Thread: Good or bad?
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Old 06-18-2019, 02:59 PM   #6
DSettahr's Avatar
Join Date: May 2007
Posts: 5,037
While I agree that the idea of their being 7,500 different regulations sounds on the surface to be inherently problematic, I would have to imagine that this is a misleading statistic to some extent. Given the source of the statistic and their intent (deregulation), I wouldn't be surprised if it was even intentionally misleading.

Most of us who post regularly on these boards do the majority of our recreating on NYSDEC lands- where we are used to a single set of regulations that apply to all DEC lands (with a few exceptions such as the High Peaks). Federal land management agencies work a little bit differently- agencies like the USFS, the NPS, the USFWS, etc., do have a standardized set of regulations that apply to all lands under the jurisdiction of each agency, but these are purposefully pretty limited in their scope. Rather, most federal land management agencies use a different mechanism called an "order" to achieve regulatory objectives. I.e., if a road is to be closed to public motor vehicle access, there won't be a regulation listing it specifically- but there is a general regulation that permits the chief land manager for that unit to issue an order naming the specific road to be closed.

Accordingly, I wouldn't be surprised if they were including a bunch of individual orders for specific land units that really essentially say the same thing- i.e., if there were 1,000 individual roads that they were hoping to open, there is a decent chance that they've listied each separate land manager order designating a specific road as "closed" as a separate "regulation." 1,000 lakes with an order limiting motorized boat access could be listed as a separate additional 1,000 "regulations." Note that these specific numbers are complete supposition on my part- but in any case, I feel confident in saying that there is likely a fair amount of overlap in the "7,500 regulations limiting public access" that are mentioned, with regulations/orders for separate locations that essentially say the same thing being counted separately. There's no way it is 7,500 unique regulations that each say something different.

As to why it is done this way, it makes sense when you're looking at lands across a spatial scale as large as the entire US. How do you write specific regulations that cover the unique demands and considerations of resource protection across such a wide array of ecosystems and even cultural demands that are placed on those ecosystems? It's much easier and more effective to enact general regulations that permit greater leeway for each land unit through the aforementioned orders, even if it does mean that you end up with what is essentially the same legalese repeated ad infinitum across multiple land units.

Even at the state level, NY State's other public land management agency, the Office of Parks, Recreation, and Historic Preservation actually does have a separate section of regulations for each of the Agency's 12 Park Regions that cover the entire state (large PDF link). If you read through the individual sections for each region, it's a lot of the same stuff but tailored to the specific region- what water bodies are open to fishing, what roads have what speed limits, etc. But it does also allow the 8th park region to allow permit-free backpacking- an activity that is regulated by permit on most State Park lands under the jurisdiction of OPRHP. Since this region includes both Harriman State Park as well as a good portion of the Appalachian Trail, it makes sense to have a different regulation in this case.

And even the DEC has run into some issues with having a single set of camping regulations that applies to all DEC lands across the state. Some years ago, there was a push by DEC's region 7 (Syracuse and the surrounding areas of central NY) to remove the word "roads" from the so-called "150 foot rule." Essentially, Region 7 was hoping to facilitate more/better access to roadside campsites to encourage more use of state forest lands (I think they were targeting hunters especially). A perhaps reasonable goal, as state forest lands in central NY are, for the most part, not really in danger of being overused even if at large roadside camping were permitted. But the obvious ramifications of opening up all roadside areas of state land to at large camping are obvious when you consider heavily used locations in the Adirondacks and Catskills. (Although it's also worth pointing out that Region 7 had another option that they seemingly did not consider- just designate more roadside campsites!)

Last edited by DSettahr; 06-18-2019 at 03:11 PM..
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