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. Tytis Alexander Markwardt says

    Great News for us from the “Lorax community”. Our rebellious words and actions against unfit and unfair tyrants have created a new pathway. Now our planet and it’s inhabits can thank us for a number more years without facing negative human impact.
    Mother nature will ALWAYS SUCCEED.
    Enjoy our planet for all of its beauty naturally. Like the noseeums and black flies 🙂

  2. Nathan thomas says

    So let me get this straight. If you’re building a trail you have to count every tree 1” in diameter at breast height. I’m 6’6” tall so any growth under 5’ tall doesn’t count. Brace yourself the next lawsuit will be defining chest height!

    • Josh Wilson says

      Diameter at breast height (DBH) is a widely accepted method of measuring the size of trees. “Breast height” is standardized at 4.5 feet (measured from the ground up) and DBH can be measured with a specially calibrated tape measure called a diameter tape. It has nothing to do with the height of the person measuring the tree.

      For the purposes of building foot, bike and ski trails – the process of marking and counting trees is relatively straightforward and is easily incorporated into the trail design process. For reference, a tree with a 1-inch DBH is roughly the size of a common broomstick. A tree with a 3-inch DBH is roughly the size of a soda can.

      Most of the articles on this subject don’t bother to make a distinction between the number of trees (on average) that were cut to build the Class II snowmobile trails (the subject of the Protect v. DEC lawsuits) and other trails that are commonly constructed on state lands. The result is ongoing confusion about the level of tree cutting that is legally permissible for trail construction on state lands.

      Here’s a quick comparison.

      From Protect v. DEC court record:
      Average # of trees cut per mile of Class II snowmobile trail (across 27 miles of trail):
      3″ DBH or bigger – 200 per mile
      1″ – 3″ DBH – 1000 per mile

      Compare that to an approximately 1-mile segment of bike/foot trail recently approved for construction in the Saranac Lakes Wild Forest.
      Exact number of trees cut per mile:
      3″ DBH or bigger – 2 per mile
      1″-3″ DBH – 47 per mile

      This is just one trail, but the distinction is very clear. Mountain bike, cross country ski and foot trails can be designed and constructed without requiring anywhere close to the levels of tree cutting at question in the Protect v. DEC court decision. We can’t speak for all trail builders, but BETA’s preferred approach when designing mountain bike and ski trails is to avoid as much tree cutting as possible, especially mid-story and mature trees. In most forest types, it is relatively easy to follow the contours of the forest floor and take advantage of natural openings. The more trees that are cut, the more work for the trail builder. Trail building is hard enough work as it is.

      The Balsam Lake v. DEC case provides the lower threshold for permissible tree cutting – in that case the court found that cutting approximately 350 trees for a 2-mile XC ski trail DID NOT violate Article XIV (175 per mile). So long as future projects stay below this threshold, there should be no issue. The Protect v. DEC cases provide the upper threshold (see previous tree counts – roughly 1200 tree per mile). The court found this was unconstitutional.

      Any project requiring a removal of timber that falls within that tree cutting range – between 175/mile and 1200/mile – seems to be in a gray area until the state or the courts provide further definition for what constitutes a removal of trees to a “material or substantial” degree with respect to Article XIV.

      Josh Wilson, Barkeater Trails Alliance
      Member of the DEC Trail Stewardship Working Group

  3. David Gibson says

    In designing and building the bicycle trail system in Saranac Lake Wild Forest, Josh Wilson and BETA have demonstrated how to go about the work without violating Article XIV’s prohibition on degrading wild forest character and material tree cutting. Thank you, Josh and BETA for all the planning and design you put in before you construct sustainable trails.

  4. Raymond P. Budnick says

    Amazing how many readers will argue the worth of a 1 inch tree, yet will support termination of nearly fully developed human’s.

  5. Steve Gloo says

    The only people gaining anything from this action were the lawyers, and is typical, the end result is rulings that require lawyers to further clarify.

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