NYS State Forest Management Plan

NYS State Forest Management Plan Finalized

This plan and generic environmental impact statement (GEIS) will guide the future management of the state’s 786,329-acre State Forest holdings. Key goals focus on ecosystem health and diversity, economic benefits, recreational opportunities, forest conservation and sustainable management.

The plan was presented in draft form on September 1, 2010. The draft plan was available for public comment until October 29th. Comments were also received and considered after the deadline. Over 3,000 written comments were received. Nine public hearings were held throughout the state from September 14th – 30th.

The plan has been edited based on public input and is now considered final DEC Office of Natural Resources policy for the development of State Forest Unit Management Plans. A responsiveness document will be posted on this website, and will include DEC’s responses to the many comments received.*** Revision of the plan is scheduled to occur every 10 years.  it is not up as of this writing

Notice of Acceptance of Final GEIS

The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (NYS DEC), as lead agency, has accepted a Final Generic Environmental Impact Statement on the proposed Final Strategic Plan for State Forest Management. Electronic copies of the Final Strategic Plan and Final GEIS are available online at: www.dec.ny.gov/lands/64567.html or by requesting a CD by e-mail at stateforestplan@gw.dec.state.ny.us or by calling NYS DEC regional offices.

NYS DEC announces the completion of the Final Strategic Plan for State Forest Management (Plan) and Final Generic Environmental Impact Statement (GEIS). This notice has been prepared in accordance with Article 8 of the Environmental Conservation Law. NYS DEC held public hearings in each NYS DEC administrative region on the Draft Plan, released September 1, 2010 and accepted public comments until October 29, 2010. These hearings also served as public hearings on the Draft GEIS pursuant to the applicable SEQR Act (6NYCRR §617.9(a)(4)).

The final Plan is an update and revision of the Draft Strategic Plan for State Forest Management which includes identifications of future management goals for NYS DEC administered State Forests. It establishes statewide management guidelines for NYS DEC staff through a process of public involvement and review. The plan provides a foundation for the development of Unit Management Plans (UMPs), which set forth the specific actions to be undertaken by NYS DEC on individual State Forests. As individual UMPs are developed, this plan will serve as a guide and will be included by reference. This plan will be revised at least once every ten years.

This Plan describes how State Forests will be managed in a sustainable manner by promoting ecosystem health, enhancing landscape biodiversity, protecting soil productivity and water quality. In addition, State Forests will continue to provide the many recreational, social and economic benefits valued so highly by the people of New York State. NYS DEC will continue the legacy which started 80 years ago, leaving these lands to the next generation in better condition than they are today.

Five goals were developed for the management of State Forests. These goals were based on the criteria developed in the Montreal Process and are as follows:

  •  Goal 1, to provide healthy and biologically diverse ecosystems;
  • Goal 2, to maintain human-made State Forest assets;
  • Goal 3, to provide recreational opportunities for people of all ages and abilities;
  • Goal 4, to provide economic benefits to the people of the State; and
  • Goal 5, to provide a legal framework for forest conservation and sustainable management of State Forests.

Activities that have the potential to cause significant adverse impacts were addressed and include: increased public recreational use, facility development, prescribed fire, silvicultural activities, oil and gas drilling and control of competing vegetation and invasive species. Potential impacts were further discussed in the Draft GEIS including soil erosion, damage to vegetation, increased smoke and associated odors, surface and groundwater effects and effects of pesticides on the environment, including non-target species. The final Plan discusses all of these potential impacts and describes recommended management activities and mitigation measures to minimize potential impacts.

Contact: Justin Perry, NYS DEC – Division of Lands and Forests, 625 Broadway, Albany, NY 12233-4255, Phone: (518) 402-9436 begin_of_the_skype_

highlighting              (518) 402-9436      end_of_the_skype_highlighting, E-mail: japerry@gw.dec.state.ny.us.

Comments on:Final DEC Strategic Plan for Forest Management

The Strategic Plan for State Forest Management has been released by NYSDEC.  
From the executive summary: Mineral Resources

  • The leasing and development of natural gas and oil resources can provide jobs and income to
  • the State while increasing domestic energy supplies. Oil and natural gas are valuable resources
  • which can provide energy and revenue, as well as the opportunity for improvements to the
  • existing infrastructure of the State Forests (such as improving access through upgrading existing
  • roads, culverts and gates).
  • As with any other human activity on State lands, oil and natural gas exploration and
  • development can impact the environment. The biggest risks from natural gas exploration and
  • development are potential impacts on underground aquifers and residential water wells in the
  • immediate area of drilling. While techniques used today are far more advanced and protective
  • of ground water, there are still risks   as with almost any construction or development project.
  • The Department will incorporate all available technologies and methods to reduce these risks.
  • Emerging issues include disposal by injection and carbon capture.  Neither of these activities is
  • currently taking place on State Forest lands.
  • Recommended actions include:
  • • Apply a hierarchical approach that classifies areas of each State Forest into specific
  • categories.
  • • Adapt the draft guidance for pipelines on State Forests to the DEC policy system and
  • expanding it to include guidance on strategies for dealing with existing pipeline corridors
  • and establishment of new pipeline corridors.  If the issue of existing unauthorized
  • pipelines cannot be sufficiently addressed at the policy level, propose legislation to
  • resolve the issue.
  • • Finalize and adopt the current draft policy on seismic exploration.
  • • Adopt policies addressing disposal by injection and carbon capture and sequestration.
  • • Adopt a policy on tract assessments for oil and gas leasing, based on mineral character
  • and expected mineral activity, site condition, and public use.
  • • Adopt a policy on water use for oil and gas extraction, based on information in theDivision of Mineral Resources GEIS

Starting on page 226 of Chapter 5 you will find the portion relating to hydrofracking.  The concerns raised by the public seem to have at least been considered on page 331 which the following link will take you to:  Click here: Chapters 5-7 + Appendices Starting on page 226 of Chapter 5 you will find the portion relating to hydrofracking.  The concerns raised by the public seem to have at least been considered on page 231 which the following link will take you to:  Click here: http://www.dec.ny.gov/docs/lands_forests_pdf/spsfmfinal3.pdf . Text of Mineral Resources section: https://gdacc.files.wordpress.com/2011/01/final-plan-mineral-resources.pdf

Pipelines:

The document appears to have sidestepped an important pipeline issue:  The DEC correctly points to the PSC (Public Service Commission ) as the controlling authority for lines that are outside the wellpad.

However, the plan sidesteps when it come to handling the pipeline ROW (right of way). On non-state forest land this is handled in one of two ways: a) by a formal easement with the landholder or, b) thru an eminent domain (condemnation) procedure (whereby the ROW is “taken”, presumeaby against the owner’s wishes and the owner is compensated.

Eminent domain applies in two cases: a) the pipeline is between states and the authority is federal (by Federal Energy Regulatory Commission , FERC), lines permitted by FERC carry emminent domain authority. b) within state lines, these carry eminent domain authority IF the Co. has Public Utility status.

Now, what’s the pipeline deal in the forests?  will the state negotiate for ROWs, or will it require eminent domain authority in which case the Co will, in conjunction with the PSC or FERC, determine the routing (in this case DEC will NOT be a controlling entity, but presumeably consulted)?

Remember, no wells without pipelines.

Environmental consortium sues DEC over hydrofracking in state forests

Environmental consortium sues DEC over hydrofracking in state forests.

BEDFORD – The Croton Watershed Clean Water Coalition, Inc. has filed a lawsuit against the State Department of Environmental Conservation seeking to declare hydrofracking in state forests contrary to the state Constitution and related environmental laws. Among those lands is the vast Stewart State Forest adjacent to Stewart Airport, three state forest areas in Ulster County plus forest lands in Delaware and Greene counties.

Organization attorney James Bacon said the suit is concerned with the forestlands that are on top of Marcellus Shale formations.
The suit was filed in State Supreme Court in Kingston.

Hydrofracking is the forcing of chemicals under extreme pressures horizontally in shale formations in an effort to force natural gas deposits to the surface to be collected.

Group President Fay Muir said the state has reforested its state forests after years of industrialization laid waste to hundreds of thousands of acres.

Hydrofracking in those lands “will reverse those gains allowing industry to profit over people,” she said, and that “radioactive discharges will threaten human health for centuries.”

Sierra Club Lower Hudson Valley Group Chairman George Klein said hydrofracking in state forests “would be an outrageous violation” of the DEC’s mission of protecting the state’s natural resources and environment and controlling water, land and air pollution.


Click Here to Sign a Petition to Ask the DEC to THINK AGAIN.

Organizational Sign On Letter to Urge Caution on Industrial Drilling in State Forests Text of Letter

——————

Essay on Impact of Industrial Drilling in State Forests

Lost in the Woods By Peter Mantius

BURDETT, Oct. 25 — It’s open season on New York’s state forests.

State regulators are asking for public comment by Oct. 29 on a proposal to let gas drillers hydrofrack the forests and criss-cross them with construction roads and natural gas gathering lines.

In Schuyler County alone, this could affect — or decimate — more than 10,000 acres in five state forests: Sugar Hill, Coon Hollow, Cinnamon Lake, Beaver Dam and Goundry Hill.

Most of this land was acquired about 80 years ago for about $4 an acre. The forests are used by hikers, hunters, horseback riders, snowmobilers and others.

The idea of industrializing any portion of them would appear to violate both the spirit and the letter of the Depression-era laws passed to assemble and protect them. Those special woodlands, the laws said, shall be “forever devoted to reforestation and the establishment and maintenance thereon of forests for watershed protection, the production of timber and for recreation and kindred purposes.”

The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation apparently isn’t worried about every fine point in dusty old statutes.

Applying an extraordinarily broad legal interpretation, the agency is prepared to expand the list of legal “kindred purposes” to include so called high-volume hydraulic fracturing, toxic wastewater storage in ponds, underground natural gas storage, heavy trucking and widespread road and pipeline construction.

This comes from the same agency that warns state forest hikers: “Don’t litter! Stay on designated trails. Do not cause damage by heedlessly trampling trail side vegetation.”

So littering is bad, but hydrofracking is OK? Surely, this agency is lost in the woods.

(On Oct. 21, Gov. David Paterson abruptly fired Alexander B. “Pete” Grannis, the DEC’s commissioner, after a dispute over proposed deep cuts. Grannis said Paterson budget officials had slashed his agency’s staff to less 3,000 employees, its lowest level in two decades. According to a recently leaked DEC memo, those cuts — and 209 more Paterson recently mandated — compromise the agency’s ability to oversee future enforcement of hydrofrackers and “our ability to maintain the ‘green’ certification for our state forests.”)

But the seeds for this plan to open the state forests for industrialization were planted long ago.

In fact, natural gas drillers already operate 132 active wells on state forest lands, including several in southwestern Schuyler County. And gas companies hold extensive lease rights in Schuyler’s state forests.

But the existing “vertical” wells — though disruptive to the forests — are nowhere near as invasive as wells that are fracked.

The term fracking has become shorthand for the technique characterized by “horizontal” drilling thousands of feet along a shale layer and the use of 4-5 million gallons of water per well, mixed with sand and toxic chemicals.

Fracking is the preferred, if not the only, technique used to tap the Marcellus Shale, an exceptionally rich natural gas deposit that runs through New York’s Southern Tier, most of Pennsylvania and parts of Ohio and West Virginia.

The practice of fracking the Marcellus Shale is occurring throughout Pennsylvania.

Although it is currently illegal in New York, DEC officials have said they are close to adopting highly controversial rules that would permit it throughout upstate New York as soon as this spring.

Those draft rules for the use of hydrofracking establish a standard of one drilling well pad per square mile, or every 640 acres. But the 338-page draft New York State Strategic Plan for State Forest Management says it would be OK to place a well pad every 80 acres in the state forests.

Each well pad, which can accommodate several wells, takes up about 4 acres and requires a road and a gas pipeline and a pond to hold toxic brine.

“It’s hard to see how that enormous level of ecosystem disruption could be anything but a gross violation of the DEC’s mandate to preserve our state forests for future generations,” Catskill Citizens for Safe Energy wrote in a letter to Paterson.

The DEC draft strategic plan proposes to divide state forests into four categories, based on their suitability for gas drilling. Certain portions of the forests would be totally off limits. Others areas, not so.

While three of the four categories would limit or ban well pads, only one of the four categories would prohibit gas line rights of way.

That would appear to undermine one long-standing agency priority, which is described in the draft strategic plan:

“Much of the legislation authorizing acquisition of state forest lands has specifically prohibited DEC from entering into any long-term leases or selling any real property rights, including utility rights of way. This demonstrates the intent to minimize development or fragmentation of these lands.”

But that legislative intent to avoid slicing up the state forests goes only so far because oil and gas exploration is specifically exempt from laws covering rights of way in those forests.

Small towns like Danby in Tompkins County, where one-quarter of the town falls within the Danby State Forest, are left feeling exposed by the laws that so clearly defer to energy development interests.

The town board of Danby, which is about 10 miles south of Ithaca and 25 east of Watkins Glen, sent a six-page letter to the DEC in response to the draft strategic plan for the forests.

In their letter, Danby officials applaud the draft’s ecological stances on several issues, such as water purity. They highlight statements in the DEC draft such as these: “The important role forests play in producing high quality fresh water cannot be overstated. Forests serve as nature’s filters and regulate water flow by storing rainfall and releasing it into streams at a more even rate.”

But the Danby letter points to “a significant disconnect” between those sensitivities and the intent to usher in intense hydrofracking with especially close well pad spacing.

In response, the Danby group is trying identify areas of local state forests that could be marked as out-of-bounds for gas drilling. “We’re trying to network with contiguous towns to adopt the same broad standards,” said Danby Mayor Ric Dietrich, co-author of the Danby letter.

Meanwhile, Rachel Treichler, an attorney in Hammondsport, said she has been reviewing the constitutionality of allowing intensive fracking in state forests.

“The law already explicitly grants leases for oil and gas,” Treichler said. “The best arguments against (fracking the forests) are its cumulative effects and its fragmentation of the forests.”

Pennsylvania is one step ahead of New York in fracking its state forests. But being first has come at a price.

On June 3, a natural gas well blowout in the Moshannon State Forest allowed natural gas and wastewater to escape uncontrollably for 16 hours.

“Make no mistake, this could have been a catastrophic incident,” said John Hanger, Secretary of the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection. “Had the gas blowing out of the well ignited, the human cost would have been tragic, and had an explosion allowed the well to discharge wastewater for days or weeks, the environmental damage would have been significant.”

New York needs to take a common sense approach. At the very least, the DEC should honor it’s primary function — environmental conservation — and mark as off-limits for both hydrofracking and gas pipelines the vast majority of our state forests.

To contact the DEC on its strategic plan for New York’s state forests:

WRITE: Rob Messenger and Justin Perry

Bureau of State Land Management

625 Broadway, 5th Floor

Albany, NY 12233-4255

CALL: 518-402-9428

EMAIL: stateforestplan@gw.dec.state.ny.us

Comments are due Friday, Oct. 29, 2010.

Peter Mantius (pmantius@gmail.com) was a financial, legal and political reporter at The Atlanta Constitution for 17 years and editor of two business weeklies in the Northeast.

Photo in text: A gas drilling well crowns a hill in Pennsylania’s Loyalsock State Forest. (Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources photo)

—————————



PA’s Governor Rendell is placing thousands of acres of state forest land off
limits to any natural gas drilling.http://www.wetmtv.com/news/local/story/Thousands-Of-Acres-Off-Limits-To-Drilling/xiqJQiDl1EizBZY9GIQF2w.cspx A Tale of Two Forest Plans–Marcellus Effect 10/28/10Official Local Comments on the Forest Management Plan

  • Tompkins County Legislature
  • Cortland County Legislature
  • Town of Dryden
Ongoing Research:

 

And Representative Natural Species Populations of Concern

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