State had been told all along snowmobile trails were illegal

To the editor:

Former Department of Environmental Conservation Commissioner Joe Martens’ op-ed, “Snowmobile decision a setback to conservation and state/local relations,” on June 9, 2021, is an attempt to mislead the readers of the Adirondack Daily Enterprise, as I will show below.

Martens is blaming Protect the Adirondacks for standing up, when nobody else would, for Article 14, Section 1, the famed “forever wild” clause in the state Constitution. He’s blaming us for defending forever wild when state agencies ignored it. He’s blaming us for upholding the rule of law when state agencies were breaking the law.

Martens made promises to Adirondack towns that he was repeatedly told he could not keep, and now he’s blaming Protect the Adirondacks for simply insisting that the state abide by the Constitution.

The extra-wide Class II snowmobile trail system was controversial for more than a decade before Joe Martens promised to start building these trails and before Protect the Adirondacks initiated its lawsuit. From 2000 to 2013, Protect the Adirondacks and others repeatedly told the powers that be in the Department of Environmental Conservation and Adirondack Park Agency that these trails were unconstitutional. Only the Spitzer administration put the brakes on these trails; everybody else caved in to political pressure.

From 2000 to 2004 we participated in Gov. Pataki’s Snowmobile Focus Group, which developed the concept of these extra-wide trails. We said that such trails could not be built without violating Article 14, the “forever wild” provision of the Constitution.

In 2004, when the state held hearings on the proposed Adirondack Park Snowmobile Plan, we submitted comments showing that Class II trails violated Article 14. When the Pataki administration finalized the plan in 2006, we said the plan violated the state Constitution.

In 2009, when the APA and DEC developed their snowmobile trail construction and maintenance “Management Guidance,” we submitted comments saying that Class II trails violated Article 14.

Responding to numerous draft wild forest area unit management plans, we submitted comments saying that Class II trails violated Article 14, and that they violated the Adirondack Park State Land Master Plan as well.

At every step of the way over the last 21 years (except for the Spitzer years), the DEC and APA blew us off.

And now, Joe Martens blames Protect the Adirondacks because we were right, because we upheld the law and because we stood up for “forever wild” when the DEC and APA had turned their backs on Article 14.

It’s time for leaders at the DEC and APA to stop pointing fingers and accept responsibility for violating “forever wild.” It’s time for the DEC and APA to get to work to reform their management of the Forest Preserve, the people’s land, and get back on the right side of “forever wild.”


Charles Clusen

Chair, Protect the Adirondacks

Arlington, Virginia, and North River


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