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PROPERTY RIGHTS FOUNDATION OF AMERICA, INC.
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    May 5, 2005
The Honorable Elizabeth O'C. Little
New York State Senate
903 Legislative Office Building
Albany NY 12247
   
  Open Letter
DEC Draft ATV Plan

Dear Senator:

On May 2, I made a statement at the DEC hearing in Utica on their draft ATV plan for the Adirondacks. Obviously, it is a non-ATV plan. The room was filled almost entirely with members of ATV clubs from around the Adirondacks and New York. Some of the men were angry. In spite of the crowd of over 200 and the intense public interest, not one member of the New York State Legislature and no legislative aide was present at the hearing. (I saw only someone beforehand who could have been an official, being interviewed by a cameraman outside the hearing room.)

The DEC spokeswoman who opened the meeting asked that everyone be respectful of the speakers, and lied that at the previous meetings everything had gone well and everyone had been respectful. The same lie was repeated by the DEC moderator. They both seemed to forget the vehement boos and nasty language that erupted up north, reported by attendees and at least one newspaper. Afterwards, I asked the moderator about this bit of misrepresentation, and he disdainfully accused me of being uninformed.

Another bit of distorted, false DEC representation was to show slides of trails (perhaps old roads) in the Adirondacks that were in disrepair and blame this on ATV use. They would have been well to show slides of damage by hikers, which is well known to be extraordinary. Furthermore, the slides of trail damage attributed to ATVs showed effects that were extremely limited in scope. The agency prohibits the ATV clubs from maintaining the trails, but contracts with the hiking groups to repair hiking trails. Again, this differential treatment was not explained when the slides were shown. The discriminatory showing of these photos was a way of DEC's biasing the hearing.

Attached is a copy of my statement made at the Utica hearing. In the statement, I describe where, on our walk last week to Little Canada on John's Pond Road, Indian Lake, we discovered a barricaded town road, denoted a hiking "trail," being systematically destroyed by DEC's policy of non-maintenance, erasing access to history as well as history itself. In addition, DEC's current deliberation about the future of this area was biased against recognition and preservation of the local history and culture.

It is disheartening to see even one of such a watershed series of hearings being neglected by the Legislature. The plan that DEC has is to completely close hundreds of old town highways that they have blocked and at least one thousand trails to motor vehicle traffic (except to continue to drag on the process to meet the court-ordered settlement in the Galusha disabled access lawsuit), and to try to lead the people on with hints that conservation easement lands and ordinary private property will provide ATV access. Naturally, they neglect to mention the failure of the General Obligations Law to protect private landowners from liability; they fail to point out the town highways they have closed, although the necessity to enumerate these has been brought up at many hearings; they fail to explain that any agreement with conservation easement land owners will be vulnerable to ongoing renegotiation; and they fail to note that conservation easement lands could ultimately fall into 100 percent fee simple State ownership.

The Legislature should be taking the lead to protect the people of the Adirondacks from the loss of their town highways and trails when the State acquires lands. When he ruled against the State in March, Essex County Supreme Court Judge Andrew Halloran made it clear that the acquisition of the land by New York State for the Forest Preserve did not destroy the right of the public in a public way. He also pointed out the legislative history of the Forest Preserve where the right to close roads was expressly excluded from the State's powers when it acquires Forest Preserve land.

The ATV issue is a compelling one, profoundly affecting the future of the communities of the Adirondacks. When you campaigned for office, you stood against additional State land acquisition. You stood for the people of the Adirondacks. The ATV draft plan that DEC is presenting, with its shell game of claiming to really be working on something else, conservation easement land access, is one of the most significant issues facing the Adirondack region.

It is time for the Legislature to hold a formal hearing on the issue of access to the Adirondack Forest Preserve, gathering evidence of DEC's and APA's unethical practices and violations of law by:

  • blocking town highways;
  • destroying roads and trails by doing zero maintenance;
  • discriminatorily prohibiting use of motorized vehicles;
  • stopping firefighters (as my husband Peter LaGrasse described at the hearing);
  • discriminatorily allowing hikers to destroy habitat and carve erosive trails in the mountain sides;
  • destroying cultural and historical landmarks;
  • blocking access to historical and cultural landmarks, such as cemeteries;
  • settling sweetheart lawsuits with environmentalists to reduce road maintenance;
  • conducting biased unit management plan deliberations;
  • convening public ATV hearings with secret private meetings using up the prime time early in the evening to wear the people out waiting and prevent them from hearing any questions by other members of the public and DEC replies;
  • preventing the public from speaking until after 1-3/4 hours into the evening public hearings, with only 1-1/4 hour remaining;
  • allowing the intolerably short time of 3 minutes for statements by the public; and
  • lying, misleading, biasing, and misrepresenting information to the people at official public hearings.

The people of the Adirondacks have a right to a future for their historic communities unobstructed by the fanatical environmentalists who control the APA and DEC. We deserve a hearing to expose and disseminate the truth of the malevolence of those who are working to depopulate this historic region.

  Respectfully,
 
  Carol W. LaGrasse
President

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