The Adirondack Park Agency Board, at its March 16th, 2023 meeting, authorized a 30-day public comment period to solicit input to help inform the Board’s interpretation of the Adirondack Park State Land Master Plan’s Wild Forest Basic Guideline No. 4.
The guideline sets the standard for how many miles of roads and snowmobile trails are allowed in the Adirondack Park.
The Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) performed a survey in 2001 using GPS which reported that that there were 840.97 miles of designated snowmobiles trails on the Forest Preserve.
The Snowmobile Plan For The Adirondack Park (2006) concluded that there were an additional 1,172 miles of “funded snowmobile trails” in the Park (those maintained with state funds by the snowmobile clubs); 500 miles in the Webb and Inlet systems; and “several miles” on Canal Corporation, Department of Transportation, and State University of New York lands, for a total of about 2,525 Adirondack Park miles.
Added to that are trails on municipal roads open to snowmobiles, and an unspecified “substantial mileage of trails that provide secondary trails.” Additional significant mileage includes new snowmobile trails on more than one million acres of easement lands and the new connector trails being built each year. These estimates taken together suggest there are easily over 3,000 miles of snowmobile trails. (You can read more about how snowmobiles came to be allowed on New York State Forest Preserve lands in the Adirondack Park here.)
The Agency will accept public comment through close of business on April 17th, 2023. All public comments will be shared with the Department of Environmental Conservation, who the Agency works in consultation with on Adirondack Park State Land Master Plan implementation.
Wild Forest Basic Guideline No. 4 states:
Public use of motor vehicles will not be encouraged and there will not be any material increase in the mileage of roads and snowmobile trails open to motorized use by the public in wild forest areas that conformed to the master plan at the time of its original adoption in 1972.
The Agency is seeking comments regarding “No Material Increase” Alternative #4, which reads as follows:
The current estimated non-CP3 mileage of roads in lands classified as Wild Forest, 206.6 miles, does not constitute a material increase in road mileage since 1972, nor would increases of mileage up to and including the 1972 estimated mileage of 211.6.
In addition to offering this fourth alternative, staff acknowledged board members’ interest in employing a visitor use management framework (VUMF) in assessing road impacts and conditions and in informing management decisions. Efforts to develop a set of draft desired conditions for Wild Forest roads are underway.
Any proposals for the opening and/or continued maintenance of roads or CP-3 routes on Wild Forest shall be considered through the unit management planning process, and such proposals shall demonstrate adherence to the desired conditions for Wild Forest roads, particularly in maintaining “wild forest character” as identified in Wild Forest Roads and Administrative Roads Guideline #3 (SLMP Page 38) and “wild forest atmosphere” identified in Wild Forest Basic Guideline #1 (SLMP Page 35).
Existing roads and CP-3 routes that have been approved in UMPs have been found by the board to be in conformance with the State Land Master Plan, but the board did not specifically and explicitly address Park-wide mileage and materiality required by Wild Forest Basic Guideline No. 4. All future proposed CP-3 routes must meet desired conditions set forth for roads regardless of whether the board determines that these routes meet the definition of road per the State Land Master Plan.
The mileage of roads open for public use of motorized vehicles on lands under jurisdiction of DEC in existing areas classified Primitive, Historic, or Intensive Use will not be subject to Wild Forest Basic Guideline #4 but will be documented in the unit management planning process.
The previously presented NMI alternatives include the following:
NMI Alternative 1: 15% increase in road mileage
This alternative is consistent with the 2008 snowmobile trail NMI interpretation. Snowmobile trail and road mileage are both limited by Wild Forest basic guideline No. 4, such that the same threshold for what constitutes a material increase could be established for each.
NMI Alternative 2: Increase more than 15%
This alternative accounts for the fact that there is no replacement of road mileage closed due to reclassification of Wild Forest to Wilderness, Primitive, or Canoe areas (unlike snowmobile trails, see SLMP page 38). The Board would have to set the percentage or mileage increase if this alternative is pursued.
NMI Alternative 3: Increase less than 15%
This alternative recognizes that the SLMP treats roads and snowmobile trails differently in the SLMP, in the sense that snowmobile mileage that is lost due to reclassification may be replaced, but there is no such provision for roads. The Board would have to set the percentage or mileage increase if this alternative is pursued.
Presentation materials shared during the February 2023 meeting are available here.
Presentation materials shared during the March 2023 meeting, including a comprehensive synopsis of the issue and the three interpretations of the State Land Master Plan that staff have posed to the board, are available here.
Additional presentations and content can be found in the May, September, and November 2022 Agency mailing packets for the State Land committee.
Address all written comments to:
Megan Phillips, Deputy Director for Planning
Adirondack Park Agency
P.O. Box 99
Ray Brook, NY 12977
Phone: (518) 891-4050
Photo of APA Building in Ray Brook NY.