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Suit challenging woodland snowmobile trails is dismissed

ALBANY - A state Supreme Court judge has dismissed a lawsuit filed by the Adirondack Council that aimed to overturn a set of Adirondack snowmobile trail siting and maintenance guidelines adopted recently by the Adirondack Park Agency and the state Department of Environmental Conservation.

The Adirondack Council had argued that the guidelines would allow locating snowmobile trails up to two miles from any highway into the heart of state Forest Preserve lands - which would open up virtually all land in the Adirondacks to trail development. The green group contended this new policy was in direct violation of the State Land Master Plan and a subsequent environmental review.

The suit also questioned the new standards for grooming, tree cutting, grading, rock removal and other trail maintenance tasks on state lands.

The Council had asked the court to nullify the guidelines, describing them as "unlawful, arbitrary, capricious and an abuse of discretion."

The environmental group objected to allowing motorized groomers on Forest Preserve land and widening community connector trails.

But Justice Gerald Connolly found that no actual harm has been caused by the new guidelines and any potential harm could be avoided by the future action of state regulators.

"Ongoing administrative proceedings may result in trails that are sited in acceptable locations and constructed in an acceptable manner to petitioner, and, as further agency action and proceedings might render the disputed issues moot or academic," the decision reads.

The two-tiered guidelines have yet to be put into full-scale practice and several procedural steps have yet to be completed to allow for its implementation.

The new guidelines were adopted by APA commissioners earlier this year and they establish larger community connecter trails and smaller spurs. Under the plan, the two trail types have different maintenance regulations.

But green groups would have preferred the trail siting plan keep the trails as close to public roads as possible and out of the heart of forest preserve lands.

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