It has been a busy season for the NYS Department of Environmental Conservation. In recent weeks, the department has released figures regarding hunting accidents that occurred during the recent Big Game Hunting Season. They have also developed two current wildlife management initiatives, involving cats and birds.
On top of that, the Department has also been trying to figure out to hand over management of Belleayre Ski Center, located on State Forest Preserve lands in the Catskill Park, to the Olympic Regional Development Agency, which is located in Lake Placid.
Just to keep things interesting, a consortium of environmental advocacy groups recently claimed the department did not follow proper procedures when it renegotiated conservation easements with Champion Paper Company, for 139,000 acres of forested lands spread across four Adirondack counties.
At the heart of the issue, openly opposed by Protect the Adirondacks, Adirondack Wild: Friends of the Forest Preserve, Atlantic States Legal Foundation and the Sierra Club, is an agreement between DEC and the Heartwood Forestland Fund.
In the original purchase completed by DEC in 2009, the agreement required the removal of hunting camps from Champion Lumber Company lands located in Franklin, Herkimer, Lewis and St. Lawrence counties by 2014. Although a number of camps have already been removed, it has been a contentious undertaking fraught with recriminations and acts of social disobedience, including an incident of arson which destroyed an access bridge.
In efforts to appease lease holders, as well as the lumber company, and the local communities that realize substantial economic benefits from the leased camps, the DEC agreed to modify the original agreement with the current landowner, Heartwood Forestland Fund.
In exchange for a 2,100-acre tract of land located along the Deer River Flow, which will be added to the Forest Preserve, the DEC will allow the original hunting cabins to remain, and permitted 12 more to be built.
Joe Hackett is a guide and sportsman residing in Ray Brook. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.