We need you to write a public comment to help stop state agencies from expanding roads for motor vehicles on the Forest Preserve!
The Adirondack Park Agency (APA) and the Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) are seeking public comment regarding a fourth alternative for an official “interpretation” of the Adirondack Park State Land Master Plan (Master Plan) Wild Forest Basic Guideline No. 4. This guideline places stringent limits on the mileage of motor vehicle roads on lands classified as Wild Forest in the Forest Preserve. Last summer, the APA-DEC considered three other alternative interpretations, none of which comply with the Master Plan.
The new fourth alternative misleads the public and fails to account for significant road mileage that already exists on Wild Forest lands.
Public comments are needed by April 17!
How the APA chooses to “interpret” the Master Plan’s Basic Guideline No. 4 will significantly impact the future of 1.3 million acres of the Forest Preserve classified as Wild Forest.
Wild Forest Basic Guideline No. 4 states:
Public use of motor vehicles will not be encouraged and there will not be any material increase in the mileage of roads and snowmobile trails open to motorized use by the public in wild forest areas that conformed to the master plan at the time of its original adoption in 1972.
The APA is seeking comments regarding its new proposed “No Material Increase” official interpretation Alternative #4, which reads as follows:
The current estimated non-CP3 mileage of roads in lands classified as Wild Forest, 206.6 miles, does not constitute a material increase in road mileage since 1972, nor would increases of mileage up to and including the 1972 estimated mileage of 211.6.
This proposed interpretation of Basic Guideline 4 clearly violates the Master Plan because it does not include the significant current mileage of Wild Forest roads opened to motor vehicle use by holders of CP-3 permits. Those permits are issued pursuant to DEC Commissioner Policy 3 (CP-3) to allow qualified people with disabilities to use motor vehicles on roads that are not open to such use by other members of the public. Because roads open to CP-3 use clearly fall within the Master Plan’s definition of a “road,” Alternative 4’s exclusion of CP-3 road mileage from the calculation of no material increase violates the Master Plan.
Wild Forest Basic Guideline No. 4 plainly states that “public use of motor vehicles will not be encouraged” in the Adirondack Forest Preserve. To strengthen this point, it prohibits “any material increase in the mileage of roads and snowmobile trails open to motorized use by the public in wild forest areas that conformed to the master plan at the time of its original adoption in 1972.” (p. 36) This provision places a cap on road mileage in Wild Forest areas.
In its public documents, the APA has posted four questions regarding how to interpret Wild Forest Basic Guideline No. 4. These questions are:
- What was the existing road mileage on lands classified as Wild Forest in 1972.
- What is the existing road mileage on lands classified as Wild Forest today?
- What constitutes a material increase in road mileage?
- Does the Department of Environmental Conservation Commissioner’s Policy-3 mileage meet the definition of a road in the SLMP and therefore require inclusion in the total Wild Forest road mileage calculation?
DEC-APA analysis tells us that 206.6 miles of Wild Forest roads are open to the general public and that 38.1 miles of Wild Forest roads are open to members of the public possessing a CP-3 permit. The total 1972 mileage of roads in Wild Forest areas is estimated by DEC to be 211.6 miles. DEC and APA want to exclude CP-3 mileage because if it is included it means that Wild Forest road mileage has increased by 18% since 1972 to 244.7 miles, but if they exclude CP-3 roads they can claim that the mileage has actually decreased since 1972.
As discussed below, CP-3 roads fall squarely within the Master Plan’s definition of a “road” and CP-3 road mileage must therefore be considered in the APA’s assessment of whether there has been a material increase in Wild Forest road mileage since 1972.
The Department or Environmental Conservation’s CP-3 Program for Motorized Access
The CP-3 program was established by DEC in 1997 to “clarify the authority of the Department . . . to issue . . . permits . . . to qualifying people with disabilities to allow them motor vehicle access to certain specified State lands under the Department’s jurisdiction, thereby facilitating such access.” CP-3 at 1. The Policy specifically recognizes that, on Forest Preserve lands, “the Department must comply with the directive in Article XIV of the New York State Constitution which requires that Forest Preserve lands be ‘forever kept as wild forest lands’” and thus “the Department may not issue permits which have the result of diminishing the forever wild character’ of those lands. The Policy also specifically recognizes that issuance of CP-3 permits is constrained by the Master Plan which places “restrictions on motor vehicle access into the Forest Preserve.” Thus, the Policy explicitly acknowledges that CP-3 motorized use of Forest Preserve lands is subject to the legal constraints imposed by Article XIV and the Master Plan.
Click here for more information about the CP-3 program and its required compliance with the Master Plan.
The Galusha Settlement
Galusha was a federal court case under the Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA) in which plaintiffs alleged that they had been discriminated against in violation of the ADA and sought motor vehicle access to various locations in the Adirondack Forest Preserve. The case was settled in July 2001 with the filing and approval by the presiding judge of a Consent Decree. The two organizations that merged to form Protect the Adirondacks were parties to that settlement.
Contrary to claims by some APA Board members, the Consent Decree did not “order” DEC to open certain roads in the Adirondack Park to motor vehicle use, thereby removing the discretion of DEC and APA whether or not to open those roads. Rather, the Consent Decree required DEC to (1) propose amendments to certain existing UMPs allowing access to specific areas under the Department’s CP-3 program, and (2) ensure that certain roads already open to CP-3 use remained open for such use “subject to final approval in the UMP process.”
Thus, the Consent Decree required that all roads proposed for CP-3 motorized use as part of the settlement had to go through the UMP review process. Indeed, the Consent Decree made clear that approval, under the UMP review provisions of the Master Plan, of Decree-proposed roads for CP-3 use was not a foregone conclusion because it included procedures to be followed “in the event that any road [proposed for CP-3 use] is not approved through the UMP process.”
In addition, no part of the Consent Decree excludes or exempts any of the proposed CP-3 roads from applicable legal constraints, including those imposed by the APSLMP. In fact, the Decree recognizes that DEC and APA “are charged by Article XIV of the New York State Constitution, statue, regulation and the Adirondack Park and Catskill Park State Land Master Plans to act as stewards and, in the case of DEC, land manager for the Forest Preserve within the constraints of the New York State Constitution Article XIV’s “forever wild” provision and the SLMP classification system and to act in accordance with all applicable state and federal law.”
Thus, having gone through the UMP review process, roads opened for CP-3 motorized use as a result of the Galusha settlement are no different from any other Forest Preserve roads opened for such use, and have no special legal status or exclusion from the legal constraints of the Master Plan, including Wild Forest Basic Guideline Number 4.
Click here for more information about the CP-3 program and its required compliance with the Master Plan.
CP-3 Roads are Included in the Master Plan’s Definition of “Road”
The Adirondack Park State Land Master Plan defines a “road” as:
an improved or partially improved way designed for travel by automobiles and which may also be used by other types of motor vehicles except snowmobiles, unless the way is a designated snowmobile trail; and is,
- either maintained by a state agency or a local government and open to the general public;
- maintained by private persons or corporations primarily for private use but which may also be open to the general public for all or a segment thereof; or,
- maintained by the Department of Environmental Conservation or other state agency and open to the public on a discretionary basis.
CP-3 roads meet the Master Plan’s definition of a “road” in part (iii) because (1) they are maintained by DEC; (2) they are open to members of the public who have a CP-3 permit (i.e., meet the definition of “qualified person with a disability” in CP-3); and (3) the opening is on a “discretionary basis,” because such roads are open for motor vehicle use only to members of the public possessing a CP-3 permit. Persons wishing to participate in the CP-3 program must apply to DEC for the permit, meet specified criteria in order to obtain the permit, and DEC has the discretion to deny the application. DEC also has discretion to close the roads to motorized use by CP-3 permit holders as needed for environmental and/or public safety reasons.
Because CP-3 roads fall squarely within the Master Plan’s definition of a “road” they are subject to Wild Forest Basic Guideline Number 4.
Alternative 4 is Legally Flawed and Violates the Adirondack Park State Land Master Plan
The APA-DEC has released the new Alternative for public comment. The new “Alternative 4” reads:
- Does the Department of Environmental Conservation Commissioner’s Policy-3 mileage meet the definition of a road in the SLMP [Master Plan] and therefore require inclusion in the total Wild Forest road mileage calculation?
The answer to this question is unequivocally yes! Answering no to the question posed by APA is legally flawed because it excludes the mileage of CP-3 roads from its tally of existing road mileage on Wild Forest lands. Excluding the CP-3 road mileage would lead to the mistaken conclusion that there has been no material increase in road mileage on Wild Forest lands since 1972. Thus, Alternative 4, and any other alternative that does not include CP-3 road mileage in the tally of existing road mileage on Wild Forest lands, must be rejected by the APA-DEC as being inconsistent with the Master Plan.
Furthermore, APA and DEC admit that if CP-3 roads are counted, the total Wild Forest road mileage is 244.7 miles, not 206.6 as stated in Alternative 4. This represents an 18% increase over the 1972 mileage of 211.6 miles—clearly a material increase in road mileage. APA and DEC obviously do not want to count CP-3 road mileage because that will mean that their crusade to open more and more Wild Forest areas to motor vehicles will have to end.
We Need You to Submit Your Public Comment Today
Public comments are needed by April 17th!
Please write your own comment letter to the APA by April 17th or you can use the form below to send an automatic comment.
Here’s where to submit your own letter:
Adirondack Park Agency
P.O. Box 99
Ray Brook, NY 12977
By email: SLMP_UMP_Comments@apa.ny.gov
Send an Automatic Email Comment
This comment period has closed.
Talking Points for Public Comments to the APA on Alternative 4 for Basic Wild Forest Guideline No 4
- The answer to the question of whether CP-3 roads are “roads” under the State Land Master Plan is unequivocally yes! Answering no to the question posed by APA is legally flawed because it excludes the mileage of CP-3 roads from its tally of existing road mileage on Wild Forest lands.
- Alternative 4 is wrong and attempts to mislead the public because it excludes CP-3 road mileage without expressly saying so and without providing any analysis or explanation as to why CP-3 road mileage is excluded.
- Alternative 4 violates the Adirondack Park State Land Master Plan because it does not include CP-3 road mileage in assessing whether there has been a material increase in Wild Forest road mileage since 1972. As a result, Alternative 4 incorrectly states that current Wild Forest road mileage is 206.6 miles when the current Wild Forest road mileage is actually 244.7 miles.
- Because Alternative 4 fails to include CP-3 road mileage, it incorrectly states that there has been no material increase in Wild Forest road mileage since 1972. In fact, the current Wild Forest road mileage of 244.7 miles is an 18% increase over the 1972 road mileage.
- CP-3 roads meet the Adirondack Park State Land Master Plan’s definition of a “road” because they are “maintained by the Department of Environmental Conservation . . . and open to the public on a discretionary basis.”
- The opening of roads to CP-3 use is discretionary with DEC because CP-3 users must apply to DEC for a permit and must meet certain criteria, and DEC has discretion to deny the permit application and to close CP-3 roads under certain conditions. In addition, CP-3 permit holders are most certainly members of “the public.”
- Roads opened to CP-3 permit holders pursuant to the Galusha settlement meet the Adirondack Park State Land Master Plan’s definition of “road” for the same reasons. DEC’s discretion whether to open the roads listed in the settlement was not eliminated by the Galusha Consent Decree because the Decree required each road proposed for CP-3 use must go through the Unit Management Plan review process and included provisions in case the road was not approved for opening at the conclusion of the UMP review process.
- The Galusha settlement requires that all roads opened under CP-3 for special access by disabled individuals must comply with Forest Preserve protections under the “Forever Wild” clause in the State constitution and comply with the Adirondack Park State Land Master Plan.
- Alternative 4 violates the Adirondack Park State Land Master Plan and must be rejected. Alternative 4 violates the APSLMP because it does not include CP-3 road mileage in its tally of current Wild Forest road mileage. The APA-DEC must include CP-3/Galusha road mileage in any interpretation of Wild Forest Basic Guideline No. 4.