By TIM ROWLAND
Some significant Adirondack projects are on hold until a court clarifies how many trees can be legally cut in the state forest preserve.
This summer the New York judiciary ruled that a snowmobile trail in the central Adirondacks was unconstitutional because construction would destroy too many trees. The state had only counted the trees it planned to cut if they were more than 3 inches in diameter, and the Supreme Court Appellate Division, Third Judicial District ruled last summer that this standard insufficiently protected the “timber” protected by the state constitution. That ruling is under appeal.
Caught in the crossfire, said Keene Supervisor Joe Pete Wilson, are three proposed parking lots along the crowded Route 73 corridor in Keene Valley. Hiking trails are being affected too, including a leg of the national North Country Scenic Trail through the Hammond Pond Wild Forest, according to the Adirondack Mountain Club.
In an email, the Department of Environmental Conservation said, “All projects that involve tree cutting in the Forest Preserve are being reviewed to determine if they can advance, based on the (court) decision. Projects that involve tree cutting well below the thresholds established by the decision are advancing, as well as projects determined to be essential to public health and safety and hazard considerations along public highways.”
But Peter Bauer, whose Protect the Adirondacks group brought the suit, said the DEC seems to be “contradicting itself” by arbitrarily going ahead with some projects — including a water line at the Cranberry Lake Campground that will cut up to 1,800 trees — while halting others. Nor is there a provision in the constitution that allows wanton tree cutting in the interest of public health and safety, he said.
A final court decision isn’t expected for another year.