Proposed: Visitor Use Management
In May, the Adirondack Park Agency (APA) and New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) presented a draft of their joint Visitor Use Management (VUM) and Wildlands Monitoring tool during the State Land Committee report at the APA meeting in Ray Brook.
ADK considers this a big step towards establishing a visitor use management framework consistent with standards set by the federal Interagency Visitor Use Management Council (IVUMC), something ADK has routinely advocated for over the years. The IVUMC has outlined a planning process that collaboratively identifies desired conditions for resources and visitor experiences and then uses adaptive management and monitoring of visitor use to meet the desired conditions.
The new DEC and APA VUM plan will help provide sustainable access to the Adirondack Forest Preserve using management objectives, impact thresholds, and triggers for specific actions. This includes establishing carrying capacities and data collection strategies to monitor the impact on resources and determine if changes in management actions are needed. The VUM framework will help DEC make data-based decisions that protect the Forest Preserve while maintaining a high-quality visitor experience. ADK plans to provide comments and suggestions for the next draft of the plan.
Update: Tree-cutting and Class II Snowmobile Trails
The Court of Appeals has issued its decision in the Protect case, holding that the proposed Class II Connector Snowmobile trails are unconstitutional under the “forever wild” provision.
The court agreed that Article XIV, Section 1 should not be analyzed as two separate provisions (a “forever wild” provision, and a “destruction of timber” provision), and that an unconstitutional destruction of timber necessarily violates the forever wild clause. In so stating, the court reasoned that the snowmobile trails at issue are no different than, for instance, a bobsled track, which was previously deemed unconstitutional by the court.
At this time, it appears that the court understood that the proposed snowmobile trails are more akin to roads for “motorized vehicles” and less like hiking trails (e.g., “Further, the Class II trails require greater interference with the natural development of the Forest Preserve than is necessary to accommodate hikers”). ADK submitted an amicus curiae brief with the singular goal that this distinction would be made, so that this decision would not be read so broadly as to affect future maintenance and construction of sustainable trail efforts. However, we are currently awaiting updated trail work guidance from the NYSDEC before we can be sure that this interpretation holds.
Update: Environmental Bond Act and NYS Budget
Previously we reported on the governor’s proposed budget and the one-house budgets proposed by the Senate and the Assembly. After negotiation between the three, the final budget rolled out with some not unexpected figures for the environment: the Environmental Protection Fund (EPF) was maintained at $300 million, and figures within the EPF stayed more or less static. There was a slight increase in State Land Stewardship to $34.452 million, and a slight decrease to Land Conservation under the Open Space Account to $30 million. Funding for combatting invasive species was maintained at $13.328 million with $500,000 for Cornell’s hemlock wooly adelgid project. The boldness of the Assembly, which had proposed an increase to $400 million for the EPF, puts the fund in a good space for significant increases in the next budget.
Importantly, a dedicated line item, “Adirondack and Catskill visitor safety and wilderness protection,” made it into the final budget under State Land Stewardship in the EPF. The Assembly had introduced this new line item in their budget, requesting $9 million. The final budget figure for this line, which dedicates funding to address high use in the Catskill and Adirondack Parks, is $1.55 million. The new line item also incorporates an old one which was specifically dedicated to Essex County high use and received $1.2 million last year for that purpose. This year $800,000 of the new line of $1.55 million is earmarked for Essex County. In introducing this new line and in proposing $9 million in their budget, the Assembly has created a strong foundation to advocate for full funding next year.