Updated every five years, the plan guides the state’s decisions regarding land acquisitions and sets a strategy for land conservation. The plan is developed by the state Department of Environmental Conservation and the Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation. Regional committees throughout the state provide additional input.
This plan listed four urgent priorities: promoting outdoor recreation; addressing climate change; ensuring clean water, air and land for a healthy economy; and protecting, using and conserving natural resources and cultural heritage.
In the outdoor recreation section, it specifically mentions promoting recreation for all types of users on both private and public lands, connecting children with nature, and connecting open space corridors.
In the climate change section, it states that data from the last 30 years has shown that winters have changed.
“In the Adirondacks, total annual snowfall has decreased by 40 to 60 inches (more winter precipitation now falls as rain),” the plan states. “During the same time, the period with snow on the ground has decreased by as much as 20 days in some parts of the state. By the end of the century, parts of New York could see only 5 to 10 days of snow cover during the winter season.”
The plan offers a number of actions that should be taken to address climate change, including providing technical assistance and model ordinances to towns. This information could help communities expand buffers along waterways and limit inappropriate development along river and stream corridors, wetlands, floodplains, and riparian areas.
“The program will focus on providing the tools to local governments to address this critical need, to protect private property and community resources in this era of increased storm intensity and flooding,” states the plan. “By acting now, workable, community-based solutions can be developed that avoid the need for top-down, state-driven regulations.”
The plan also details the role forests can play in sequestering carbon, in addition to the advantages of sustainable forestry. It also mentions the benefits of having “large tracts of unbroken forests and connectivity among these forests.”
“In the future, as plant and animal populations and biotic communities respond to rising temperatures, species range expansions and contractions are expected,” the plan states. “Habitat connectivity is important for making those range adjustments.”
The state identifies numerous lands that it would target if they became available for purchase. Those include the 14,600-acre Follensby Park in Tupper Lake, which is owned by The Nature Conservancy and is expected to be sold to the state at some point in the future. The former Finch lands in the Central Adirondacks, also owned by The Nature Conservancy, are included. The state currently has a contract to purchase those parcels, including Boreas Ponds.
In the northwestern part of the Adirondacks, the section of Massawepie Mire that is still private is listed as a natural resource that should be preserved. The plan states this land contains the Adirondacks’ “largest fen with adjacent eskers, kames and kettle ponds.”
Whitney Park, the 36,000-acre property in Hamilton County, is also desired by the state. It “contains enormous outdoor recreational potential,” according to the plan.
For people looking to provide the state with input on the plan, public comments will be accepted until December 17. A series of public hearings will be held across the state from October 21 to October 23. The hearings will include a workshop from 1 to 2:30 p.m., an afternoon hearing from 2:30 to 4:30 p.m., and an evening hearing from 7 to 9 p.m.
In the Adirondack region, four hearings are scheduled. In DEC’s region 5, hearings will be held on October 21 at the OPRHP regional office in Saratoga Springs and October 23 at DEC’s offices in Ray Brook. In Region 6, they will be held on October 21 at the Utica State Office building and October 22 in DEC’s offices in Watertown.
Public comments can be submitted by email to LF.OpenSpacePlan@dec.ny.gov or mailed to the DEC state headquarters with the following address: Open Space Conservation Plan, 625 Broadway, Albany, NY 12233.
An electronic version of the draft plan is available at http://www.dec.ny.gov/lands/317.html.
Photo by Phil Brown: Damage caused by Tropical Storm Irene in 2011. The state’s Open Space Conservation Plan says that addressing climate change, which causes more severe storms, is an urgent priority.