Land transfer deal to keep Adirondack hunt camps

Albany — New York will keep nearly 3,000 acres of forest land open to hunting and fishing under a deal struck with a timber company.

The agreement reached last month transfers 2,797 acres of wildlife habitat in the Deer River corridor that touches parts of Franklin, Herkimer, Lewis and St. Lawrence counties. Most of the land is within the Adirondack Park; about 650 acres are outside the park and will become a new state forest.

Leasing of recreational camps and activities including hunting, fishing, hiking and camping will be permitted on the former Champion lands.
In return, timber company Heartwood Forestland keeps the right to permanently lease up to 220 camps on 110,000 acres of state easement land. Under the original terms of the 1999 easement, the camps were to be removed by 2014.

DEC Commissioner Joe Martens said the agreement “recognizes the importance hunting clubs play in the day-to-day management of these lands and in ensuring the long-standing traditions of hunting, fishing, camping and hiking will continue.”

The new agreement will provide Heartwood with the option of permitting the camps to remain on one-acre parcels after 2014. The entire 139,000-acre property will be open to public hunting, except for the one-acre camp parcels.

Clifton town supervisor Robert Snider called the agreement “great news for the North Country. The tradition of hunting and hunting camps is an important part of our heritage.”

Walt Paul, the New York State Conservation Council’s access and land use specialist, called the agreement “a great day and I’m sure a relief for families with camps on the former Champion Lands to finally have some resolution to this situation after 12 years of hard work by many, many people.”

Paul said the sporting community “recognizes and truly appreciates the hard work and persistence on the part of DEC staff to bring this to closure. What became evident during the discussion and seemed to be a turning point is the realization that sportsmen and women and their families have been good stewards of these lands for many years and that the contributions they make to our regional economies are significant and very important.”

The agreement was proposed in the Nov. 4, 2009 Environmental Notice Bulletin and included a 48-day public comment period. It was also approved by the Adirondack Park Agency after a public comment period, the state attorney general and state  comptroller. A full Environmental Impact Statement and Responsiveness Summary was also prepared for the agreement, which is available for viewing on DEC’s website.

Several environmental groups – among them Adirondack Wild: Friends of the Forest Preserve, Protect the Adirondacks and the Sierra Club – earlier this year voiced opposition to the proposed agreement, contending DEC didn’t follow proper procedures in renegotiating the deal and there was no set procedure in place for amending conservation easements.

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