By Gwendolyn Craig
The fate of Adirondack Park trees and snowmobile trails could come back to court.
It has been nearly three months since the state’s highest court ruled some snowmobile trails both built and planned for the Adirondack Park were unconstitutional. Potential ways the state plans to move forward after that ruling, however, are not sitting well with Protect the Adirondacks, the plaintiff in the case.
Since the New York State Court of Appeals 4-2 ruling in favor of Protect, the state Department of Environmental Conservation and Adirondack Park Agency have said little about what the decision means for tree-cutting projects. The court ruling decided that the DEC and APA’s plans for building trails connecting North Hudson to Newcomb, Minerva and Indian Lake would violate the “forever wild” provision of the state constitution. The trails were to be 9 to 12 feet in width. Some of the trails have already been built.
Peter Bauer, executive director of Protect, said the DEC has so far refused to meet with his organization. The DEC did hold a forest preserve advisory committee meeting at the end of July, which Protect attended. At that meeting, Bauer said some of the department’s plans to address the court ruling appeared lawful, but he has concerns about others.
“We are assessing our options at this point, one of which could be going back to court,” Bauer said in an email to Adirondack Explorer.
BROKEN PROMISES? Blocked snowmobile connectors leave locals feeling swindled
At a July APA meeting, APA Executive Director Terry Martino said that DEC and APA will address and propose amendments to those unit management plans that include community connector snowmobile trails. Unit management plans are documents with natural resource assessments and public recreation opportunities for individual areas of the park. Once those amendments are proposed, they will be presented to the public for review.
Martino also said the APA and DEC will be updating its Snowmobile Trail Management Guidance “within the context of the court ruling to ensure compliance.”
Bauer said these steps appear to be in compliance with the court ruling.
Bauer and Protect want to see the DEC restore the approximately two dozen miles of connector snowmobile trails already built. At the advisory committee meeting, Bauer said there was talk that the DEC would retain those trails “and simply rename them” under a different classification.
“We’re also concerned about the DEC’s plans to dust off outdated snowmobile policies from the 1990s that allow for 12-foot-wide trails,” Bauer wrote.
MORE REACTIONS: Read commentary on this issue on our sister site, the Adirondack Almanack.
- Sabotaging Trail Deal Was No Way to Protect the Adirondacks
- “Staff should rely on this policy.” Really?
- Peter Bauer responds to Indian Lake Supervisor Brian Wells’ commentary
The DEC denied it is renaming any of the snowmobile trails in the case, but it is going back to a predecessor policy for constructing and maintaining snowmobile trails. The policy DEC noted was issued in 1998 for both the Adirondacks and Catskills, records show, though it had been rescinded in 2009 for the Adirondacks. The policy does allow for some 12-foot-wide snowmobile trails. The DEC said future snowmobile trails will be constructed using this policy.
As for what will happen with the community connector trails already built, the DEC said it is evaluating the trail conditions “to determine whether planting or other supplemental work might be necessary.” DEC added that the court did not require the DEC to evaluate these trails.
Other planned projects
The DEC is still deciding how to proceed with other projects involving tree-cutting, like some hiking trail projects in the park. Bauer had concerns with two new forest preserve projects including one in the Adirondacks and one in the Catskills. In the Adirondacks, the DEC plans to remove 655 trees in St. Lawrence County near the Bog River Dam for dam rehabilitation and expanded parking. DEC said the project does not involve a snowmobile trail and is in compliance with its lands and forests policy.
In the Catskills, DEC will remove 1,267 trees to relocate about six miles of the Long Path Trail in Ulster County. That will allow snowmobile use.
“These action(s) do not appear to us to comply with the Court of Appeals and lower court decisions and the fact record from the trial,” Bauer said.
Looks like DEC management is considering a whack-a-mole campaign to skirt the ruling. Anyone surprised?
No motor/No money says
The tree huggers hood winked the snowmobilers into backing the rail trail. Anyone surprised. Now they are going to knife them in the back like they did the Atv community.
Robin DeLoria says
Typical of the Adirondack Explorer to use a “stock photo” of a trail that holds a conservation easement by DEED, and will not fall into the murky category the Explorer is attempting to create. And your editors may wonder why many of the Adirondack towns will not place ad in your magazine, so you can use their money to promote your propaganda.
Bauer should have been run out of town years ago… hes a scumbag carpetbagger… get a couple hundred snowmobilers to go out with their qiads and volunteer for the tree cutting program… free labor is a state favorite
Never trust liberal progessives. California did…and the state turned into a burning hell. Literally.
Vanessa B says
Omfg this is never gonna end. All opinions aside – does the DEC have an attorney with constitutional law experience? They’ve got opinions but can they stand by them legally? The taxpayer dollars to hire a competent lawyer before you get sued surely outweigh the dollars spent defending a policy in court.
I’m not gonna comment on Protect’s opinions here yet – surely we’ll have future comments sections for this! 😉 – but one hopes for all our sakes the DEC learns that they’re just one branch of government. Please hire an attorney that worked on this case to give you legal advice before proceeding further, folks. It would be hard to make this discussion more tedious than it already is, but repeating history would fit the bill!
Mike V says
I grew up in NNY but now live in Asheville, NC. Last week while on the Blue Ridge Parkway (which has become a tourist lifeline for communities along it) I thought to myself “This would never be allowed to be built today”. Some very forward thinking people 75+ years ago realized that there can be a balance between nature and supporting the local economy. I wish the Protect people would think longer term than only what happens if a few trees are cut down. NNY is slowly eroding into nothing and adding a small degree of commerce to help out might be a better form of leadership.
You can’t even trust these “tree” numbers now so stop quoting them. If you see Peter Bauer saying “600 trees” it’s probably more like 10. And then 590 sprigs that will never mature to adulthood whether the DEC removes them or not. We need more parking in a LOT of places. Is this guy going to fight the DEC every time they try to bring our parking situation out of the 1930s? Who keeps giving this guy money?