Anglers have new places to explore in the Adirondack Park. About 8,000 acres along the South Branch of the Grass River in St. Lawrence County is now protected by a combination of conservation easement and state forest preserve acquisition, Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced today. The river boasts prime fishing for brown and brook trout, walleye and smallmouth bass.
The state purchased 947 acres and acquired an easement on 7,047 acres for a total of $4.3 million from the Environmental Protection Fund. New York state’s Open Space Conservation Plan, which highlights desirable lands the state may wish to acquire, had identified these St. Lawrence County lands as priorities.
“The newly acquired land will protect the scenic and natural resources of this region, provide high-quality outdoor recreation opportunities, and ensure sustainable forest management that contributes to local economies,” Cuomo said, in a news release.
Basil Seggos, commissioner of the state Department of Environmental Conservation, added that the easement and forest preserve acquisition means New York “is protecting about 90% of the Grass River within the Adirondack Park.”
The forest preserve parcel is known as the South Branch Grass River Tract, according to a news release. The acquisition preserves about six miles of river and connects to other protected rivers.
The conservation easement comes from a national nonprofit called The Conservation Fund, on land known as the Cranberry Forest. The easement connects to other DEC easements including the Conifer-Emporium, Grass River, Seveys, Silver Lake and Tooley Pond tracts, according to a release.
Tom Duffus, vice president of the Conservation Fund, said his organization initially purchased the property in 2015. The fund purchased it through its Working Forest Fund. There will be forest management and sustainable timber harvesting on the land. The property will also add to lands the fund purchased and conserved from Champion International, the former paper company.
DEC purchased the motorized and non-motorized rights on the easement. Motor vehicles, including snowmobiles, may access the new forest preserve lands via an existing road open year-round. The easement also includes preserving 13 miles of existing snowmobile trails and keeps 21 miles of gravel roads for non-motorized uses like hiking and biking. The properties will eventually have a Recreation Management Plan with input from the public, but for now, DEC is drafting an interim plan.
The easement includes some restrictions. There are a few hunting clubs and camps on the property. The landowners, according to the release, will have exclusive use of the easement lands from the Wednesday after Labor Day through Dec. 15.
“The public cannot use the property during this period except for the Dillon Pond Area and the public access corridors used to reach the Forest Preserve parcel, as these lands are open year-round,” the release read.
George Cayey, town supervisor of Colton, said the easement and forest preserve addition “will provide vital stewardship for recreation, motorized vehicles, logging, biking, snowshoeing, fishing,” and more. State lawmakers also praised the plan, in the news release.