SARANAC - Four years ago, land owned by Domtar Industries for more than 40 years was sold to Chateaugay Woodlands LLC. Following the sale, the state Department of Conservation purchased rights from them for recreational purposes. In a meeting held May 6, the public had a chance to weigh-in on those plans.
After purchasing the land, known as Sable Highlands, from Domtar Industries, Chateaugay Woodlands LLC entered into a contract with the DEC to sell a conservation easement on the approximately 84,000 acres of land.
In order to understand what a conservation easement is, Sean Reynolds, a forester with NYSDEC said to imagine holding a bundle of pencils.
"Those pencils represent the various rights that are included in the piece of property," he explained. "There's a whole litany of rights. There's water rights, mineral rights, timber rights, the right for the landowner to lease to private recreation clubs, public recreation rights, there's a whole long list."
Under a conservation easement plan, the DEC purchased some of those rights to allow for public recreation on about 28,000 acres of the land.
Some of the plans for the land, which is referred to as the Interim Recreation Management Plan, include hunting, fishing, trapping, nature appreciation, wildlife viewing, photography, horseback riding, hiking, and opportunities for people with disabilities.
The reason for the May 6 meeting was for the DEC to explain to the public what was happening with the lands and for them to ask questions and make comments on what they hope to see happen on the acreage.
There was some hesitation from the public, including one woman who was worried about added traffic on the back road she lives on, which may create more problems with the road that's already in poor condition.
"I want to know what the impact of all of this development ... is going to have on our road, as far as traffic," she said. "Because we get enough traffic in the wintertime."
However, some of those in attendance had positive comments about the IRMP, having already dealt with the state DEC.
Mary Ellen Keith, supervisor for the town of Franklin, which is also a part of the acreage in the conservation easement, was approached by the DEC about what the town wanted to see, and, at the time, the town was not thrilled about the prospect of the DEC being in control of more of their land.
"We said, 'Number one, you're not taking care of the property in the town of Franklin' ... and we said you don't need any more to take care of," explained Keith. "Well, it went back and forth, back and forth, and we had meetings."
Eventually, the DEC and the town of Franklin were able to work out a plan expected to suit everyone. The most important part of which Keith felt there needed to be "something for everybody."
"You communicate your words, need to talk to your agency and let them know how you feel," Keith said to the audience. "Just exactly how you feel. And, I think these meetings are good. And, I found the DEC worked very well with us and I can't wait to get out there."
Comments will be accepted by the DEC until Monday, June 1, and may be sent to Reynolds by mail to P.O. Box 296, Ray Brook N.Y. 12977. Comments may also be faxed to 897-1394 or sent via e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org.
"We will consolidate those comments and then we will evaluate them in the context of the conservation easement management goals for the public use of the property and then we'll make some adjustments to the final recreation plan based on those comments," said Reynolds.