Opinion: Sen. Ritchie says Colton conservation easement benefits all
Recently, the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (NYSDEC) released a plan to amend the Long Pond Conservation Easement to allow 15 local sportsmen’s clubs to purchase recreational rights that will allow them to continue leasing their hunting camps—many of which have been enjoyed by families for generations—from Danzer Forestland.Under the proposed agreement, which I helped construct with the NYSDEC, the hunting camps and Danzer Forestland, the public will retain its access and right to continue using over 18,800 acres of land that make up the Conservation Easement. The 15 hunting camps will purchase the right to keep their camps and continue to use one-acre parcels around the structures, which will continue to be restricted to no more than 500 square feet.
The NYSDEC has long found that allowing groups and camps on conservation easements provide a host of economic and conservation benefits to the people of New York State—and I agree. Camp owners willingly serve as the eyes and ears of the wilderness. They are able to alert the NYSDEC to a host of problems ranging from vandalism and timber theft to the presence of invasive species and out of season hunters.
In addition, these camps, and the sportsmen who use them, also have an impact on the rural communities surrounding the land. Those who utilize camps support local businesses—something that is critically important in an area of our state that suffers from high unemployment.
Under the proposed agreement, two commercial appraisal companies chosen by the NYSDEC established the fair market value purchase price the hunting groups will pay. The State intends to use the $187,500 it collects to purchase 300 acres of land to add to the size of the nearby Whiskey Flats State Forest—a longtime goal of the agency. This expansion will allow the NYSDEC to protect the wetland and wildlife habitats at Whiskey Flats and provide additional recreational opportunities.
In addition, Danzer Forestland has agreed to tear down and remove approximately 22 hunting camps. Public hunting, fishing and trapping will be opened up on these easement properties in accordance with NYSDEC regulations, and again, public use will continue to be allowed on the rest of the easement’s 18,800 acres.
Public camping will also be allowed on the easement properties in the same manner as on State Forests and Forest Preserve Lands. The NYSDEC has developed five campsites for public use that include tent pads, accessible parking and a kiosk with a map of the area.
Recently, the NYSDEC asked the public to weigh in on the proposed agreement and I was pleased to share my support for the plan. I also want to applaud Danzer Forestland and the NYSDEC for their efforts in listening to, and working with each other, the camp owners and myself throughout this process. I firmly believe this agreement will help encourage public use of the more than 18,800 acres of public lands, foster the continuation of long-standing North Country family hunting and fishing traditions, and allow longtime sportsmen’s club members to continue contributing to the economy of rural businesses and communities in the region.
Sen. Patty Ritchie