By MATT LINDSEY
COLTON -- Media reports that a deal had been reached between the Department of Conservation (DEC) and hunting camp owners were incorrect, according to Benning DeLaMater, DEC Public Information Officer.
“The story that ran on WWNY-tv this morning (Jan. 12) is incorrect. No compromise has been reached at this time,” he said.
Since 2012, Danzer Forestland Inc., has been in negotiations with DEC in an effort to keep the 37 camps, which were scheduled to be removed by February of 2015. After negotiations ended in the summer of 2016 without an agreement, Sen. Patty Ritchie R-Heuvelton, asked for DEC and Danzer to re-start discussions this past November.
A meeting was held Wednesday night in the St. Lawrence County Legislative Chamber in Canton between Sen. Ritchie and hunting camp owners and representatives involving Danzer forestland.
“DEC has advised the landowner, camp leasees and Sen. Ritchie’s office that we are amenable to discussing a conservation easement amendment that results in a net conservation benefit,” DeLaMater said.
WWNY-tv reported that the camp owners of nearly 40 Adirondack camps have 60 days to decide if its worth paying $15,000 to DEC to keep property they’ve been fighting over for several years.
“Although no specifics have been discussed with the landowner, we look forward to further discussing a resolution,” DeLaMater said.
Plans to demolish the camps at the Long Pond easement along State Highway 56 were put on hold following Sen. Patty Ritchie’s urging for the DEC and Danzer Forestland, a German-based company that owns the land, to re-enter negotiations.
"I understand how much the hunting camps on the Long Pond Easement mean to many people from the region I represent and beyond," Ritchie said. "These camps have been in families for decades and I'm pleased that we were able to identify a possible solution that will allow them to remain and will provide people with the opportunity to continue their hunting traditions here in the North Country."
Ritchie represents the 48th Senate District, which includes the northern edge of St. Lawrence County from Louisville to Hammond, and Ogdensburg, Canton and Gouverneur.
Camp owner Walt Paul sent a “Hail Mary” to Governor Andrew Cuomo and other North Country politicians a few weeks ago in an effort to save the camps
The 1999 conservation easement, as agreed to by DEC and the original property owner, called for a reduction in the number of lease camps to six, but allowed 37 camps to remain in use for 15 years from the time the conservation easement was recorded.
DEC says the goal of its Conservation Easement program is for New York’s former industrial forestlands to continue contributing to the local economy as working forests, as well as to acquire a mix of public recreation rights on the majority of these properties.
Conservation easements facilitate this by preventing former industrial forestlands from being broken up into small parcels and developed, DEC says.
DEC modified a similar easement in 2012 allowing 220 camps to remain on 2,8000 acres of forest land on the former Champion lands in Franklin, Herkimer, Lewis and St. Lawrence counties.
Many of these hunting camps have served as seasonal homes for generations of New Yorkers—in some cases for more than 70 years.