Suit against APA and DEC snowmobile trail plan gets go-ahead from court
Monday, April 8, 2013 - 11:42 am

 A state appellate court has consented to an Adirondack environmental group’s suit against the state’s Adirondack Park Agency and the Department of Environmental Conservation plan to build community connector snowmobile trails.

Appellate Division, Third Department, granted Protect the Adirondacks’ motion for consent to proceed with its suit seeking to establish that community connector snowmobile trails administered by the APA and DEC violate the state constitution’s Forever Wild clause.

The second aspect of the case, which demonstrates that the use of large tracked motorized grooming machines, such as snowcats, violates the Adirondack Park State Land Master Plan, did not require the consent of the court to file, according to a news release from Protect the Adirondacks.

Their attorneys expect to file and serve the entire summons and complaint soon.

In February, Protect the Adirondacks filed a motion against DEC and APA to challenge recent policy and snowmobile trail construction practices in the Adirondack Forest Preserve. The lawsuit contains two parts: 1) allegations that the construction by the DEC of new 9-to-12-foot-wide “community connector” snowmobile trails violates the “Forever Wild” clause of the state constitution; and 2) allegations that the DEC and APA violated the Adirondack Park State Land Master Plan and DEC regulations in authorizing the mechanical grooming of snowmobile trails with large tracked groomers.

All lawsuits by private parties seeking to enforce the constitution’s Article 14 must receive approval from the Appellate Division before being filed in a lower court.

The lawsuit alleges that DEC’s cutting of more than 2,200 trees over the 11.9 miles of the new class II community connector snowmobile trail in the Moose River Plains Wild Forest area of the Forest Preserve violated the state constitution’s prohibition on tree cutting. Whereas prior case law has found some limited tree cutting on the Forest Preserve in furtherance of state management to be acceptable, Protect the Adirondacks believes that the amount of tree cutting for the new community connector snowmobile trail exceeds permissible limits.

In addition to the new “community connector” snowmobile trail built in the Moose River Plains, DEC has already approved similar trails in the Wilmington and Jessup River Wild Forest areas, which will also require cutting hundreds of trees.

In addition to the illegal tree cutting, the suit alleges that the Forever Wild clause of the constitution was violated by the widening, clearing, grading, flattening, tree removal, rock removal, destruction of bedrock, bench cutting, use of gravel, and bridge building involved in creating the new community connector snowmobile trail in the Moose River Plains.