Protect the Adirondacks applauds the release of the new draft 2014 Open Space Conservation Plan by the Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) and the Office or Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation (OPRHP). This plan is the latest revision of serious long-term planning to protect critical natural resources, wildlife habitat and provide an array of outdoor recreational opportunities by the State of New York. Throughout New York’s history the state has acted boldly to protect lands in good and bad economic times with bipartisan support that has spanned generations. This plan is the latest installment in this proud tradition.

It’s important that public comments are filed by December 17, 2014.

Here are important comments for the draft 2014 Open Space Conservation Plan:

Environmental Protection Fund is Underfunded: The Open Space Plan is funded by the NYS Environmental Protection Fund (EPF), which is underfunded. The EPF has been raided and is no longer managed as a dedicated fund. The EPF is half of what it was 10 years ago, when the total fund was more than $300 million annually. The EPF needs dedicated funding and should be funded at a level of at least $500 million.

Climate Change: The draft Open Space Conservation Plan focuses on the use of land protection and the protection of natural resource systems across the New York to mitigate the impacts of climate change, especially events of severe weather. This is a new and an important organizing focus for the state, one which also has been recognized by the federal government.

Need for Greater Financial Resources to Protect Land to Mitigate Climate Change and Extreme Weather Impacts: The importance of protecting wildlands and intact natural systems, especially coastal areas, wetlands and floodplains, to mitigate impacts of extreme weather cannot be understated. The State of New York needs to commit new funding beyond the scant funding in the Environmental Protection Fund, for land protection for climate change mitigation.

Riparian Buffer Regulations are Needed: While modest efforts like the proposed “Trees for Tribs” program to organize volunteers to plant trees along riparian buffers are well and good, the State of New York should look at bolder solutions to climate change mitigation, such as stream corridor buffer regulations. Vegetated buffers are used across the U.S. They are easy to monitor and enforce. This should be a statewide regulatory program.

Conservation Easement Management Reform: Major reforms are needed in New York’s conservation easement program. While this program has successfully protected over 840,000 acres across New York, it has limited public recreational opportunities, supported extensive clearcutting, and changed the terms by which easements were purchased by the state, which weakened public recreational opportunities.

Invasive Species Protection: The State of New York needs to enact an aquatic invasive species surcharge for all boat registrations in New York to help support programs across the state to build and operate boat decontamination stations. The state also needs to prepare for terrestrial invasive species control efforts across the Adirondack Park and Tug Hill.

NYSDEC Division of Lands and Forests and Forest Preserve Bureau Needs Wilderness Management Professionals: The Forest Preserve is the finest state-managed public wildland system in the U.S., yet it lacks professional wilderness management. The NYSDEC has failed to invest in and build Wilderness management expertise among its staff. Trained foresters dominate the ranks of DEC management for public lands, rather than people educated and trained in management of wildland and wilderness systems.

Support for Projects Exempt from Local Veto: We support the inclusion of projects exempt from the local veto, including Follensby Pond and the Whitney tract.

LaBastille Estate: We support purchase of this tract on Twichell Lake for the Forest Preserve. This protects an important site for Adirondack history as well as enhances public access to Twichell Lake.

Working Forest Conservation Easements: This is an important category to maintain. This has been a highly successful program and the state should focus on new conservation easement purchases in the Adirondack Park.

Small Projects: This is an important category to maintain. The acreage and cost limits should be raised to 500 acres and $500,000.

Long-Distance Trail Corridors, Network and Linkages: This is an important category to maintain.

Adirondack Park Buffer, Wildlife Corridor, Biological Connectivity: This should be a new statewide category as it involves DEC regions 4, 5 and 6. This category should authorize state protection of Forest Preserve lands outside the Adirondack Park Blue Line, conservation easements, state park lands, wildlife refuge lands, long-distance trail corridors, and farmland protection to protect the ecological integrity of the Adirondack Park.

Transfer of Mount McGregor Lands: We support the expeditious transfer of the excess State land on Mt. McGregor, other than the 70 odd buildings for the prison (now empty and being mothballed) from the Department of Corrections to Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation. Grant’s Cottage is already in OPRHP hands but is an isolated enclave. Adding the open space to existing Moreau State Park will consolidate with adjoining existing State Park land, bring in Grants cottage, and make trail connections to Saratoga Springs and surrounding communities.

Write a Public Comment Today to the Department of Environmental Conservation

Letters must be received at the DEC office by 4:45 PM on December 17, 2014:

Open Space Conservation Program
NYS Department of Environmental Conservation
625 Broadway
Albany, NY 12233-4250

Thank you for taking a stand to defend and protect the great open space resources of the Adirondack Park.

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