Wednesday, July 24, 2019

Counties call on DEC to appeal decision on snowmobile and hiking trails in Adirondacks

Counties call on DEC to appeal decision on snowmobile and hiking trails in Adirondacks

Earlier this month, the State Appellate Division Third Department ruled that the NYS Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) must halt planned construction of a trail intended for snowmobile and hiker use.
“This ruling is a severe setback to the people of New York State and interferes with those who choose to enjoy the stated purpose of the great state park - outdoor recreation. The Adirondack counties and communities contained therein host the outdoor recreational opportunities created by these important nature trails,” said Stephen J. Acquario, executive director of the New York State Association of Counties (NYSAC).
On behalf of its Adirondack Counties, NYSAC today stated their support for the goals of this DEC trail program and urges the Governor, the State Attorney General, and the DEC to appeal the decision.
By statutory and constitutional authority, the DEC designs, constructs, and maintains all trails in Adirondack Forest Preserve. The DEC has always created trails there with two main principles in mind: maintaining the integrity of the Adirondack Forest Preserve and allowing for sustainable access into the preserve for the public to enjoy. In 2014, in keeping with this tradition, the DEC began construction of a 27-mile trail to be used by snowmobiles in the winter and by hikers in the other seasons. DEC's goal with this trail was to protect the Adirondack Forest Preserve by minimizing existing environmental concerns and overuse on unofficial trails. Accordingly, this project would move existing snowmobile trails to the edge of the Forest Preserve and away from areas that are more susceptible to damage.
The NYS Constitution's forever wild protection provisions regarding the land with the Adirondack Park states, “nor shall timber be sold, removed or destroyed.” This recent court decision redefines “timber” to include brush (twigs) and small trees less than three inches in diameter, which had been the standard of timber.
NYSAC agrees with the dissenting opinion, which defines this project to be reasonable under the Constitution because the trail is limited in its small tree removal and whatever the advantages may be of having wild forest lands preserved in their natural state, the advantages are for everyone within the state and for the use of the people of the state.
“Ultimately, the new trail would promote and maintain the integrity of the Adirondack Forest Preserve by promoting access along a carefully constructed, sustainable trail, planned through environmental forestry management principles by expert staff at the DEC. These principles would minimize the environmental impact while also preserving and stewarding public lands for the public to enjoy. We urge the state to appeal to a higher level of authority,” said Acquario.


  1. Look up the definition of "timber" in any dictionary. It is usually something like "wood suitable for building or for carpentry." The clear intent of Article 14 was to stop the wholesale harvesting of timber that was destroying the forest, not to prevent reasonable use by the people of the state.

    The number of “trees” cut for any snowmobile trail is insignificant. The ASLMP limits the total trail mileage on state land to 848.88 miles. This is based on the mileage that existed in 1971. There are currently about 775 miles. 775 miles x 5280 ft/mile x 10 ft average trail width = 40920000 square feet = 940 acres of land occupied by snowmobile trails.

    There are approximately 2.6 million acres of state forest in the Adirondacks.

    Snowmobile trails occupy 940/2,600,000 = 0.0357% (less than 4/100 of a percent!!) of state land. This is a fact.

    Even if the trails were all 12 feet wide and there were 848.88 miles they would only occupy 0.0475%

    With one or two minor exceptions, there are zero trails in the 47% of state land classified as "Wilderness."

    You can draw your own conclusions but it is pretty obvious to me that limited clearing where necessary to establish a few miles of snowmobile trail is insignificant in terms of environmental impact. However, this fraction of a percent of state land used for snowmobile trails basically sustains the winter economy in many Adirondack communities.

    One more thing: New York Consolidated Laws, Environmental Conservation, Article 9 - Lands and Forests, Title 3 - Use Of Lands and Forests states:

    § 9-0301. Use and diminution of Adirondack and Catskill parks.
    1. All lands in the Catskill park and in the Adirondack park, except those lying within the town of Dannemora, now owned or which may hereafter be acquired by the state, shall be forever reserved and maintained for the free use of all the people, except that nothing herein shall prohibit the charging of a fee for services rendered or facilities provided.

    ALL THE PEOPLE includes snowmobilers.