State seeks dismissal of floatplane access lawsuit

The amendment itself, Norfolk says, seeks to challenge DEC regulations, the State Land Master Plan, state Environmental Conservation Law, and the APA Act by arguing the state is interfering with federally regulated air travel.

Upon filing the amendment, the state promptly informed the Attorney General's office of its intent to have the entire lawsuit dismissed.

Norfolk says the state has not laid out its case for dismissal.

Meanwhile, an attorney with the environmental organization Protect the Adirondacks says the lawsuit won't be successful.

John Caffry says he does not believe that the Americans with Disabilities Act requires motorized access to all locations.

"There are other places in the Adirondack Forest Preserve that are accessible to people with disabilities by motors, so I don't think this case is going to succeed," he said.

Caffry says people with disabilities have other options for accessing remote areas besides floatplanes.

"There are plenty of people with disabilities who have no interest in using floatplanes to access wilderness lakes," he said. "They can access them by canoe and by other means, perhaps with some assistance. There are organizations out there that are, in fact, set up to assist people with disabilities to gain access to wilderness without motors. Many of them prefer that."

Attorney Matt Norfolk says in its attempt to dismiss the case, the state may try to argue there are existing accommodations for people with disabilities to access wilderness areas.

He adds that the lawsuit will also attempt to address the state's own use of floatplanes to access lakes in the forest preserve for research purposes.

"That's important because one of our arguments is, while the state is prohibiting floatplanes on remote lakes and ponds on one hand, on the other hand they are allowing their own staff and members of the private sector to use floatplanes and other motorized vehicles to access remote areas for non-emergency purposes," Norfolk said.

DEC Region 5 spokesman David Winchell turned down a request for comment on the lawsuit, noting that the agency does not comment on matters currently in litigation.

The Attorney General's office has set a March 28 deadline for the state to file its motion to dismiss.

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