The state's ongoing efforts to accommodate 'hunting camp lessees' on former lumber company lands has been a contentious issue in many corners of the park for a number of years.
While some have argued that such lands must be protected as Forever Wild, others contend that such 'working forest' lands are essential to the perpetuation of the forest products industry in New York state.
On former Champion lands near the town of Santa Clara in Franklin County, a number of hunting camps on leased lands have already been removed.
At the time of the purchase, many camp lessees in the Santa Clara tract were bitter with the state's agreement. After a bridge leading into the camps was burned beyond use, arson was suspected. When a DEC dump truck being used to haul camp remains from the properties later fell through a bridge leading to the camps, some suspected sabotage, though it was never proven.
Since that time, the state and Heartland Forestry, as well as The Adirondack Nature Conservancy have worked with a variety of other stockholders to explore options in efforts to maintain hunting camp leases.
Not only do these hunting camp leases play an important part in the traditional outdoor culture of the Adirondacks, they also serve to protect the land.
Hunters help control deer populations, which if not properly managed can severely limit regeneration by over browsing on new growth.
Additionally, camp lessees provide regular patrols of these properties. After all, they have a vested interest in protecting the properties from fire, invasive species, trespassers and other dangers. Camp lessees provide the eyes and ears that neither the DEC nor the forestry companies can afford to offer. And the land leases provide the camp owners with the opportunity to have a camp on lands that many could never afford to purchase outright.