By MIKE VIRTANEN
Some environmentalists want more active state oversight of the 781,000 acres of privately owned timberlands in the Adirondacks that are governed by conservation easements with New York.
The Adirondack Council said easements have prevented the land from being subdivided and developed, but can do more with better public accounting.
“Conservation easements can limit tree-cutting in heavily harvested forests and set limits for clear-cutting that prevent damage to watersheds,” said Willie Janeway, the council’s executive director. “The Adirondack Park Agency could monitor and report to the public the impacts on wildlife, forest health and water quality.”
The list of landowners covered by the 162 easements, now on the Explorer’s website, had not been made public previously by the Department of Environmental Conservation, which is the steward of the program. Information on ownership of specific parcels could be found at the clerks’ offices of 12 counties.
The council also would like to see the state provide incentives for “more sustainable climate-smart forest management practices,” Janeway said.
Protect the Adirondacks Executive Director Peter Bauer said there should be an easement master plan, one that would help create a coherent management program.
Neil Woodworth, executive director of the Adirondack Mountain Club, said some management plans for individual Forest Preserve units do address uses of adjacent conservation timberlands.
Still, Woodworth said, it doesn’t make sense with areas of interlocking state and easement holdings for the APA not to also review overall conformance of the easements with the State Land Master Plan.
The few individual recreation management plans that the DEC has written for easement tracts tend to segment them, said David Gibson of Adirondack Wild.
“It doesn’t really look at the surrounding landscape,” he said.