Property Rights Foundation of America®

9. Adirondack League Club
(Latest update 2001)

P. O. Box 8
Old Forge, NY 13420

(315) 369-3025

Key Personnel

Joseph S. Kutsko, General Manager

Peter K. Bertine (9l4) 337-4600- Represents the Adirondack League Club on the Adirondack Landowners Association board and is co-counsel with lead counsel John Marwell on litigation


Less than 400

Coalition Involvements

Adirondack Landowners Association

Organization Goals

The Adirondack League Club is a private landowners' organization founded in 1890. The Club exists mainly as a hunting and fishing club for its members. The Club owns a preserve, and also includes three lake communities where the Club members individually own their lots and camps.

According to General Manager Joe Kutsko, the club's main goal is to provide recreational benefits to its members and encourage good private stewardship by practicing wildlife and resource management on the 50,000 acres the club's members own east of Old Forge in Hamilton County in the Adirondacks.

The Adirondack League Club's Constitution, according to Peter Bertine, calls for the "preservation and conservation of the Adirondack Forest, propagation and proper protection of fish and game, and the establishment of a preserve for hunting, fishing, rest and recreation of its members."

Board of Trustees

Dr. Mark C. Webster, President

(Names of rest of Board not available)


(l) Adirondack League Club, Inc., v. Sierra Club, et al.

In June 199l, the Thomas Kligerman of the Sierra Club Atlantic Chapter and the other defendants set out from State-owned lands and traveled in two canoes and a kayak down the South Branch of the Moose River into the lands of the Adirondack League Club. The intention of this incursion was to open up the South Branch of the Moose River through the Adirondack League Club to the public. The goal was in keeping with the Sierra Club's specific national activities to advance public rights to waterways and adjacent, or riparian, lands, as well as its general, consistent goals to diminish private property rights. The 12 miles of the trip through the Adirondack League Club lands had been closed to the public for approximately 100 years.

The State of New York had already set the stage for the success of this legally minded recreational trip. DEC had arranged for Professor John A. Humbach to produce a treatise in the Pace Environmental Review (published in l989) intending to justify increased public rights to use streams in New York State, by extending the definition of navigability. The top DEC Counsel had directed the State Police to terminate the former practice of arresting individuals for trespass on waters like those through the Adirondack League Club Lands. And behind the scenes, the Attorney General's Office had assured the Sierra Club Atlantic Chapter that the State would join in the canoers' defense when they conducted a planned incursion—which was at the time contemplated into either the Whitney or Adirondack Club lands.

Observers for the Adirondack League Club recorded the trip past its no-trespassing signs. A few weeks later, the Adirondack League Club served the Sierra Club and the boaters with a $5 million lawsuit for compensatory and punitive damages, and an injunction and a determination of navigability

A dispute exists between the Adirondack League Club observers and the Sierra Club members as to whether the waterway was actually navigated or whether much of the trip was executed by portaging, lining and simply walking over dry land while dragging the canoes and kayak. This is translated to the basic dispute being fought in the court as to whether the waterway is navigable.

The long battle court has yielded a cliff-hanging situation for both sides at present. A temporary defeat for the private landowners resulted with the confusing 1994 Appellate Court decision that the definition of navigability should be expanded to consider recreational use as relevant to the stream's suitability for commercial use, and summarily declaring that the river was navigable. However, the actual navigability of the stream for recreation is up to question, according to both historical and recreational experts. Experts offered compelling evidence that the river is not traversable by canoe for 70 to 80 % of its length during the summer.

The Court of Appeals agreed with the Adirondack League Club in December that it was premature to declare without a full trial of the facts that the South Branch of the Moose River is navigable, reversing the Appellate Division. The 4-1 decision written by Judge Carmen Beauchamp stated that commercial transport of logs is outdated as the sole standard by which to judge navigability, and that recreational boating was a logical use to consider to judge the commercial navigability of a river. The appeals court sent the case back down to the Supreme Court for a full trial of the facts to determine navigability. ALC has requested a jury trial, which could take place next year in Johnstown or Fonda.

(2) Private Conservation

The Adirondack League Club takes pride in its practice of dating from before the Adirondack Park was formed, according to Peter Bertine. In fact, according to Mr. Bertine, the State takes credit for practices it learned by studying private stewardship, and is unjustifiably downplaying the role private landowners have played in preserving the Adirondacks.

In l991, Mr. Bertine questioned why the Sierra Club, a private conservation group, was trying to force the issue of public access. By trying to get unrestricted access for all boaters, Mr. Bertine said, the Sierra Club could endanger the health of the streams inside the Adirondack League Club lands. The Adirondack League Club has adopted a strict 14-day quarantine requirement for boats to protect the streams from zebra mussels. Mr. Bertine also expressed concern about erosion of stream banks if boaters have open access.

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