The East of Hudson Unit Management Planning Team from DEC Region 3 recently released a Unit Management Plan for several state properties east of the Hudson river in the lower Hudson Valley. Specifically, this plan outlines the DEC’s proposed work for 6,684 acres in 14 State Forests, in Dutchess, Putnam and Westchester County. These plans are released roughly every 10 years and define the upcoming investments by the DEC into our public lands for the next decade. The DEC manages these lands with several goals in mind including ecosystem health, water and soil quality, revenue to the state, and recreational opportunities including hunting and fishing. Given the proximity to heavily populated urban and suburban areas, these public lands are extremely valuable to hunters and anglers in the area. This plan is now in an open comment period set to end Dec 22nd, and so it is important for all hunters and anglers to let DEC hear from you.
We have read through the entire plan, and want to call out some areas we think are extremely relevant to hunters and anglers.
First to call out is that DEC is proposing the creation of a 7 to 8 mile mountain biking trail in California Hill State Forest. California Hill is a 982 acre state forest and watershed in Putnam County. Wawayanda Lake lives on the western side of the property and has a boat launch for canoes and kayaks and is regularly used for waterfowl hunting. Hunters are able to hunt deer, turkeys, small game, and waterfowl on the relatively undeveloped property. The mountain bike trail as is proposed would severely limit hunting opportunity due to the length of the trail and the sinuous nature of the trail winding throughout the entire property. Not only does it leave little space for hunters, but it also winds through known deer bedding thus making it likely to have a negative impact on wildlife. We feel this proposed trail is bad for hunters, wildlife, and the overall ecosystem and we have asked the DEC to amend the plan to redesign the trail to mitigate this.
The second thing to call out from the plan is regarding Salt Hill State Forest. This little known state forest is set in Westchester County adjacent to DEP land. Initially this forest was expected to change ownership to NYC, but now the state is planning to keep ownership and put in place a management plan for the property. DEC is proposing to manage this property similar to other state lands in Westchester, meaning they are proposing a large parking lot and special regulations that seem more akin to a park than to a state forest. Limited hunting will be allowed, but only with vertical bows and only for big game, which is a reduction in current hunting opportunities. We feel this is a missed opportunity for the DEC to support hunters and anglers in Westchester county by creating yet another location managed primarily for hikers and bikers. We would like to see the DEC amend the UMP to specifically manage this property with hunting and fishing as the top priority.
Third, DEC is looking for input on a plan for a failing dam in West Mountain State Forest. DEC presents a few alternatives to solve for the dam including repairing the dam, breaching the dam, and doing nothing. Due to stated benefits to water quality downstream (increased oxygen levels, decreased temperature) we feel that the option to breach the dam and allow the habitat to return to its more natural state is the best option.
Finally, we want to call out some really great access improvements in this plan. Specifically, the DEC is planning on improved parking, easements and light weight trail building to improve access for hunters and anglers on a number of properties in this unit. This includes work at White Pond MUA, Big Buck Mountain MUA, Stissing Mountain MUA, Lafayetteville MUA, and Roeliff Jansen Kill MUA. We applaud these plans and encourage all of you to do the same!
There is a lot more detail in the plan, and we encourage all of you to take the time to read through it. These plans impact how the DEC manages our public lands and waters and the more they hear from hunters and anglers, the more we can impact these plans to benefit hunting/fishing opportunities, but also wildlife and habitat. We would like to see DEC involve our community earlier in these processes, and to convince them to do that, they need to hear from all of us!
DEC is holding public meetings the last of which is November 22, the details are as follows:
Tuesday Nov. 22
5 – 8 P.M.
Town of Kent Courthouse
25 Sybils Crossing, Carmel NY 12512
Thank you for taking action on this issue!
New York Chapter Board