and the Adirondack Park Agency without satisfactory responses, causing the litigation, the group said.
The tract was formerly owned by Finch, Pruyn and Co., and was purchased as part of the Boreas Ponds acquisition by the state.
The DEC had approved work for the tract that appeared to be aimed at a return to nature but for hiking, Protect said. The plan called for a project “to remove culverts, bridges and reclaim the road surface, on grades” and to “improve the recovery of the natural resources and enhance the Wilderness Experience of future users.”
Instead, Protect found a much more involved road project, said Protect Executive Director Peter Bauer, who visited the site in the fall of 2021 and 2022. “This was a weird episode at the DEC,” Bauer said. “Top leaders at the DEC in Albany simply made things up and ignored long established rules, policies, and the law to rebuild a road in a Wilderness Area. In 25 years of monitoring the state’s Forest Preserve management I’ve never seen anything like this fiasco before.”
Chris Amato, Protect’s lawyer, called the MacIntyre East tract work a “blatant violation.” He said Protect will ask the court for reimbursement for legal costs and any expert witnesses.
Protect made headlines for its successful suit against the state over allowing tree-cutting to develop snowmobile trails. It sued the DEC and APA to prove the state violated the state constitution’s forever wild clause by authorizing construction of snowmobile trails in the Adirondack Forest Preserve. The group continues to push to unwind some of the 34 miles of connector trails.
DEC said it does not comment on pending litigation.
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Tom Paine says
Perhaps the NYSDEC has discovered that they have illegally taken another roadway to satisfy the wishes of the NYS Environmental lobby. One wonders how many town and county roads have been illegally confiscated by NYS in the Park to satisfy one user group? The tip of a real big iceberg.
LeRoy Hogan says
I wonder how former private land with a road to have been forever wild.
JAMES P KATA says
Tree hugging self righteous individuals trying to take away as much responsible recreation as they see fit.. another big brother..