Neil Woodworth, executive director of the Adirondack Mountain Club, is not happy with the proposed modification of the easement agreement with Heartland Forestland Fund. (See previous two posts here and here.)
Woodworth contends that the modification would weaken protection of the 110,000 acres covered by the easements by allowing hunting camps to remain, with members allowed motorized access.
“This is the first time we have downgraded an easement to make it less protective of the environment,” he said.
The state purchased the easements in a 1999 deal with Champion International, the prior owner. The easements prohibit development but allow logging. As part of the deal, the state also purchased outright 29,000 acres of Champion land, mostly along river corridors.
Woodworth said the river corridors are narrow, in places only a half-mile wide. At the time of the original deal, ADK raised concerns that paddlers would be disturbed by hunting-club members, perhaps riding dirt bikes or all-terrain vehicles. However, Woodworth said state officials assured him that wouldn’t be a problem, since the camps were to be removed.
When the state Department of Environmental Conservation reopened the easement agreement, Woodworth argued that the river corridors in state ownership should be expanded to two miles in width, “but DEC refused to do that.” Instead, Heartland agreed to give the state 2,146 acres along or near the Deer River.
Woodworth sees less value in this acquisition. “Frankly, we had recreational rights on that already,” he said. “I don’t see a big change here.” (Note: DEC says 515 acres, located just north of the Park, were not covered by the easements.)
Despite his misgivings, Woodworth said ADK will not sue over the modification. He is pleased that DEC will not allow hunters to access the camps by ATVs except when the easement-land roads are impassable by cars or trucks.
State offices were closed for Veterans Day, so DEC could not be reached for comment.