Property Rights Foundation of America®

Statement in Opposition to
The Closing of Lows Lake to Seaplanes
&
In opposition to the Amendments of the
Bog River Flow Complex Unit Management Plan
&
In opposition to the Reclassification of Lows Lake Primitive Area to
Become Part of the Five Ponds Wilderness
&
In Opposition to the Creation of the
Eastern Five Ponds Access Primitive Area

By Carol W. LaGrasse
President
Property Rights Foundation of America, Inc.

August 25, 2009

INTRODUCTION

I reside in Stony Creek in Warren County, within the wretched Blue Line. I am a retired civil and environmental engineer and the president of the Property Rights Foundation of America, Inc., based in Stony Creek. PRFA is a national grassroots non-profit educational organization, founded because of the disdain for private property ownership and property rights and the injustice that the Adirondack Park Agency and the DEC consistently impose on the people of the Adirondacks.

I have been commenting at the DEC's and APA's obnoxious hearings since 1973, when I spoke at a first hearing—in New York City, where I lived at the time—on the Adirondack Park land use plan, which I now realize was an initiative in injustice. I have a perfect record at DEC and APA hearings and other opportunities to comment on the policies of these agencies. A perfect zero. Nothing of substance, to my knowledge, from my remarks has ever been taken into account. I know that my statement is disdained and will be disregarded.

But, in spite of the stressful travel over lonely mountain roads to the July 13 Lows Lake hearing at Long Lake and the time spent to prepare this statement, I feel a civic duty and an obligation to the ordinary people who share the circumstance of living in these mountains to speak out, especially since many people tell me that they are too afraid of the APA to express their viewpoints publicly.

The plan to close seaplane access to Lows Lake by instituting the Bog River Flow Complex UMP changes and by moving Lows Lake Primitive Area into the Five Ponds Wilderness involves bureaucratic complexity making the process incomprehensive to the general public and therefore illegal, and is illegal for other reasons, unjust, irrelevant or harmful to environmental protection, and may involve a conspiracy with environmental groups, who seem to work inside the APA and DEC to govern the people of the region without elected representation. The APA/DEC intention to close seaplane access to Lows Lake should be rejected.

COMPLEXITY

The Bog River Flow Complex UMP should be re-offered for public comment, because the members of general public were confused by the unnecessary complexity of the stages of the classification of Lows Lake. People has little idea that the revision to the Bog River Flow Complex UMP was considered by the DEC/APA to be the decision-making event with respect to the policy of eliminating seaplane access to Lows Lake, especially considering that the hearings on Lows Lake's re-classification remained to be held. It is doubtful that this sector of the general public generally understood the respective roles of the Bog River Flow Complex UMP and the Lows Lake reclassification into wilderness by shifting it to the Five Ponds Wilderness area.

It is questionable, also, whether this duplex system of land classification (where Lows Lake itself is classified as part of a larger unit of multiple types of land classifications and also as a sub-unit with a single land classification, under a separate process) is valid. It is my opinion that a "complex" UMP made up of more than one classification, such as the Bog River Flow Complex UMP comprised of the Five Ponds Wilderness, Eastern Five Ponds Access Primitive Area and other areas, is not provided for by statute or the State Land Master Plan.

ILLEGAL

These are some of the grounds under which the plan to close Lows Lake is illegal:

1. The State Land Master Plan under which the decision was purportedly made is many years out of date and in violation of the enabling legislation. No land should be classified until the State Land Master Plan is brought up to date.
 
2. Lows Lake is man-made, not "wilderness." Is the lake an "engineered wilderness"? The lake was not created by the forces of nature. Instead, Lows lake was created by the forces of engineering, builders. The lake has houses along the shore, a large Boy Scout camp adjacent, and is accessed by motor vehicles along an established road.
 
3. It is said that Lows Lake is to be classified as "wilderness" because some of the lands surrounding Lows Lake are "wilderness," but the classification of the lands along part of the perimeter of the lake as "wilderness" is illegal.
Lands cannot be classification as wilderness while motor vehicle roads and dams exist within the lands. The DEC and APA illegally classify the lands as "wilderness" by lifting out little chunks and strips of land, which are roads for motor vehicle use, and the dam causing the impoundment of Lows Lake, that lie within the areas classified as "wilderness" and give these lifted out motor vehicle and dam lands the classification as "primitive" (Eastern Five Ponds Access Primitive Area), as though the lands that were lifted out on paper were not merely roads and a dam located within the so-called "wilderness" lands.
 
The existence of the roads used by motor vehicles within the so-called "wilderness" lands makes in impossible to classify the so-called "wilderness" as "wilderness."
 
With the APA/DEC false reasoning, any type of land use—a house, a road, a mine, a school—within an area that they want to classify as "wilderness" can merely be lifted out and classified as something else and—abracadabra—the remaining land, with the little patches and strips cut out, is "wilderness."
 
There is no validity, either to the designation of the "Eastern Five Ponds Access Primitive Area," which really does not exist. It is just a contrived collection, a list, of the disconnected separate roads and non-conforming land uses that had to be lifted out of the artificial "wilderness" classification for certain state lands adjacent to Lows Lake. How can it be called an "area" in the singular, when it is a plural subject, a number of separate areas of land?
 
4. This also leads to the observation that using a contrived "Unit" for a Unit Management Plan, as the new Bog River Complex Unit Management Plan is an innovation that does not stand scrutiny. Each plan should be considered separately, not combined in a supposed "Unit" of multiple sub-units for which there is no legal precedent.
 
5. There is a separate question of whether, because it is less than 10,000 acres in size, the eastern area of Lows Lake, qualifies as "wilderness" for the Bog River Flow classification.
 
6. Even if the State Forest Preserve land around Lows Lake were legitimately classified as wilderness, it is still wrongful to classify the lake itself as wilderness, because the classification of the lake as wilderness would require that the state own the lake bed, which it does, and that all of the land around the lake is Forest Preserve land, which is not the case. Adjacent to the lake are parcels that are privately owned, including a large Boy Scout camp accessed by motor vehicles. Since the entire perimeter of Lows Lake is not Forest Preserve land, it is not possible to classify the lake "wilderness."
(This conclusion coincides with DEC's viewpoint, for whatever reason, in an earlier discussion noted by DEC's Christopher Amato at the April 2009 APA meeting, where DEC had maintained that the underwater lands were not part of the Bog River Complex/Lows Lake Unit Management Plan area.)
 
7. The APA states that the classification of water bodies as wilderness is admittedly an innovation. At the June 2009 APA meeting, the discussion came up about the fact that the practice of classifying the lake was not done before for a lake only partially surrounded by state land. Acting Executive Director James Connolly stated that such a classification of a lake as wilderness began to be considered with Little Tupper Lake in the Whitney parcel. He stated that the classification of the bed of Lows Lake was part of the APA's "progression in the way it deals with water bodies."
(It was logically impossible to classify the Little Tupper Lake and surrounding land as "wilderness," considering that the Whitney mansion (or "camp") and extensive industrial and vacation-style outbuildings, which appear to now be exclusively used or occupied by DEC staff and student interns, plus a reasonably large parking lot reached by the general public using motor vehicles, are adjacent to the lake.)
 
In other words, the APA has admitted that it historically felt that there was no basis for classifying a lake a "wilderness" in the circumstances leading to the classification of Lows Lake as "wilderness."
 
An internal APA Memorandum dated April 8, 2009 by James E. Connolly, Acting Executive Director, and John S. Banta, Counsel, to James Townsend regarding the Bog River Flow Complex Unit Management Plan contains a discussion of the issue of classifying lakes surrounded by a mix of uses. At one point in the discussion is the statement:
 
"There are, therefore, no general management guidelines and criteria characterizing non-conforming uses or structures for water bodies which are not completely surrounded by State lands." (page 3)
 
This part of the memo, which referenced lakes ranging from Lake George to Raquette Lake, reached an unjustified conclusion with respect to Lows Lake, as did the APA and DEC in their decisions related to the Bog River Flow Complex classification and the reclassification of Lows Lake into the Five Ponds Wilderness.

UNJUST

The idea to make the lake "wilderness" by eliminating the pleasure, renewal, and healthy activity that people could experience by accessing the lake is hostile to the most basic premise of government, that the good of the people should be paramount. "Public health and welfare" is a fundamental of every level of government in the United States. The idea of converting the popular lake, which is enjoyed through seaplane use, to "wilderness," is also in conflict with the APA law, which calls for balance.

I have concluded that the reclassification of Lows Lake, like so many APA and DEC actions, is for the purpose of harming the ability of local businesses to survive, and that this is part of their goal, shared with the environmental groups, to drive out the local people by destroying the local economy. This suits the goal of turning the entire region into untrammeled "wilderness" consistent with the Champlain-Adirondack Biosphere Reserve designation, which was accomplished by UNESCO as a result of the application of planner Edward J. Hood on behalf of the APA.

There is always more land to acquire by over-bidding everyday potential buyers, and hence the ability to drive out the people. To use the power of government office to drive people out of their communities is unjust.

The injustice also extends to the favoritism of one group of users, the canoeists and kayakers, in their late twentieth century, ultra-light, high-tech craft, over the seaplane users, whose use of the lake is to be verboten because the planes are also twentieth century technology. The policy of favoring one group of users over others is discriminatory.

IRRELEVANT OR HARMFUL TO ENVIRONMENTAL PROTECTION

The natural beauty and the quality of Lows Lake survive the use by people who have accessed it by seaplanes for many decades. This natural beauty and quality of the artificial lake survive the motor vehicle road that leads directly to the lake, and the use of the land along the perimeter of the lake by a large Boy Scout camp, also accessed by motor vehicles. Prohibition of seaplanes by declaring Lows Lake to be "wilderness" is, at best, irrelevant to environmental protection.

There exists no practical environmental purpose of making Lows Lake inaccessible to all but canoeists and a select few who can hike to it across the state Forest Preserve land or who travel the motor vehicle road leading to it or who are among the 300 campers who use the Boy Scout camp yearly. Ironically, overuse by canoeists has already been recognized since the Bog River Flow was acquired in 1984. Non-maintained trails (which is a common condition of DEC trails) used for portaging from one water body to another become sources of erosion, but people arriving from the air do not require trails.

It appears that the classification of the lake as "wilderness" is a step toward a future for which the APA and DEC envision an even more radical situation. If it is ultimately the APA and DEC's mutual goal to acquire all of the land around Lows Lake, that could lead to environmental harm, under the current APA/DEC policy of obstructing and prohibiting adequate fire suppression access.

CONSPIRACY WITH ENVIRONMENTAL GROUPS?

In May 2008 environmental groups brought a lawsuit to stop seaplane access to Lows Lake. This was the action that triggered the APA and DEC changing their regulation of Lows Lake. The groups that brought the lawsuit read like a directory of the entities that have successfully brought about new regulations to eliminate or restrict uses of the Adirondack Forest Preserve cherished by local people and those who use motor vehicles for access. The groups that brought the lawsuit to eliminate seaplanes on Lows Lake were the Adirondack Mountain Club, Association to Protect the Adirondacks, Residents Committee to Protect the Adirondacks, and Sierra Club. The APA and DEC seem to be waiting for these lawsuits and promptly comply.

This issue of possible sweetheart lawsuits has never been investigated. But it seems possible that the use of a tool like a lawsuit settlement is the way the APA and DEC avoid any questions that might arise from their issuing new regulations out of the blue to block access to the Forest Preserve. Prohibiting seaplane access to Lows Lake by amending the Bog River Flow Complex Unit Management Plan and by reclassifying Lows Lake to become part of the Five Ponds Wilderness area is just the latest example.

When will it stop?

***

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© 2009 Carol W. LaGrasse
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