The 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.
Formerly 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 firstname.lastname@example.org.