Tuesday, September 1, 2015

ATV, Snowmobile, Truck Trails Planned For Kushaqua Tract

Western_Ridges_LoonLakeMountainsThe New York State Department of Conservation is seeking comments on their Recreational Management Plan (RMP) for the Kushaqua Tract Conservation Easement Lands in the northern Adirondack Park. The plan includes extensive development for motor vehicles, including more than 100 miles of roads to be used by cars and trucks, snowmobiles, and ATVs, and six new parking lots.

Comments are being accepted until September 18, 2015.

This will be a second attempt by DEC to open Adirondack lands to ATVs. DEC’s acceptance of ATVs on Forest Preserve lands in the mid-1990s was largely reversed in 2005 after damage to trails, roads, and natural resources was reported.

The 19,000-acre Kushaqua Tract Conservation Easement is in the towns of Franklin and Brighton, in Franklin County. The tract is actively logged by Lyme Timber Company and includes over 130 miles of roads and 31 private camps. It’s largely surrounded by the Debar Mountain Wild Forest, a Forest Preserve management area for which no management plan has been written.

Picture1Formerly owned by International Paper, in 2004 the DEC managed a state purchase of an easement on the Kushaqua Tract that allowed for public access and continued logging. As a result, these lands are not part of the “forever wild” Adirondack Forest Preserve.

In 2014 Peter Bauer, Executive Director of the Protect the Adirondacks wrote in the Adirondack Almanack that this management plan was a major departure from previous management practices that is expected to serve as a precedent for the continued expansion of motorized access to in the Adirondack Park back-country.

“The new RMP is important because it is the first such plan for a major conservation easement tract and will serve as a prototype for future plans,” Bauer wrote. “More than half of the 775,000 acres of state-held conservation easements throughout the Adirondacks are similar to the Kushaqua easement and provide extensive opportunities for public motorized recreation. This Kushaqua plan could be the first of many that will provide public ATV riding opportunities.”

“The management of conservation easements is unilaterally controlled by the DEC,” Bauer noted. “While the DEC has a Memorandum of Understanding for management of conservation easements with the Adirondack Park Agency (APA), it doesn’t say much. There are no guidelines for planning for easement lands similar to those for UMPs for state lands as governed by the State Land Master Plan.”

DEC Management Plan includes maintaining the existing roads and also upgrading 100 miles of road, building six new parking lots, four new trails, and 12 new campsites. “Motorized access will include approximately 26 miles of three-season automobile roads, 30 miles of ATV roads and trails available for access varying from one to three seasons of the year, 30 miles of roads and trails available for snowmobiling during the winter season, and approximately 0.5 miles of new automobile access for People with Disabilities possessing a CP-3 permit

DEC is accepting comments until Friday, September 18. The Draft RMP is available on DEC’s website.

Written comments should be sent to Sean Reynolds, Senior Forester, NYSDEC, P.O. Box 296, Ray Brook, NY 12977, or e-mailed to r5ump@dec.ny.gov.

Photo:  The westernmost ridges of the Loon Lake Mountain range taken from the interior of the property. Map and photo provided by DEC.

John Warren

John Warren has been exploring the woods and waters of the Adirondacks for more than 45 years. After a career as a print journalist and documentary television producer he founded Adirondack Almanack in 2005 and co-founded Adirondack Atlas in 2015.

John's Adirondack Outdoors Conditions Report can be heard Friday mornings across the region on North Country Public Radio and on WSLP Lake Placid.

He is also on the staff of the New York State Writers Institute and edits The New York History Blog. He is the author of two books of regional history.




22 Responses

  1. Paul says:

    “This will be a second attempt by DEC to open Adirondack lands to ATVs. DEC’s acceptance of ATVs on Forest Preserve lands in the mid-1990s was largely reversed in 2005 after damage to trails, roads, and natural resources was reported.”

    These are not forest preserve land are they? These are privately owned easement lands? You are mixing apples and oranges.

  2. Paul says:

    The owners of the Santa Clara Easement lands (about 130,000 acres) have already agreed to keep them free of ATV use with the exception of very limited exceptions.

  3. Paul says:

    Sorry I should have said former Champion Easement lands not just the Santa Clara tract.

  4. I maintain the trail up Loon Lake Mountain and, until recently, held one of the hunting camp leases on the Kushaqua tract.

    This final plan is responsive to many of the comments received when the draft was released a few years ago. I believe it is well thought-out and balanced in its approach to recreational access by the public.

    This is very much a working forest, with potentially several areas being logged at any given time. The roads being proposed for access are just that– well maintained gravel roads (some in better shape than the road I live on).

    I live on land bordering bothe the Kushaqua tract and Sable Highlands, and read the plan with a critical eye, looking for anything objectionable. I originally thought that DEC was opening up Tower Road to vehicles, essentially shortening the hike up Loon Lake Mountain by about a third. I was wrong– I had misread the plan.

    The key will be whether or not the public adheres to the plan.

  5. Scott says:

    I dislike when news reports things in misleading ways. “This will be a second attempt by DEC to open Adirondack lands to ATVs.” These roads are existing roads that have been used by ATVs, pickup trucks and SUVs, and heavy logging trucks for decades. These will not be new roads and this will not be new vehicle use. ATVs have been using these roads for as long as ATVs have been popular. In this case the UMP would be allowing the public to also use these roads. This plan was part of the deal the Town of Franklin insisted on before they would agree to the easement deal. The Town of Franklin saw how the first Champion easement deal kept changing to reduce public use and they tried to ensure this easement deal would allow public benefit of the deal. I think it was about ten years ago that they made this easement agreement.

    • John Warren John Warren says:

      This is the second time DEC has attempted to open roads to ATVs in the Adirondack Park. This is the first time DEC has legally and publicly pushed for wide-scale ATV use in the Adirondack Park.

      ATVs can not now be used by the public on these lands, hence DEC will be opening these lands to ATV use.

  6. Paul says:

    The public was allowed to use ATV’s on many roads on the Champion easement lands with the exception of during the hunting season. Snowmobiles also. This was part of what the DEC negotiated as part of the original easement deal. Then they were closed even to lease holders.

    That was probably an even larger scale “push” by the DEC to open those roads to public ATV use.

  7. Bruce says:

    Correct me if I’m wrong, but I’m reading the easement already exists, but does not currently allow motor vehicle use by the public, including ATV’s. It seems if the roads are being used by logging trucks and other vehicles, there would be no problem with ATV’s or any other motor vehicles, provided they’re restricted to suitable roads.

    There will always be someone who doesn’t feel this is exciting enough for them so they will go off the beaten path. And if the next person sees a rogue trackway going off the road, they will assume it’s ok for them to go there too.

    In the National Forests of North Carolina, ditches and berms were put in by the Forest Service to protect certain roads and trails from ATV’s and 4WD’s, because they were getting damaged. Signage alone doesn’t do it. The NF even gates off some vehicular roads in winter, especially if it’s unusually wet, because it’s a lot cheaper than repairing the additional damage not caused by weather.

    • Running George says:

      ATV’s will not stay on the roads. This is the “camel’s nose under the tent” and is indicative of Cuomo’s disregard for the long term integrity of the Park.

  8. Todd Eastman says:

    Condition any public motorized use of these lands with:

    1. Two dedicated DEC Enforcement Staff to patrol the property continually
    2. Monthly water quality testing to assure no sediment is entering state waters
    3. Biological analysis and monitoring for the first five years to assess habitat impacts

    This is reasonable in the context of the plan as described.

    • Paul says:

      How do you know that the data you get from number 2 and 3 isn’t from the logging trucks and skidders that are working the property. Remember this is actively logged private land.

      • Todd Eastman says:

        Any activities would need to be monitored so as to determine what is contributing to sediment entering the streams…

        … self-interest might encourage testing to prove it is not their user group.

        • Paul says:

          Sure, but this is industrial timberland with skidders running through wetlands etc. (with a good FIS plan they will not cut close to them but they gotta drag logs through them etc.) there is all kinds of sediments and habitat impacts. But you could do it I guess if we want to pay for it with our tax dollars. But the impact from ATV’s on roads will probably dwarf the logging so I guess it could make the ATV’s look like something “lower impact” and give them fuel to lobby to open more areas. But I think I would shy away from this. Only places like this with not many hiking opportunities and extensive road systems are really suited for this use. The folks at the DEC sometimes know what they are doing and we should trust them.

          • Todd Eastman says:

            If the logging is skidding through wetlands, a citizen suit under the federal Clean Water Act will fix that problem in the blink of an eye…

            • Paul says:

              Todd how do you think loggers get their logs out of the woods? Streams and wetlands criss-cross all the tracts of lands that are logged in the Adirondacks you can’t avoid them. 2They are not gonna build a bridge every time they come to a stream. Sometimes they will drop a number of trees perpendicular to a stream and fill it onto with a skidder blade or dozer to create a temporary culvert in some cases. There are exceptions to the regulations for this type of activity, it is considered an agricultural activity. Just like there are exceptions for logging activity in the Wild Scenic and Recreational Rivers act. Todd, have you ever been to a site of industrial timber harvesting?

              • John Warren John Warren says:

                ^^ completely false.

                • M.P.Heller says:

                  C’mon John. Ya can’t say something is “completely false” and just leave it at that. Makes you look silly, or worse yet, that you are instigating a fight or spreading misinformation.

                  Back up your claim with some facts please. Paul took the time to explain his understanding of the situation, can you now do the same? Otherwise, frankly, you look like you are full of [profanity redacted].

                  • John Warren John Warren says:

                    I’m not going to spend my time engaging with Paul who comments about 5 to 10 times a day, almost always in ways that are simply trolling and designed to confuse readers.

                    I’m fine with my comment. If you want to know why I made it, you can look up the facts for yourself. I’m not here to debate trolling commenters.

                    • Dave says:

                      Not here to provide any input that I can tell.

                    • John Warren John Warren says:

                      Hey Dave,

                      Look up – see that story you’re commenting on? I wrote it. This webpage that you visit and comment on every day for free, I created it and I edit it – every single story, every single day.

                      I don’t owe you anything.

  9. Dave says:

    spoken like a true [profanity redacted]!

  10. M.P.Heller says:

    Wow. Take the low road why don’t you, John.