GOVERNOR CUOMO ANNOUNCES $4.3 MILLION ACQUISITION OF 8,000 ACRES TO PROTECT GRASS RIVER AND WORKING FORESTS IN ST. LAWRENCE COUNTY
Newly Acquired 947-Acre Forest Preserve Parcel and 7,047-Acre Conservation Easement Will Permanently Protect Water Quality, Conserve Working Forests, Increase Recreation Opportunities
Governor Andrew M. Cuomo today announced the State has acquired nearly 8,000 acres of Forest Preserve and easement lands along the South Branch of the Grass River with $4.3 million from the Environmental Protection Fund. The acquisitions in the towns of Colton and Clifton, St. Lawrence County, include a conservation easement on 7,047 acres of working forest and 947 acres to be added to the Adirondack Forest Preserve.
“The newly acquired land will protect the scenic and natural resources of this region, provide high-quality outdoor recreation opportunities, and ensure sustainable forest management that contributes to local economies,” said Governor Andrew Cuomo.
The state Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) purchased the Forest Preserve parcel, known as the South Branch Grass River Tract, and the Cranberry Forest conservation easement from The Conservation Fund, a nonprofit dedicated to protecting environmentally and economically significant natural spaces across the United States. The parcels will be added to the Grass River Complex and were identified as priority projects in the New York State Open Space Conservation Plan under the Northern Flow River Corridors and Working Forest Lands categories. The easement acquisition connects multiple DEC easements, including the Conifer-Emporium, Grass River, Seveys, Silver Lake, and Tooley Pond tracts. The 947-acre Forest Preserve parcel consolidates portions of the Grass River Wild Forest and preserves the open space character of approximately six miles of the Scenic Grass River and connects to miles of river corridor previously conserved by DEC with assistance of The Conservation Fund.
“The Grass River provides outdoor adventurers with incredible opportunities for recreation all year round and today’s announcement bolsters DEC’s ongoing efforts to protect it,” said DEC Commissioner Basil Seggos. “With the help of partners like The Conservation Fund, New York State is conserving lands along the river’s banks, and by acquiring Forest Preserve lands and conservation easements, the State is protecting approximately 90 percent of the Grass River within the Adirondack Park.”
“Protecting at-risk working forests like these is an effective way to preserve ecologically valuable land that helps fight climate change, maintain local recreation traditions, and secure economic benefits to the community like timber jobs and recreation,” said Tom Duffus, Vice President at The Conservation Fund. “These resources will now serve the State of New York in perpetuity, adding to the Champion Lands we helped the State conserve many years ago. We’re grateful to the Richard King Mellon Foundation, which provided generous bridge support to enable our initial purchase of this land in 2015.”
The entire length of the Grass River provides anglers with a variety of fishing opportunities, from brown and brook trout to walleye and smallmouth bass. The acquisitions announced today will provide the public with enhanced paddling and fishing access to the river. The stretch of river on the tract contains wild brook trout and catch-and-release is required in certain areas.
The newly acquired Forest Preserve land can be accessed by motor vehicle, including snowmobiles, along an existing road with year-round public access rights. It can also be accessed by non-motorized means, including foot, bicycle, or canoe, from adjacent Forest Preserve or conservation easement lands. DEC purchased both motorized and non-motorized public recreation rights on the easement, which preserves 13 miles of existing snowmobile trails, protects trail connections, provides 21 miles of gravel roads for non-motorized uses such as hiking, biking, and snowshoeing, and allows for additions to approximately five miles of existing roads currently open as part of the year-round access route. DEC is developing an Interim Recreation Management Plan for the property to help guide public use until a Recreation Management Plan is finalized following opportunities for public input.
The working forest conservation easement will protect thousands of acres by limiting development and ensuring forest management is conducted in a sustainable manner. It also creates new public recreation opportunities while preserving the existing private recreational uses on the property. Hunting clubs and camps currently located on the property will remain and the landowner has reserved exclusive use of most of the property from the Wednesday after Labor Day through Dec. 15. The public cannot use the property during this period except for the Dillon Pond Area and the public access corridors used to reach the Forest Preserve parcel, as these lands are open year-round.
Senator Joseph Griffo said, “It is important that we take steps to preserve our natural resources. By acquiring almost 8,000 acres of forest and easement lands along the Grasse River, we can ensure that this land is protected and that the public has access to a variety of recreational opportunities and outdoor activities.”
“The addition and improved access to Adirondack Forest Preserve land coupled with recreational access to adjoining easement property is ideal for outdoor enthusiasts of all interests, abilities and ages,” said Senator Dan Stec. “As an avid hiker, son of a retired New York State Forest Ranger, and now state Senator for a district that covers much of the park, I’m honored to join Commissioner Seggos, his DEC team, as well The Conservation Fund and all others in making this exciting announcement that so many people will benefit from for years to come.”
George R. Cayey, Supervisor, Town of Colton, said, “The new Conservation easement purchased by the Environmental Protection Fund and the Forest Preserve Parcel purchased from The Conservation Fund in the Township of Colton will provide vital stewardship for recreation, motorized vehicles, logging, biking, snowshoeing, fishing, keeping hunting clubs and camps located on this property, etc. This has worked very well for the Town of Colton on previous purchases and will work well with this purchase.”