Following the news of the Adirondack Council suing the Adirondack Park Agency (APA), I mentioned to someone that lawsuits are quickly becoming a norm in any regulatory process in the Adirondacks. Seems like there could be a better way to get things done. Two hostile parties rarely reach mutually satisfying results.
Well, another one just dropped into my mailbox:
Adirondack Groups Sue State to Protect Wilderness Lake
ALBANY, N.Y. — The Adirondacks’ leading conservation groups, the Adirondack Mountain Club (ADK) and Protect the Adirondacks! (PROTECT), filed a lawsuit Tuesday in state Supreme Court in Albany to force the Adirondack Park Agency (APA) to adhere to state law and classify a state-owned wilderness canoe route in the heart of the Adirondacks.
“We are forced to seek redress in the courts because, despite the best efforts of many different parties, our state agencies failed to settle some important matters regarding implementation of the State Land Master Plan,” said David Gibson, executive director of PROTECT “We go to court for all state-owned waters in the Forest Preserve, not merely to settle the classification of Lows Lake. Classification drives management direction. We seek better direction about how to manage wild waters in the Forest Preserve for the benefit of people in the central Adirondacks, visitors from all across the country and Canada and many more who may never paddle these waters, but who nonetheless appreciate the way they are managed for future generations.”
The Adirondack Park State Land Master Plan, which is part of state Executive Law, requires APA to classify all state-owned lands and waters in the Adirondack Park according to “their characteristics and ability to withstand use.” In September, the APA voted 6-4 to classify a portion of Lows Lake as Wilderness and a portion as Primitive. Both classifications prohibit motorized public uses. But Gov. David Paterson’s representatives on the APA board later changed their position and supported a resolution that left the lake unclassified.
“The magnificent state-owned lakes of the Adirondacks are as much a part of the Forest Preserve as the trees, and the waters of the Adirondacks need legal protection under the constitution’s Forever Wild clause,” said Neil Woodworth, ADK’s executive director. “The state bought Lows Lake a quarter century ago with the express intent of establishing a wilderness canoe route. Both APA and DEC have acknowledged that the waters and bed of Lows Lake are part of the Forest Preserve. Under the law, the waters and bed of a lake that is wholly owned by the state as part of the Forest Preserve must be classified.”
In April, the APA voted to ban floatplane use on Lows Lake after 2011. The following month, the APA and the state Department of Environmental Conservation proposed classifying Lows Lake and other nearby water bodies as Wilderness and adding them to the Five Ponds Wilderness Area. In September, the APA commissioners voted 6-4 to classify part of the lake Wilderness and part Primitive and sent their recommendation to the governor. At the October APA meeting, the new representative from Empire State Development (ESD) asked for a revote because his predecessor had already left the agency when he voted for the classification in September. A revote was scheduled for November.
In November, Gov. Paterson’s representatives reversed their earlier support for classifying the lake and instead backed an amendment to remove the lake from a resolution that also classified adjacent land. The amendment and the resolution passed by a 7-4 vote.
The lawsuit also names DEC, one of the three state agencies with a seat on the APA board, because DEC violated a stipulation in the settlement of a 2008 lawsuit when it supported the proposal to remove Lows Lake from the classification resolution. ADK, the Sierra Club and the groups that now make up PROTECT sued DEC over its failure to abide by a legal commitment to ban floatplanes on Lows Lake by January 2008. The conservation groups discontinued the suit after DEC requested that APA initiate the process to classify the bed and water of Lows Lake as Wilderness.
Protect the Adirondacks! is a new, nonprofit, grassroots membership organization dedicated to the protection and stewardship of the public and private lands of the Adirondack Park. PROTECT is a consolidation of the Residents’ Committee to Protect the Adirondacks and the Association for the Protection of the Adirondacks.
The Adirondack Mountain Club, founded in 1922, is a nonprofit membership organization dedicated to protecting the New York Forest Preserve and other wild lands and waters through conservation and advocacy, environmental education and responsible recreation.
A pdf version of the petition is available here.
Adirondack Park State Land Master Plan (PDF 635kb)