The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) is preparing to restart a management plan for nearly 60,000 acres of Forest Preserve and other state-managed lands in the Chazy Highlands Complex. The lands spread across 493 square miles in 34 separate parcels in the northeastern Adirondack Park and are located in the towns of Bellmont, Duane, and Franklin in Franklin County and the towns of Altona, Black Brook, Dannemora, Ellenburg, and Saranac in Clinton County.
Natural features in the Complex include Lyon Mountain, Haystack Knob, Norton Peak, and Ellenburg Mountain; Upper Chateaugay Lake and Chazy Lake; and Saranac River and Great Chazy River. The primary recreational uses are fishing and hunting; however the public also participates in hiking, camping, cross country skiing, snowshoeing, snowmobiling and bird/wildlife watching on these lands. Both the trail to the Fire Tower on the Lyon Mountain and the Lewis Preserve Wildlife Management Area are frequented often by the public.
There are few developed recreational facilities in the Chazy Highlands Complex, according to DEC Regional Director Robert Stegemann. “The management plan for the Chazy Highlands Complex will allow public recreational use of this area, including vast hunting and fishing opportunities in line with Governor Cuomo’s NY Open for Hunting and Fishing initiative, while protecting this natural resource,” he said in a statement to the press.
DEC is seeking information and ideas for the care and stewardship of the Chazy Highlands Complex. Those with an interest in the area are encouraged to participate in the planning process by providing information and suggestions for its management. DEC began a draft Unit Management Plan (UMP) for the Chazy Highlands in 2003, but later tabled that effort.
A public open house for the Chazy Highlands Complex will be held at 6:30 p.m. on Thursday, May 23 at the Saranac High School in Saranac. The open house will provide an opportunity for the public to meet with DEC staff and share their thoughts, ideas and suggestions regarding management of State lands within this unit. This will be the first of several opportunities for the public to be involved in the planning process.
The plan will address the management of 34 separate parcels of state land including 48,362 acres of Forest Preserve lands classified as Wild Forests; 10,214 acres of State Forest lands; and 2,331 acres in two Wildlife Management Area lands. The plan will also include the recreation management plan for approximately 2,000 acres of the Lassiter Conservation Easement Lands. The Upper Chateaugay Lake Boat Launch Site will also be included in the management plan.
The plan will not include the recreation management plans for the Sable Highlands and Lyme Adirondack Conservation Easement Lands. However it will include some aspects of the management of recreation and access on those lands where there is direct interaction with the lands in the Chazy Highlands Complex.
A UMP for the Chazy Highlands Complex must be completed before new recreational facilities such as trails, tent sites and parking areas can be constructed. The planning process will involve an inventory of the natural resources of the area and an analysis of the ability of its lands and waters to accommodate public recreational use. The plan will culminate in a series of management actions to be implemented over a five-year period. Management issues under consideration by DEC’s planning team include public recreational access and increasing trails and campsites.
DEC is responsible for developing a management plan for each Forest Preserve management unit identified in the Adirondack Park State Land Master Plan. The Master Plan, developed by the Adirondack Park Agency (APA), applies a classification such as wilderness, primitive, canoe or wild forest to each unit and gives guidelines for the management of the units in each classification. The guidelines for the Chazy Highlands Complex require that it be managed to encourage appropriate kinds of recreation while providing a high level of protection to the natural resources.
In the Adirondacks, UMPs are developed by DEC in consultation with APA, who is responsible for ensuring that the plans are consistent with the Master Plan. Upon completion of the inventory of natural resources, analysis of recreational use and review of public comments, the Chazy Highlands Wild Forest planning team will prepare a draft UMP. The completed draft plan will be distributed for public review and comment and a public meeting will be scheduled to discuss the draft.
Any interested individual or organization wanting to be included on a mailing list for information about the development of the unit management plan or wishing to submit comments is encouraged to contact planning coordinator Dan Levy, NYSDEC, P. O. Box 296, Ray Brook, New York 12977, via telephone at 518-897-1291, or by e-mail at [email protected].
Photo: Lyon Mountain from Chazy Lake by Wikimedia User Elajov.