This summer major new forest clearcuts became visible in the hills north of Route 30 between Blue Mountain Lake and Long Lake. These clearcuts (see pictures below) are becoming more and more common across the Adirondack Park on large industrial private lands and on state-held conservation easement lands.
Under current forest management laws administered by the Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) and Adirondack Park Agency (APA), these types of “patch clearcuts” are legal as long as individual patches are 25 acres or less and that there is an ample separation distance between the clearcuts that are maintained (uncut) for 10 years. No major permits or public disclosure was necessary for this landowner. These lands are large private industrial forestlands, but are not protected with a state-held conservation easement.
The Adirondack Park is entering a new era of large-scale forest clearcuting on its industrial private lands and state-held conservation easement lands. Largely avoided during the past decades, when the great majority of timberlands in the Adirondacks were owned by paper-making and papermill-owning companies that cut regularly at relatively small diameters for pulp, clearcutting is on the rise today.
Over the past 15 years, the large papermaking companies, such as International Paper, Champion International, Finch Pruyn and Company, and Lyons Falls Pulp and Paper Company, among others, sold off their lands (and most sold their mills too) to various investors. New mill owners, such as Finch Paper or Mohawk Paper, buy raw pulp logs on the open market. International Paper Company in Ticonderoga buys all of its pulp today for paper making.
Forestlands are now owned and managed aggressively by timberland investment management organizations (TIMOs), which collectively own over 900,000 acres across the Adirondack Park. TIMOs manage lands for short-term investment funds, 10 or 15 years. In this way, the forest management rights on many conservation easements have been bought and sold many times in the past two decades.
The Adirondack Park Agency (APA) is managing a working group to focus on state rules and regulations to try and improve forest management. Many industry leaders and state government leaders want to see expanded use of forest clearcuts as a tool widely used in the Adirondack Park. PROTECT is wary of these calls and believes widespread forest clearcutting leads us away from building and maintaining a sustainably managed forest system in the Adirondacks. PROTECT is a participant in the APA’s forest management regulations revision forum.
PROTECT and many others opposed a draft general permit released by the APA in 2012 that would have expedited permit review and issuance of permits for clearcutting applications.
See satellite photos of clearcutting in the Adirondack Park.
The APA withdrew this draft general permit and has since convened a public forum for examining APA forest management regulations that many feel are outdated. PROTECT is a participant in this forum. APA leaders remain sympathetic to calls by forest industry leaders to expand the use of clearcutting throughout the managed forestlands in the Adirondack Park.
Sustainable forest management remains the long-term objective of Protect the Adirondacks for private lands and state-held conservation easement lands in the Adirondack Park. We do not see widespread clearcutting as a useful tool for obtaining this objective.