Since 1973, I have been a resident of Stony Creek, which is comprised of approximately half private land and half State-owned land within the Wilcox Lake Wild Forest. I am a retired civil and environmental engineer and am the president of the Property Rights Foundation of America, or PRFA, based in Stony Creek.
The main reason that PRFA was founded was as a result of the intent expressed in a report of a Governor Mario Cuomo-appointed commission in 1990, to establish intolerable regulation of private land in the Adirondacks and buy up 654,850 acres of private land (1) with the obvious intent of making it impossible over the years for the communities to survive and prosper. The commission report, entitled The Adirondack Park in the Twenty First Century, reflected views at the Adirondack Park Agency and the Department of Environmental Conservation to this day. Legislation to implement the recommendations was drafted by then APA Executive Director Robert Glennon and proposed by New York State Assemblyman Alexander ("Pete") Grannis of Manhattan, but the uproar in the Adirondacks caused the defeat of this and subsequent legislation to implement the recommendations.
As I noted, about half of the land in Stony Creek is owned by the State of New York.(2) Under the leadership of my husband Peter J. LaGrasse, the chairman of the Stony Creek Board of Assessors from 1976, the town has successfully struggled in court to defeat the DEC's depredations on the local tax base through its policies related to payment of real estate taxes on State-owned land.(3) Over the years, Peter and I have also fought to keep the official recognition of outlying town highways in Stony Creek(4) and to keep land here and elsewhere in the Adirondacks in private hands.(5)
In 1990, after researching international environmental journals, Peter LaGrasse exposed the significance of what foreign environmental scholars termed "land bridges," a scheme that appeared in the Champlain-Adirondack Biosphere Reserve designation, which the Adirondack Park Agency had just slipped through the U.S. Department of State and UNESCO in Paris. These "land bridges" are swaths of land to create movement or migration zones for wildlife. In the Adirondacks, this could theoretically be done by eradicating human populations that preclude the primeval conditions for which radical Adirondack environmentalists long.(6)
Leading up to the governor-appointed Adirondack commission (which was also known as the "Berle Commission"), the Adirondack Council, the powerful, wealthy environmental organization that lobbies for radical Adirondack land use regulation and State land acquisition, published a schematic map that included the Wilcox Lake Wild Forest area in one volume of its influential proposal for additional regulations and land acquisition in the Adirondacks. The Council's supposedly recreational map included a large area where the location of Stony Creek should have been indicated to show its populated areas, roads and buildings, but Stony Creek was lost in a conceptual diagram where the town simply did not appear. The diagrammatic map, typical of visionary land bridge diagrams, wiped out the various roads and built-up areas of the community and the mass of private property in a swath that stretched from the west, where Stony Creek is mostly State-owned land, across the private and built-up land, which also contains spotty State holdings, and across the Hudson River to Warrensburg, where the Lake George Wild Forest lies to the east. In addition, a land acquisition list and detailed land acquisition diagram for Wilcox Lake Wild Forest laid out large areas to acquire to complete masses of State-owned land in Stony Creek and to the south, again typical of land bridges.(7)
It appears from this and other evidence that it is the intent of environmental radicals who try to foist their policies on the Adirondack region that Stony Creek would be ultimately returned to a wild condition where the thriving communities of human beings would be wiped out. My statement is set within the context of the Adirondack Council's long-range plan, which set the stage for the Twenty-first Century Commission, and in the context of the Commission's recommendations.
My purpose is to comment briefly about the DEC's insidious disregard for the people represented in the Draft Unit Management Plan for the Wilcox Lake Wild Forest. In studying several of DEC's draft unit management plans, it is apparent that they all have similar intentions, to cause a death of a thousand cuts, to eliminate human access, to eliminate roads (both town highways and logging roads), to eliminate campgrounds, and generally to make the State-owned lands inhospitable to hunters, snowmobilers and users of motorized vehicles. None of these groups represent the APA's and DEC's clientele, which are the environmental organizations, the river and kayak or canoe groups, the hikers, and mountain climbers. These broad intentions, so well elucidated and illustrated in the pronounced parameters, philosophy, and details of each unit management plan, are in the context of failure to abide by state statute and investigate potential environmental impact(8), whether impact on nature, where the clientele environmental groups have a profound negative impact (considering erosion along hiking trails), or to investigate impact on the culture, historic traditions and resources, and economy of the local people.(9) The specifics illustrating the DEC and APA hostility to recreation by all but preferred sectors are in contravention of the Environmental Conservation Law.
In addition, the rules prohibit DEC from undertaking any actions (such as implementing a unit management plan) until it complies with State Environmental Quality Review law.(10)
Peculiarly, the Wilcox Lake Wild Forest Draft UMP does not include a Draft Environmental Impact Statement, although the cover of the draft plan indicates that it is enclosed. Another commentator, Ted Galusha, told me that he requested a copy of the Draft Environmental Impact Statement, but was told that it did not exist separately and was part and parcel of the draft plan. The joint UMP/EIS is muddy. It is unclear which part is the presentation of the draft UMP and which part is the evaluation (the environmental impact analysis) of the draft UMP. This is a violation of the regulations under the Environmental Review Law. For example, in discussing the Environmental Assessment Form, the regulations state:
"The full EAF is intended to provide a method whereby applicants and agencies can be assured that the determination process has been orderly, comprehensive in nature, yet flexible enough to allow introduction of information to fit a project or action." (Emphasis added)(11)
"A properly completed EAF must contain enough information to describe the proposed action, its location, its purpose and its potential impacts on the environment."(12)
In addition, in the definition of the "Environmental Impact Statement," the regulations state:
"An EIS provides a means for agencies, project sponsors and the public to systematically consider significant adverse environmental impacts, alternatives and mitigation. An EIS facilitates the weighing of social, economic and environmental factors early in the planning and decision-making process."(13) (Emphasis added)
How can "the public," empowered in the regulation to consider "significant adverse environmental impact," etc., and "social and economic factors," make its evaluation without information that an EIS is required to present? It is impossible.
Since the implementation of the Draft UMP would have significant historical, social, economic, and community impact, a full environmental impact analysis is required, physically separate from the Draft UMP.
The unit management plans are, by and large, rubber-stamped by the Adirondack Park Agency, so that the outside observer can only conclude that each of the plans was created with the two agencies working in concert.
My statement begins with comment on the disdainful treatment of the local population who would potentially like to participate in the important planning that will have profound impact on the future of their communities. Using examples drawn from my husband's and my participation in the DEC hearing process, as well as the false reporting of the public comment, my commentary reaches conclusions related to the DEC's and APA's treatment of the local citizen comments that are submitted. This commentary focuses on illustrative specifics, mainly drawn from the area of the town of Stony Creek and the neighborhood of West Stony Creek, as well as principles and parameters that the plan pronounces. This commentary traces recent history, illustrating how the Draft UMP continues in one unbroken chain the designs of radical environmentalists to dissect the human assets of the Town of Stony Creek and environs. My statement highlights the biased treatment of recreationists, to the diminishment of use and the exclusion of certain groups. Most apparent is the pattern of DEC's violation of state law.
1. Hearing Location Inadequate and Hostile to Local Residents
January is the coldest month of the year. This year, when the cold air from central Canada finally landed in Stony Creek on January 16, the next morning's temperature at our house had dropped to minus 9 degrees Fahrenheit. For the period from January 17 through January 31, the minimum temperatures were below zero nine out of fifteen days. DEC's single hearing on the Draft Wilcox Lake Wild Forest Unit Management Plan (UMP) was held on January 24 in the isolated town of Wells, which is almost an hour's drive from Stony Creek over some of the most isolated roads in the state. The longest, loneliest part of the drive is over a 25-mile stretch of Route 8 from Johnsburg to Route 30. This length of Route 8 is so isolated that, in the fall of 2004, a depressed senior at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute made the choice to drive up from Troy to quietly commit suicide in a little spot just off the two-lane route. His body was found after Troy police discovered MapQuest information for Wells in his computer at the college.(14)
However, when I telephoned the appropriate DEC official in Warrensburg to request that an additional hearing be held in Stony Creek, Thurman, or Johnsburg, considering the fact that State-owned land comprises such a high proportion of the land in these towns, neither that aspect nor my travel concerns were relevant to him, because, he said, DEC has a policy of holding only one hearing per UMP. I pointed out to the official that it was important that the people of Stony Creek have a chance to voice their comments on the UMP in public, but he did not see the relevance of this request. He pointed out that DEC has already held a hearing in Thurman, referring to the public meeting on March 8, 2002, and that those remarks were also taken into account.(15) However, the statement that the remarks in Thurman were taken into account was false, as will be shown below.
In the end, two men who serve on the Stony Creek town board offered me a ride with them to Wells, solving the travel problem for me. As a retired town board member, it was a pleasure to speak at the hearing where those two current town board members also spoke. But this did not resolve the issue of the failure of DEC to provide a hearing in Stony Creek or nearby for the many people of Stony Creek, who would have undoubtedly been interested in attending and speaking at such a hearing but did not travel to the hearing in Wells.
In summary, DEC failed to provide a convenient or reasonable hearing location for the people of Stony Creek, although half the town's area is included in the Wilcox Lake Wild Forest. DEC chose to provide a single hearing at a location that required traveling a significant distance over an isolated route in extreme January weather; e.g., DEC set up a dangerous situation for citizens to participate in government.
2. DEC's Fallacious Summary of the Wilcox Lake Wild Forest Pre-UMP Meeting
The DEC Draft Wilcox Lake Wild Forest UMP contains a summary of the comments at the Thurman Town Hall on March 8, 2002. The hall was crowded with local citizens that evening and both my husband and I made comments, which were tape-recorded by DEC. The meeting is referred to as an "open house" session in the draft UMP(16), and the comments are said to be summarized in the UMP, as stated in the introductory sentence:
"The following list outlines the issues, needs, and desires that were received from the public during the UMP open house session and the public comment period."(17)
My husband introduced himself at the meeting as the Chairman of the Board of Assessors and the Captain of the Stony Creek Emergency Squad, and made a brief statement. No point noted in the UMP summary of the comments at the meeting could possibly be construed to reflect his statement at that occasion.
He asked for the road beyond Baker's clearing to be cleared through to Wells, and that an access road go from Harrisburg Road to Wilcox Lake, all accessible to pickup truck and emergency use vehicles, ambulances.
He pointed out the "extreme burden on the local services to extricate" individuals when they get hurt, as they invariably will, mountain biking or whatever else they do. To relieve this burden, he suggested "an effective network of roads, and that all of them be pickup truck or ambulance accessible."
He pointed out that "these could be used by the aging population to access the area for recreational purposes."
"Many people do not have ATVs. They would prefer to go in and go fishing from their pickup truck and there's no reason why that could not be incorporated in the plan. I hear no mention of that," he said.(18)
Except for the mention of the need for access to the mountain Baldhead, access to which had already been advocated with the Adirondack Council's 1990 imprimatur in its 2020 Vision(19), none of my statements that evening are included in the DEC summary in the draft UMP either.
I began by reinforcing a previous speaker, Roger Jones of Johnsburg, who urged that cemetery access be taken into account. I pointed out the need on State land for cemetery access, where the Town is afraid to improve a road, and historical site access.
I reiterated Peter LaGrasse's pointing out the ancient highway through to Wells, and also the route to Hope Falls. I pointed out that Waite Road was historically an access to State land.
Protesting the DEC's anti-ATV policy, I said that "we
should promote more use in the Wilcox Lake Wild Forest area, reflect
the interest of the local people in the way they would use the
Adirondack preserve." I asked for a large range of activities
such as mountain biking and skiing, and access to areas like the
top of Baldhead, rather than having to rely on bushwhacking, which
excludes all but the very healthy. I asked to promote a range
of "activities in Wilcox Lake Wild Forest that would take
the pressure off the High Peaks." I pointed out the unsigned
large area of State land with the potential for recreation as
a person drives to Harrisburg Lake, "but no one would know
it was there."
I asked for the disposal of disconnected State lands, even though this might not be part of the UMP process. (However, in the draft UMP, DEC calls for acquisition of still more land.)
I pointed out that it wasn't precisely clear what DEC meant that Wild Forest is more flexible than Wilderness. I wanted to know how much more flexible. Noticing that, according to a DEC statement that evening, the request for proposal (RFP) process was closed, I pointed out that this was inconsistent with the materials that I had just received, and asked whether the RFP process was "sewed up."
DEC was giving a "misconception" that it was "discretionary" and "gracious" on its part to set up disabled access, I pointed out. This access resulted, instead, from a court settlement, I remarked. This comment had no impact on DEC's arrogant attitude about itself in relation to the citizens. The tone is unchanged. My comment and its implied request for a change in presentation, is, as I've said with respect to my other comments, unrecorded.
I asked for a system of "swaths of open area as fire breaks and that we have a more thorough unit management plan process for fire protection of the forests that are privately owned and for the communities." I said, "I'd like to propose that we open ancient highways and that we widen trails and that, in the process of providing more ATV access, we provide better fire protection access to the area."
I also briefly summarized some of my comments over the years about the lack of social, cultural, and economic impact analysis, I said:
"I'd also like to ask that we have thorough financial analysis of the implications of the Unit Management Plan process, including the [effect of] lack of planning on the local communities, and that the whole process abide by the State Environmental Quality Review Act,do a thorough cultural, economic study of the impacts of actions and inaction and not be, illegally, confined to issues of biological preservation."(20)
It is also prominent when reviewing the DEC summary of the Thurman meeting that the summary fails to reflect the substance of the meeting. There was an overwhelming message from the gathered populace that more access for motorized vehicles should be provided. This sense is missing from the eight-line summary of comments for "Motorized Vehicles ATVs."(21) The summary is falsely biased. Of the seven listed comments, one is neutral about Motorized vehicles/ATVs, three are positive, and three are negative. In addition, one of the listed comments I've counted as positive could be considered as negative toward motorized vehicles/ATVs, and two comments that I've counted as "negative" toward ATV's are so nebulously worded that they could have two meanings. The draft UMP reports this area of compelling local citizen interest confusingly, in the sense that some of the statements in the supposed record summary are unclear, and misleadingly, in that the actual comments at the meeting are falsely portrayed, preventing the reader from knowing what actually took place at DEC's only public meeting before the single public hearing. Since it was the purpose of the meeting to get these comments, why are the comments reported inaccurately?
The answer, I have concluded, is that the draft UMP is preconceived, with only a tiny amount of flexibility, so that a little window-dressing can be made in response to a few selected commentsto create an aura of responsiveness. None of my husband's or my comments are suitable for use in window dressing, and so DEC does not even include them in the record. It is also, from DEC's point of view, necessary to slant the reporting so that the weight of comments and the integrity and reasonableness of comments contrary to DEC's agenda is eliminated.
Beginning in 1973, I made my first hearing statement related to the Adirondacks at a public hearing about the Adirondack Park Agency held in New York City and presided over by the offensively elitist Richard Lawrence.(22) Subsequently, I have made statements at many Adirondack Park Agency-related and DEC hearings. A pattern soon emerged, and has held without exception. The DEC and APA have never responded to my comments and not one idea of mine has been used. The DEC is a hostile agency.
3. Wiped Out & Hanging On - Historic & Threatened Communities, Hunting Camps
The draft UMP fails to inventory historic sites and inventory cemeteries within Wilcox Lake Wild Forest, except for certain sites of narrow archeological resources already inventoried by the New York State Museum and Office of Parks, Recreation and Historical Preservation.(23) These inventories are a drop in the bucket, a use of "whatever is handy" without focusing on the issue; the DEC's presentation of these inventories, perhaps as a supposed demonstration of compliance with the mandate to do an analysis of impact on historical and cultural resources, is dismissive, and fails to comply with the statutory Environmental Impact Analysis requirement.
The comments in this statement relate only to locations related to the town of Stony Creek and the old community of West Stony Creek (also known as "Fullers," "Barber Place," and "Over the Mountain"), which today is reached from Stony Creek by motor vehicle over maintained Stony Creek and Thurman town highways.
The official land acquisition map accompanying the report of the Berle Twenty-first Century Commission on the Adirondacks, cited above, showed private lands that were targeted in Stony Creek, including private land at Bakertown, which is west of Harrisburg Lake, where Harrisburg Road extends beyond the lake, and the private property in West Stony Creek in Thurman, as well as certain other lands in Stony Creek, all of which were not for sale. On top of that, since the Commission report deemed approximately 87 percent of the private land in the Adirondacks, of which Stony Creek is typical, to be proposed for zoning of 2,000 acres per house, the areas in Bakertown and West Stony creek would have been within that "Back Country" category of Stony Creek and environs under pressure to sell to the State. The environmentalist agenda in the Commission report clearly laid out their hoped-for future for the Bakertown area and West Stony Creekultimate sale to the State at some future date.
Several bulletins of the Stony Creek Historical Association relate the history of West Stony Creek and the rugged families who farmed there, followed by rugged men and families who ran successful hunting camps. The bulletins included many photos of the settlement and the hunting camps, through that operated by Jack and Marge Baker into the 1970s. In 1974, the Association published a bulletin with a chapter, "The 'Barber Place Revisited,'" beginning with the words:
"It has been reported that the Barber Place is being sold to the State of New York, with a few acres reserved for the present owners, but no deed is yet on record. It will be interesting to observe the land use policy and see what changes will occur as a result of it. Will the open land be left to grow over? Will buildings be removed? Time will tell "(24)
In 1974, several buildings remained:
"The buildings remaining include them main lodge, the 'doll house,' the farmhouse (rebuilt by Gardner), and the 'wigwam' or hill house. These buildings, the well, and the two Combs gravestones are the only structural reminders of the civilization past in this area."(25)
"Will future caretakers of this land have as high a regard for it as those people past? Will future generations be able to savor its history?' wrote the historian at the close of the Stony Creek Historical Society bulletin about the "Barber Place" in 1974.(26)
A few buildings at West Stony Creek are still there today and are actively used by their owners. The S & L Club is there, as is the Dog and Pup Club, about two to three miles further in, at the location of Fullers. John Cody's cabin is still there, hanging, on a 44-year lease from the State, which owns the land, according to William Liebl, who related this recent history of West Stony Creek.
The hunting camp owned by my friends, the late Marge and Jack Baker, at the Barber place was located near John Cody's cabin, and is gone. Marge and Jack had sold to Wilber Dow, the owner of the Lake George Steamboat company. He already owned the Barber Place after G. Y. Barber died. Under Dow's ownership, a man from Texas named Earl Struber ran the camp, and built the pond and improved the road during the 1950s. William Liebl, the source of this history from his first-hand memory, rented Marge and Jack Baker's camp in the winter during the sixties as a snowmobile camp, which he and his late wife Pat ran from Friday nights through Sundays. His family would have ten to seventy-five snowmobilers in there to stay overnight.
Mr. Liebl recalls that when Dow sold to the State, there was an agreement that their buildings would be preserved. About a week after the sale, the State piled up all the buildings, including the barns and trading post, and burned them, Mr. Liebl recalls vividly.
The same thing happened at the S & L Club, Mr. Liebl related recently. Right across from the S & L Club was a beautiful little log cabin. The daughter of Harvey Combs, the patriarch of a family at West Stony Creek, committed suicide, and her husband kept the place for four to five years. The S & L Club wanted to buy it, but the State intervened to buy the land for the Forest Preserve on the basis that the State had first option because it was surrounded by State-owned land. Not a month after buying the property, the State burned the cabin to the ground.(27)
However, the State does not have a first option to buy properties within the Forest Preserve on that basis. Its option is restricted to properties that are held for auction by the county treasurer because they were foreclosed for non-payment of real estate taxes.
The historic inventory in the draft UMP fails to describe the history and provide an inventory of the remains of West Stony Creek, this historic community in the town of Thurman on West Stony Creek Road. However, it is well documented elsewhere and within living memory that this community was inhabited well into the twentieth century, and contained a variety of buildings, including residence, barns, a general store and other buildings, used for various purposes, some surviving and in use up to the present.(28)
The draft UMP's summary of archeological and historical resources fails to describe the history of Bakertown and provide a summary of its remains. Bakertown is past the Moosewood Club, at the end of Harrisburg Road. The draft UMP refers incorrectly to the portion of Harrisburg Road beyond Harrisburg Lake as "Bakertown Road," contrary to official town and county records. Road designations in the draft UMP are not done meticulously. Several maps lack town lines and roads. The inclusion of these features would not have made the maps cluttered and would have easily been accomplished using the State's GIS capacity. Without town lines and roads on the maps, a member of the public must have cartographic skills to comprehend the material presented, and even such a skilled person is impeded and slowed in comprehension. This deficiency in presentation violates the clear directive of the Environmental Quality Review law to present the material for public use.
Both the Moosewood Club at Bakertown and West Stony Creek are targeted for acquisition in the planning for Wilcox Lake Wild Forest in the Adirondack Council's influential 2020 Vision:
"Allow for the continuation of inholdings at Moosewood Club, Fullers, and Brownell Camp, as long as there is access to trails through these properties and trespass problems along them are controlled; limit development of these inholdings and acquire them as they become available."(29) (Emphasis added)
These private properties were mapped for acquisition in the official report of the Commission on the Adirondacks of the Twenty-first Century.(30)
And, again, in the WLWF Draft UMP:
"Certain areas within the WLWF planning unit will be given a high priority for protection when acquisition by the state is being contemplated. These areas include the following:
"1. Private in-holdings surrounded by state-owned lands.
"Although no specific parcels within the unit have been identified as priorities for protection in the State Open Space Conservation Plan, appropriate opportunities for land acquisition are regularly evaluated as they become available (NYSDEC and OPRHP 2006)."(31)
The Sweet Lumber Company owns the large tract west of Harrisburg Lake, through which Harrisburg Road leads to Bakertown. The DEC sponsored a tour for its Region 5 Open Space Committee during August 2005 for the purpose of considering acquisition of this 1,100-acre tract bordering Harrisburg Lake. I heard about the tour, and informed some of the town board members about it. They had not been notified by DEC. As a result of this chance notification, Councilman William Liebl also attended the tour and reported to the full town board, where the reaction was clearly unfavorable to the DEC acquiring that property.
As exemplified by the reaction to the DEC's tour of the Sweet property, my observation is that the people of Stony Creek vociferously oppose the State's acquisition of more private land in Stony Creek for the Forest Preserve. The people are widely aware of the State's ownership of half the land in the town and many are aware of the State's destruction of the historic buildings in West Stony Creek, which is part of the community of Stony Creek, although outside the town line.
When Town Board Member Dale Aldrich, who is connected to the Sweet company, suddenly announced last year at a town board meeting that the board of directors of the Sweet Lumber Company absolutely will not sell to the State of New York, the crowd of people in the audience burst into spontaneous applause, to my delighted surprise.
4. Access to Cemeteries
The draft UMP fails to provide a plan for access or to even make the point that access must be provided to the towns' cemeteries. Towns must have access to comply with the New York State cemetery law to perform maintenance of burial grounds and cemeteries. The cemetery law states:
"Burial grounds. 1. The title to every lot or piece of land which shall have been used by the inhabitants of any town in this state as a cemetery or burial ground for the space of fourteen years shall be deemed to be vested in such town, and shall be subject in the same manner as other corporate property of towns, to the government and direction of the town board It shall be the duty of the town board to remove the grass and weeks from any such cemetery or burial ground in any such town at least three times in each year, and to erect and maintain suitable fences around such cemetery or burial ground "(32)
Weaver Cemetery, a small fenced cemetery owned and currently maintained by the Town of Stony Creek on State's Road near Lens Lake Road, has inadequate maintenance and poor access. The maintenance deficit is related to the access issue. The Town Board has been hesitant to adequately maintain the cemetery and access because of fear of offending the DEC. It impossible to use a vehicle to reach the cemetery and the footpath is inadequate for older or handicapped people.
Reflecting the communities that existed in West Stony Creek and Bakertown, there are cemeteries or burial grounds in both locations.(33)
Even today, with access still theoretically available, DEC's lack of respect for the communities and their historic predecessors works against the maintenance of these sensitive locations. But DEC's stated goals of land acquisition and road closing, expressed again in the Wilcox Lake Draft UMP as the latest example, would make maintenance of these cemeteries and visitation impossible.
5. DEC's Intention to Close and Restrict Town Highways
The Draft UMP asserts that the State intends to initiate the closing of Harrisburg Road beyond Harrisburg Lake on a seasonable basis. The draft plan states:
"Other Activities (to be completed as soon as possible)
"4. Work with the stakeholders to institute a seasonable and/or periodic closure of the Harrisburg Lake Outlet ford on Bakertown Road."(34)
DEC degrades the role of the Town of Stony Creek in the disposition of Harrisburg Road. The Town is not one of various "stakeholders." The Town is the entity that owns the town highway, which is named Harrisburg Road, both leading to Harrisburg Lake, and up to, through and beyond Bakertown. The State of New York is not a "stakeholder." The DEC has no right to try to close the road seasonally or periodically. These decisions are among the powers of the Stony Creek Town Board.
This particular plan announced in the Draft UMP to gradually close a town highway is offensive. Perhaps the DEC has a notion that, because the highway is not paved west of Harrisburg, the State will prey on the economic limitations of the town's tax base and try to entirely eliminate the highway. But the Stony Creek Town Board and people are informed of their rights and many people resent the intimidation to which the DEC has subjected them. The DEC has no right to try to "negotiate" or influence the future of Harrisburg Road beyond Harrisburg Lake.
In addition, the official presentation of the Draft UMP on January 24 in Wells by DEC's Mike Curley included options that would reduce the extent of Harrisburg Road. He presented three options:
1. Motor vehicle access extends through Bakertown tract, graphically about five miles beyond the tract.
2. Block road at Moosewood Club east line.
3. Keep road open as now but allow ATV access at east line, but, he said, this was not compatible with the Motor Vehicle Law.(35)
Mr. Curley neglected to point out that these choices are not DEC options. He was referring to a town highway, which is a town highway through the private Moosewood Club tract in the Bakertown area. The current situation is the lawful one, with which DEC must comply. It has no legal prerogative to influence (however forcefully or insidiously) or coerce the Town of Stony Creek to close its town highway.
As a resident of Stony Creek, I think that the people and Stony Creek Town Board deserve a formal apology from DEC for these arrogant presentations (both the seasonal/periodic and the closure options) related to Harrisburg Road, an official town highway of Stony Creek.
The Draft UMP also calls for barricading Louis Waite Road:
"Year 5 (SFY 21011)
"Install permanent rock barriers at the Forest Preserve boundary at both ends of the Louis Waite Road Trail to enforce the closure of this trail to snowmobiles."(36)
The Draft UMP is false in referring to Louis Waite Road as a "trail." It is an abandoned town highway, which in Stony creek extended through State-owned land to the Saratoga County line. Although the Stony Creek Town Board no longer recognizes its duty to maintain the road, it forever remains a town highway, and no property owner has the right to barricade the road.(37)
There is no reason in law nor any practical reason for blocking Waite Road from snowmobile use.
6. Recreational Bias DEC's Plan to Relocate and Restrict Snowmobiles and Prohibit ATV Use
The Draft UMP favors hiking, while consenting to snowmobiling and exerting a prejudice against ATV use. The Wilcox Lake Wild Forest has plenty of room for an excellent system of ATV and snowmobile trails while allowing for increased use by hikers and others of DEC's favored clientele. The plan follows the usual extreme environmental prejudice, favoring the recreation of a select "group" of people who purport to be "environmentalists." This DEC prejudice continues despite the fact that hiking trails are badly erodedby hikers. This erosion is sacrosanct.
The Draft UMP relies on the so-called "cap" on snowmobile mileage imposed in the State Land Master Plan. However, even if one were to wrongly concede that the State Land Master Plan were unbiased and therefore potentially valid, the master plan is so old that it is no longer applicable. It was completed during the 1970s.
In just the twelve years since Gov. Pataki took office, the State has "protected" over one million acres of land in the Forest Preserve (mainly in the Adirondacks), according to Gov. Pataki's announcement during late December 2006. (This "protected" land is now State-owned in fee simple or is under conservation easements.)
According to the DEC 2005 Draft Open Space Plan, the State owns three million acres in fee simple in the Adirondack and Catskill Forest Preserves.(38) The edition of the State Land Master Plan published by the APA in 2001 states that the State owns 2,400,000 acres as Adirondack Forest Preserve.(39) The Draft Open Space Plan does not break down the acreage between the Adirondack and Catskill Forest Preserves, but it is apparent from recent events that the State has acquired several large tracts in the Adirondacks, with significant fee simple lands. It is incomprehensible that the DEC has not allocated additional snowmobile trail mileage to the Adirondack Forest Preserve fee simple lands in, at a bare minimum, direct proportion to the increased fee simple acreage.
In addition, the State Land Master Plan snowmobile mileage cap should be discarded because of the radical bias of two influential authors of the plan. In a 2004 article in the environmental tabloid, the Adirondack Explorer, Norm Van Valkenburgh, retired director of the DEC Division of Lands and Forests, commented on his authorship of the plan with Clarence Petty:
"Back in those propitious days when my co-worker and mentor, Clarence Petty, and I were in a position to propose policy for the management and protection of the Forest Preserve, we often debated about snowmobiles. Our debate wasn't whether or not they should be permitted on the Forest Preserve; we were of a single mind about that. Instead, we debated how to get rid of them. I don't recall now who took which point of view, but one advocated land mines set at strategic locations along the snowmobile trails. The other opted for piano wire stretched taught and chin high across the trails, preferably at the end of long, straight runs where a high speed could be expected. However, we realized these actions were probably unconstitutional. We then suggested that big-game hunters, unsuccessful in the fall season, be issued a license to hunt snowmobiles over the winter "(40)
What nasty, barely tongue-in-cheek "humor" to be recounted for publication. But this is the mindset in the genesis of the snowmobile mileage "cap," according to the words of such influential voices in the DEC policy. This hardly argues for the sacrosanct outdated snowmobile mileage cap.
The Draft WLWF UMP assumes a cap on snowmobile mileage at a level reflecting that mileage at the currently used State Land Master Plan. But the currently-in-use State Land Master Plan (SLMP) is out of date. (41) Therefore, the specifics of the SLMP are no longer valid on the oft-cited grounds that it is many years since its required five-year update should have been promulgated. At the same time, the SLMP states that for the Wilcox Lake Wild Forest, "This area is capable of withstanding considerably more use without destruction of the physical resource or the wild forest atmosphere."(42)
The SLMP is not credible for any decision on snowmobile mileage both on grounds of the bias against snowmobiles that was involved in drafting the plan and on the grounds that additional fee simple lands have since been acquired.
Existing snowmobile trails in the Wilcox Lake Wild Forest should be preserved. As was stated so eloquently by the snowmobilers at the January 24 hearing, these trails serve well and have no negative environmental impact. Far more environmental impact would occur to build substitute trails where that is contemplated. If new trails are needed, the trails should be added. In addition, a system of all-terrain vehicle (ATV) trails should be designed, considering that there is plenty of room in the Wilcox Lake Wild Forest for this use, also.
In addition, the trails should be widened for safety to the snowmobile users, for adequate use by ATV enthusiasts, for emergency vehicles, pickup trucks and other four-wheel drive vehicles. The widened trails should also serve as much-needed fire access and fire breaks. For example, the National Forests provide fire roads that are used for snowmobile recreation. The DEC should use the management plans for the Adirondack Forest Preserve to enable the Adirondacks to join areas like the northern reaches of Minnesota, Michigan's Upper Peninsula, Vermont, and Canada to draw recreationists on snowmobiles from many states. Illustrative of the freedom with which snowmobilers move their recreation to a different state was evidenced in a January article by Mark Yost of Lake Elmo, Minnesota, in The Wall Street Journal.
" while temperatures have turned cold, there has been a dearth of deep, fluffy snow to do the things most often associated with Minnesota winters, like cross-country skiing and snowmobiling That's why I came here, to Michigan's Upper Peninsula, six hours north of my home in the Twin Cities."(43)
It is wrong that snowmobilers and ATV users feel that they have better opportunity to recreate by traveling to other states and Canada when they could be enjoying just a small part of the vast three million acres of State-owned land in the Adirondack Forest Preserve.
The State law expresses a different philosophy than that of biased environmental radicals such as those who keep imposing an outdated snowmobile cap:
"All lands in the Catskill and in the Adirondack Park, except those lying within the town of Dannemora, now owned or which may hereafter be acquired by the State, shall be forever reserved and maintained for the free use of all the people." (Emphasis added)(44)
The idea that the Forest Preserve is for all the people inspired successful litigation to open access to the disabled. However, as I pointed out in my statement at the hearing in December 2006 on the DEC Draft Lake George Wild Forest Unit Management Plan, the DEC is instituting a system of "disabled apartheid"(45), favoring the disabled with isolated access and limited facilities, while eliminating roads and campgrounds that were enjoyed by a cross-section of the population.
The DEC's disabled apartheid policy is a shell game, hiding their act of simply closing roads and campsites to the people. As I've pointed out in an article about the Moose River Plains Draft Unit Management Plan(46) and commented at the hearing on the Lake George Draft Plan, the DEC is using various pretexts to eliminate roads and camps historically enjoyed by families and hunters, and acquired for the express purposes of recreation and hunting.(47) A photo article of mine in the PRFA newsletter commented on the DEC's intended exploitation of the Silver Lake Wilderness UMP to close the Wells town highway to Whitehouse and cut off the camps and cemetery there.(48) In the Wilcox Lake Wild Forest and all these areas, roads, camps, picnic areas, and recreation spots for ordinary families, including the disabled at the same sites, should be expanded.
This is the opportunity that fair-minded people saw when the DEC embarked on the grandiose UMP revision process. Instead, the opposite has taken placeclose the Adirondack Park to the people. DEC's insidious disregard for the people is exemplified by its treatment of Stony Creek and its environs. The proposed Draft Unit Management Plan for the Wilcox Lake Wild Forest should be discarded. The plan should be re-drawn under new assumptions, with the local culture, economy, history, and the community included as salient factors in a plan that respects the local people.
(1) The Adirondack Park in the Twenty First Century, Commission on the Adirondacks in the Twenty-first Century, Peter A. A. Berle, Chairman; Mario Cuomo, Governor, the State of New York, April 1990. The Commission proposed that 654,850 acres of private land be acquired for the Adirondack Forest Preserve, bringing land ownership in the park to 52 percent State-owned land (pp. 52-53). In addition, private lands were to be protected as open space, using conservation easements (p. 58). All of the land currently zoned for Resource Management or Rural Use, 87 percent of the private land, would be re-zoned as Back Country, and limited to 2,000 acres per dwelling (p. 59). The report included many other equally radical proposals.
(2) The Town of Stony Creek includes 27,657 acres of land owned by the State of New York, which is a little more than half the land in Stony Creek. Source: Peter J. LaGrasse, Chairman, Stony Creek Board of Assessors, February 27, 2007.
(3) For example, refer to the lawsuit, Town of Stony Creek vs. State of New York, served on the State of New York on Nov. 25, 1984, to which the State made no reply. Over many years, the State of New York systematically under-assessed its land in Stony Creek and refused to divulge its timber valuation information to the Stony Creek Board of Assessors. During 1983 and 1984, the Stony Creek Board of Assessors, Peter LaGrasse, Chairman, had meticulously assessed the State-owned land in the town, one of only three towns in the state to do so. One of the other two other towns, Shandaken, litigated successfully, which was reported in the press on November 16, 1984. The State had failed to appeal the assessment by the Stony Creek Board of Assessors as any other taxpayer, but had paid taxes on the basis of its own assessments of its land. In early February 1985, the State Attorney General's office conceded to the Town's position, according to Peter LaGrasse's open letter to the people of Stony Creek dated October 25, 1985. In that letter, Peter LaGrasse stated that on Oct. 16, 1985 the State sent a money settlement payable to Warren County Treasurer of two checks, totaling $470,000, which included settlements to the Town, fire district, school district, and Warren County.
(4) For example, in Robert N. Drake v. Town of Stony Creek, et al. (New York State Supreme Court, Warren County, decided by Judge Aulisi against petitioner, May 2001), Carol W. LaGrasse provided the petitioners with records of official maps from the LaGrasse historical collection establishing Waite Road in Stony Creek as a town highway to the Hadley town line (which includes the portion through State-owned land), but the petitioner failed to submit the records to the court in a timely manner.
Robert L. Schulz, Carol W. LaGrasse, Peter J. LaGrasse and
Donald H. Gerdts v. The State of New York, Mario M. Cuomo, Governor;
The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation, Thomas
C. Jorling, Commissioner (pro se lawsuit written by
Carol and Peter LaGrasse, executed as a team, and decided in favor
of petitioners New York State Supreme Court, Albany County, during
the weeks before Election Day 1990. See record, Appellate Div.
3rd Dept., 1991). This lawsuit successfully sought
an injunction against the State, Gov. Cuomo and DEC, who were
distributing material to promote a "Yes" vote in favor
of the $2 billion 1990 Environmental Quality Bond Act, which was
for the purpose of buying up land for preservation, generally
in the Adirondacks.
By way of further example of my recent efforts to keep Adirondack land in private ownership, see:
"Open Space Plan Announces Another Feeding Frenzy on Private Property," by Carol W. LaGrasse, New York Property Rights Clearinghouse, N. 10, N1, Winter 2006, p. 3.
"Illegal, Unjust and Irresponsible DEC Open Space Plan Fails to Reveal Full Extent and Impact of its Land Acquisition Plans, Violates the Principle of Environmental Justice and Good Government," by Carol W. LaGrasse, Comments Draft New York State 2005 Open Space Conservation Plan January 17, 2006.
Peter LaGrasse, "Governor's land bridge proposal still overlooked,"
News Analysis, Adirondack Journal, Nov. 20, 1991. "A
key feature to Governor Cuomo's proposed legislation on the Adirondack
is the provision for land bridges and eco systems," he wrote
in this article. "The land bridge concept comes from the
21st C. Report, recommendation #196 and 197, and is
explained in more detail in 21 C Technical Report # 19, Preserving
Travel Routes for Wildlife in the Adirondack Park, by Anne P.
Hoover," he wrote. In the article, he explained several ramifications
and reasonable possibilities of the applications of the land bridge
concept to the Stony Creek area, which is also the Wilcox Lake
Wild Forest area. He pointed out the enormous restrictions that
the Governor's bill envisioned on 86 percent of the private land
in the Adirondack Park. He noted in addition the difficulty of
analyzing the impact of the land bridge proposal, considering
that the concept of land bridges in the literature is "scarce
and far flung," with one reference in the technical report
having been published in Australia and only available from the
Library of Congress in Washington, D.C.
The particular examples of the land bridges that LaGrasse explained in the article, were areas diagrammed for extensive State land acquisition in the Adirondack Council's 2020 Vision Vol. 3 (see citation, note 7), ostensibly for recreational purposes, but it is apparent that the continuous block of land that the acquisition diagram would create in the Lens Lake area of Stony Creek and Northville would be more significant to the wildlife concept, especially since a public boat landing, a hunting club and other access already created extensive recreational access possible to the area of both State-owned and private land where the targeted private land is located.
See also: Peter J. LaGrasse, "21st Century plan to cause disruption of homesteads?," Letter to Editor, Warrensburg-Lake George News, Aug. 8, 1990, where he describes the relationship of the 1989 UNESCO Champlain-Adirondack Biosphere Reserve designation, riparian strips and the threat to the future of the narrow band of homesteads down the spine of the town of Stony Creek, if the regulatory plans in the Twenty-first Century were to have been carried out).
(7) Barbara McMartin, 2020 Vision Fulfilling the Promise of the Adirondack Park, Volume 3, "Realizing the Recreational Potential of Adirondack Wild Forests," The Adirondack Council, 1990, schematic map, page 10, and Stony Creek land acquisition proposal and map, pages 15 and 16.
Under the Environmental Quality Review law, the following applies:
Sect "8-001 Purpose:
"It is the purpose of this act to declare a state policy which will encourage productive and enjoyable harmony between man and his environment; to promote efforts which will prevent or eliminate damage to the environment and enhance human and community resources; and to enrich the understanding of the ecological systems, natural, human and community resources important to the people of the state." (Emphasis added. "Environmental Quality Review," Environmental Conservation Law, McKinney's Consolidated Laws of New York Annotated)
Under the Environmental Quality Review law, the following applies:
Sec. "8-0103. Legislative findings and declarations
"7. It is the intent of the legislature that the protection and enhancement of the environment, human and community resources shall be given appropriate weight with social and economic considerations in public policy. Social, economic, and environmental factors shall be considered together in reaching decisions on proposed activities." (Emphasis added. "Environmental Quality Review," Environmental Conservation Law, McKinney's, cited above.)
Sec. "8-0105. Definitions
" 6. 'Environment' means the physical conditions which will be affected by a proposed action, including land, air, water, minerals, flora, fauna, noise, objects of historic or aesthetic significance, existing patterns of population concentration, distribution, or growth, and existing community or neighborhood character." (Emphasis added. "Environmental Quality Review," Environmental Conservation Law, McKinney's, cited above.)
See also NYCRR Part 617 State Environmental Quality Review (Jan. 1, 1996), Definitions 617.2 "'Environment' means the physical conditions that will be affected by a proposed action, including land, air, water, minerals, flora, fauna, noise, resources of agricultural, archeological, historic or aesthetic significance, existing patterns of population concentration, distribution or growth, existing community or neighborhood character, and human health."
(10) See also NYCRRR 617.3 General Rules: "(a) No agency involved in an action may undertake, fund or approve the action until it has complied with the provisions of SEQR."
(11) NYCRR Part 617 State Environmental Quality Review, Jan. 1, 1996, 617.20 Full Environmental Assessment Form. (Emphasis added)
(12) NYCRR Part 617 State Environmental Quality Review, Jan. 1, 1996. Definitions 617.2(m) Environmental assessment form.
(13) NYCRR Part 617 State Environmental Quality Review, Jan. 1, 1996. Definitions 617.2(n) Environmental impact statement. (Emphasis added)
(14) Hamilton County News, Speculator, N.Y., Sept. 28, 2004, p. 1.
(15) Author's telephone conversation with Michael Curley, DEC, Warrensburg, Jan. 22, 2007.
(16) New York State Department of Environmental Conservation, Wilcox Lake Wild Forest Draft Unit Management Plan/Draft Environmental Impact Statement, December 2006 (hereinafter noted as "Draft WLWF UMP" or "draft UMP"), pp. 103-104.
(17) Draft WLWF UMP, p. 103.
(18) Peter J. LaGrasse, "Statement, DEC Meeting, Wilcox Lake Wild Forest, Thurman Town Hall, March 8, 2002" (Transcript by Carol W. LaGrasse from DEC tape).
(19) McMartin, 2020 Vision, Vol. 3, cited above, p. 15. "Provide trails for day hikes to Rand and Moose mountains on the west side of the Wild Forest and Huckleberry, Baldhead and Moose, Roundtop, and Bearpen mountains and Mount Blue on the east "
(20) Carol W. LaGrasse, Property Rights Foundation of America, "Statement, DEC Meeting, Wilcox Lake Wild Forest, Thurman Town Hall, March 8, 2002" (Transcript by Carol W. LaGrasse from DEC tape).
(21) Draft WLWF UMP, p. 103.
(22) On January 15, 1973, I attended and made a statement at the hearing on the Adirondack Park plan for the 3,600,000 acres of private land, which was held at the Chamber of Commerce in Manhattan. Richard Lawrence and Peter Paine presided over the meeting. As he introduced himself, Richard Lawrence lifted the portable wooden podium and carried it to the viewer's left, where he set it down again in the front of the purple velvet-upholstered seats in the nineteenth century hall. The wall was covered with large gilt-framed portraits of prosperous men. He looked back his right shoulder up at the portrait above him and said, "Now I am happy, under my grand-daddy's portrait." Looking over my notes 34 years later, it is obvious that the names I noted of many of those present were of prominent wealthy figures who had played and continued to play the controlling role in the use of land in the Adirondacks.
Draft WLWF UMP, Appendix H: Archaeological and Cultural Resources,
pp. 219-222. See also "Cultural/Historical/ Archaeological
Sites," pp. 116-117, where it appears that the "Objective,"
"To provide opportunities for the public to learn the history
of the WLWF" (p. 117), is defined under "Management
Actions" as "providing opportunities for historic interpretation
at trailheads of high use areas (e.g. Wilcox Lake, Hadley Mountain,
and Crane Mountain) to educate the public on the general history
of WLWF and any specific features within the area." (p. 117)
"Continue the current method of protection for cultural resources, which is non-disclosure of locations." (p. 117)
"Continue to maintain of the location of cultural resources and consult mapping whenever management actions are implemented to ensure known resources are not inadvertently damaged." (p. 117)
There is no mention of DEC's past deliberate destruction of cultural resources at West Stony Creek and no mention of the danger to remaining cultural resources if DEC acquires the private lands at Bakertown and West Stony Creek. There is no mention of the fact that DEC's intention to eliminate roads such as Louis Waite Rd threatens a cultural resource. These are all historic resources dating to the nineteenth century. The Draft UMP makes to attempt to explain why some cultural resources, those beloved by the people, are slated for destruction. DEC's selection of some cultural and historic resources for preservation and others for destruction cannot withstand scrutiny.
(24) "Centennial Celebration," Stony Creek Historical Association Journal, Vol. II. No. 12, July 1974, p. 10.
(25) "Over the Mountain," Stony Creek Historical Association Journal, Vol. II, No. 1, Jan. 1974, p. 17.
(26) Ibid., p. 17.
(27) William S. Liebl, Stony Creek Town Councilman and former snowmobile restaurant proprietor at West Stony Creek, interview, February 25, 2007.
(28) Author's visit to West Stony Creek, personal conversation with Jessie Osterhout, a former resident of West Stony Creek, other interviews, and written references such as those noted.
(29) McMartin, 2020 Vision, Vol. 3, cited above, p. 15. McMartin falsely refers to the town highways through these properties as "trails."
(30) The Adirondack Park in the Twenty-first Century, Commission on the Adirondacks in the Twenty-first Century, Peter A. A. Berle, Chairman, April 1990, Mario Cuomo, Governor, the State of New York. See attached foldout acquisition map.
(31) WLWF Draft UMP, p. 116.
(32) New York State Town Law, Section 291, Burial Grounds, McKinney's.
(33) William S. Liebl, interview, February 25, 2007.
(34) WLWF Draft UMP, pp. 160-161.
(35) DEC Hearing, WLWF Draft UMP, Wells Central School, January 24, 2007.
(36) WLWF Draft UMP, p. 160.
(37) Documents that attest the legal status of Waite Road as a town highway are too voluminous to list in this footnote.
(38) Draft New York State Open Space Conservation Plan 2005, November 2005, George E. Pataki, Governor; Department of Environmental Conservation, Denise S. Sheehan, Acting Commissioner; The Office of Parks, Recreation and Historical Preservation, Bernadette Castro, Commissioner; The Department of State, First Deputy Secretary of State Frank Milano, p. 65.
(39) Adirondack Park State Land Master Plan, June 2001, publ. Adirondack Park Agency (approved 1987, updated 2001, per frontispiece), p. 2.
(40) Norm Van Valkenburgh, "Snowmobiles don't belong," Adirondack Explorer, January/February 2004, Vol. 6, No. 1, p. 24.
The edition of the State Land Master Plan recently received
from the APA is dated "approved 1987," updated 2001."
(frontispiece) Yet, in the body of the SLMP (p. 12), reference
is made to the 1978/79 revision, which is widely referred to as
the date of last revision and a reference is made to the future
where "all unit management plans will be completed before
the next five-year review of the master plan in 1989/90."
(p. 11) This SLMP is very much out of date.
However, the WLWF Draft UMP (p. 223) relies on the Adirondack Park State Land Master Plan (APSLMP), quoting: "...the APSLMP on page 33, in Basic Guideline 4 for Wild Forest units, states that: "There will be no material increase in the miles of roads and snowmobile trails open to motorized use by the public that conformed to the master plan at the time of its original adoption in 1972." (Ital. in original)
(42) Adirondack Park State Land Master Plan, Publ. Adirondack Park Agency, June 2001, p. 91.
(43) Mark Yost, "In Search of Winter In the Not-So-Frozen North," The Wall Street Journal, January 24, 2007, p. D12.
Sec. 9-0301. Use and diminution of Adirondack and Catskill
"Lands and Forests," Environmental Conservation Law. (McKinney's, cited above)
(45) Carol W. LaGrasse, "Betrayal & Discrimination Hearing Statement on DEC Lake George Wild Forest Draft UMP, Queensbury Town Hall, December 13, 2006."
(46) Carol W. LaGrasse, "Closing the Forest to the People Eliminating Camps and Motor Vehicle Access," Comments on DEC's Draft Unit Management Plan for the Moose River Plains Wild Forest, April 26, 2006.
(47) Carol W. LaGrasse, "Land AcquiredBut Wait, Access Closed," New York Property Rights Clearinghouse, V. 10, N. 3, Summer 2006, p. 3 ff.
(48) Carol W. LaGrasse, "Our Hike on the Threatened Road to Whitehouse," New York Property Rights Clearinghouse, V. 10, N. 2, Spring 2006, p. 2 ff.