The Adirondack Park Agency (APA) Board rendered an important Adirondack Park State Land Master Plan (APSLMP) interpretation at its May 11th, 2023, board meeting regarding road mileage on Wild Forest classified lands in the Adirondack Park. The board declared a baseline for road mileage that existed on Wild Forest in 1972, and an increase in mileage that could be added which it said would be in compliance with the APSLMP.
The APA Board estimated that the mileage of roads on New York State Forest Preserve lands designated as Wild Forest in 1972 was 211.6 miles. That mileage does not include miles of road opened on Forest Preserve as a result of what is known as the “Galusha Consent Decree.” The APA board claims that CP-3 program mileage does not meet the definition of a road and will not be counted in the total miles of roads on Forest Preserve lands,” leaving the present-day mileage without including CP-3 routes at 206.6 miles. The CP–3 program is a permit program that provides motor vehicle access to people with disabilities.
The Galusha Consent Decree was issued in a federal court case under the Americans With Disabilities Act (“ADA”) in which the anti-Adirondack Park plaintiffs alleged that they had been discriminated against in violation of the ADA and sought motor vehicle access to various locations in the Adirondack Forest Preserve. The case was settled in July 2001 with the filing and approval by the presiding judge of a Consent Decree. The two organizations that merged to form Protect the Adirondacks (the Residents Committee to Protect the Adirondacks, and the Association for the Proetction of the Adirondacks) were parties to that settlement.
Contrary to statements made at the December 2022 and February 2023 Agency meetings, the Consent Decree did not “order” DEC to open certain roads in the Adirondack Park to motor vehicle use. Rather, the Consent Decree required DEC to propose amendments to certain existing Unit Management Plans (UMPs) allowing access to specific areas under the Department’s, and ensure that certain roads already open to CP–3 use remained open for such use “subject to final approval in the UMP process.”
“Thus, the Consent Decree, by requiring that all roads proposed for CP–3 motorized use go through the UMP review process, confirmed that CP–3 roads opened pursuant to the Decree were still subject to APSLMP requirements,” according to Christopher Amato, Conservation Director and Counsel.
The APA Board also declared that there are 16.5 miles of non-Galusha CP-3 routes that were approved in unit management plans but are not yet open and therefore, according to the Board, the total mileage of roads on Wild Forest lands that meet the APSLMP definition of a road is 223.1 miles. The Board also declared that the mileage increase of 11.6% does not constitute “a material increase.” The
APSLMP requires “no material increase” of Roads on Foerst Preserve lands from the 1972 mileage. Therefore, the Board said, the total allowable mileage of roads on Wild Forest lands will be 236.1 miles.
This interpretation allows for 13.0 miles of additional public roads and/or CP-3 routes to be considered in future unit management plans on current Wild Forest Lands and any possible acquisitions that may be classified as Wild Forest. Total allowable mileage will not change due to additions of Wild Forest acreages through future acquisition or reclassifications. Allowable mileage could only be changed by subsequent reinterpretations by the APA Board of the APSLMP.
Wild Forest is defined in the APSLMP as an area with a higher degree of human use than in Wilderness, Primitive or Canoe Area designations. Wild Forest is the largest public land area classification in the Adirondack Park comprising 1,324,025 acres.
For more information and to review the May 2023 presentation on this interpretation, click here.
Over the past year, APA and DEC presented information and several alternatives to the Board during five monthly APA board meetings, conducted two public comment periods, and held two public information sessions to solicit public input. The agency received 342 public comments.
Photo of APA Building in Ray Brook.