Court upholds restraining order barring the cutting of thousands of trees and grading on major new snowmobile trail between Newcomb and Minerva in Adirondack Park
The Appellate Division, Third Department, of state Supreme Court issued an order today to uphold an injunction against tree cutting by the Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) on a new 9-12 foot wide community connector snowmobile trail between Newcomb and Minerva in the central Adirondacks. The DEC cut over 4,000 trees on 2.9 miles of this trail in the fall of 2015, had recently cut over 1,000 more trees on a new 3-mile section, and was about to cut thousands more trees, including many located in old growth forest habitat.
“Protect the Adirondacks is grateful that the Appellate Division, Third Department acted to uphold an injunction against the Department of Environmental Conservation to prevent more tree cutting on the Forest Preserve. We believe this level of tree cutting violates the forever wild provision, Article 14, Section 1, of the State Constitution,” said Peter Bauer, Executive Director of Protect the Adirondacks.
“This is one part of a larger lawsuit on the constitutionality of this high level of tree cutting on the Forest Preserve. Protect the Adirondacks believes that the Department of Environmental Conservation has overstepped what is lawful by cutting and destroying tens of thousands of trees to build these new road-like trails. The Forest Preserve has never seen this level of abuse before by a state agency,” said Peter Bauer.
Protect the Adirondacks is currently challenging the legality of these new wide, roadlike snowmobile trails in Supreme Court in Albany. Protect the Adirondacks has alleged in court that these trails violate Article 14, Section 1 of the New York State Constitution, the “forever wild” provision, due to the enormous amount of tree cutting. Article 14, Section 1 prohibits destruction of the trees on the Forest Preserve. PROTECT is trying to stop tree cutting before the courts make a decision on the constitutionality of this level of tree cutting.
Efforts to stop tree cutting on other new 9-12 foot wide class II community connector snowmobile trails in 2014 and 2015 were unsuccessful. For the 14-mile Newcomb to Minerva trail, Protect the Adirondacks obtained an independent expert to count stumps of cut trees, provide an estimate of the additional trees to be cut, in order to detail the total level of tree cutting. In its public notifications and planning, DEC only counts trees greater than 3 inches diameter at breast height (DBH). This spring, DEC estimated it would cut over 1,600 of these large trees over 7 miles of new trail. When trees under 3 inches DBH were added to the tally, Protect the Adirondacks found that 5,500 trees would be cut on this section.
The entire trail from Newcomb to Minerva would require cutting over 14,000 trees. While nearly 5,000 trees have been cut so far, PROTECT is trying to stop the cutting of another 9,000 trees. Prior cases on the constitutionality of tree cutting on the Forest Preserve tallied both large and small trees. Protect the Adirondacks aged the stumps of a number of trees cut down on the Forest Preserve under 3 inches DBH and found many to be 30, 40 and 50 years old, or older.