"Climb the mountains and get their good tidings. Nature’s
peace will flow into you as sunshine flows into trees.
The winds will blow their own freshness into you, and the storms
their energy, while cares will drop off like autumn leaves."

— John Muir


Enforcing Article XIV
By Dave Gibson, Managing Partner Adirondack Wild



Many of us involved with Adirondack Wild: Friends of the Forest Preserve are very familiar with and protective of Article XIV, Section 1 of our NYS Constitution. That section, 54 words unchanged since they went into effect in 1895, states that “the lands of the state, now owned or hereafter acquired, constituting the forest preserve as now fixed by law, shall be forever kept as wild forest lands. They shall not be leased, sold or exchanged, or be taken by any corporation, public or private, nor shall the timber thereon be sold, removed or destroyed.”
That section is at the core of Adirondack Wild’s very mission.

However, far fewer people are aware that Article XIV, Section 5 of the State Constitution allows any citizen of the state to seek to enforce the provisions of the forever wild mandate, or seek to block any violation of same.

This is the sole citizen suit provision in New York State and it allows citizens to stand up for wilderness in court!

The NYS Constitution’s Article XIV, Section 5 states that: “ A violation of any of the provisions of this article may be restrained at the suit of the people or, with the consent of the supreme court in appellate division, on notice to the attorney-general at the suit of any citizen.”

For example, a citizen suit by the Association for the Protection of the Adirondacks back in 1929 led to the 20th century’s most consequential judicial decision about what may and may not be permissible on the Forest Preserve.

Known as McDonald v. Association, or the McDonald decision (McDonald was conservation commissioner at the time), it forbad the construction of an Olympic bobsled run on State Forest Preserve at Mt. Van Hoevenburg just outside Lake Placid village.

The dicta in McDonald is frequently quoted by Adirondack Wild and other organizations even today as we attempt in the first instance to persuade New York State officials not to undertake construction or other activity on Forest Preserve that would violate Article XIV.

What brings this all to our minds right now is that a citizen has recently sought permission from the courts to enforce “forever wild” at Minnewaska State Park Preserve near New Paltz, a part of our State Parks system administered by the Palisades Interstate Park Commission.

The petition to the courts was accepted, and the Attorney General did not block it. A hearing on the matter is being held at Supreme Court in Kingston very soon.

As I read it, the citizen suit seeks two things:

  • first, to have the Court decide that Minnewaska State Park Preserve contains state-owned land in Ulster County where, with very few exceptions, all State-owned land is, by law, Forest Preserve and ought to be treated as Forest Preserve
  • second, the suit seeks to have the Court rule that a State Parks plan to rebuild an old, long disused carriageway extending from Ellenville through the heart of Minnewaska Preserve for all manner of public recreation, including the cutting of a number of trees for that purpose, would constitute an unconstitutional taking of Forest Preserve.

For more, read the arguments here Minnewaska Article 14 petition.

We will follow this legal matter closely.

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The mission of Adirondack Wild: Friends of the Forest Preserve is to advance New York’s ‘Forever Wild’ legacy and Forest Preserve policies in the Adirondack and Catskill Parks, and promote public and private land stewardship that is consistent with wild land values through education, advocacy and research.

Top left, Autumn © Ken Rimany; Maple Leaves and Lichen ©Ken Rimany

Peter Brinkley, Honorary Chair
Terry Jandreau, Chair
Christopher Amato
Vice Chair & Counsel

David H. Gibson, Partner
Mobile: 518.469.4081

Adirondack Wild: Friends of the Forest Preserve    Founded 1945   PO Box 9247 • Niskayuna New York 12309 | ©