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Tioughnioga Unit


The Tioughnioga Unit Management Plan provides a framework for sustaining biological diversity while accommodating compatible public uses on 7,356 acres of State land in southwestern Madison County. The Unit consists of three state forests and one wildlife management area within the towns of Cazenovia, DeRuyter, Nelson and Georgetown. DeRuyter, Morrow Mountain and Stoney Pond State Forests were acquired in 1933, 1935 and 1938 respectively using funds from the State Reforestation Act of 1929. The Tioughnioga Wildlife Management Area (TWMA) was acquired in 1937 via a 99 year lease from the Federal Resettlement Agency. In 1964 the lease was canceled and full title was transferred to the State Conservation Department. An additional 612 acres of public lands adjoin the unit and representatives from SUNY Morrisville and Madison County collaborated with DEC in plan development.

The landscape within which the Unit is located is post agricultural in character with second and third growth forests dominating the upland sites and open fields, farms and residential areas occupying the valley floors. Town population density is relatively low for Madison County and approximately half of those employed commute outside of the County to their place of work. Recently, agricultural intensification and subdivision of land have reconfigured patterns of land use and local economic activity. Farmland acreage and dairy herd size have declined 15% since 1978, but milk production has remained unchanged suggesting that farming is concentrated on a smaller land base. Since 1990, there has been a 20% increase in the number of parcels in the four towns with the majority of remote forest parcels acquired by absentee owners for recreation and other amenity values. These landscape-level changes inevitably impact the condition and use of state lands and in developing the Tioughnioga plan, careful consideration was given to current demographic and land use trends. Furthermore, in developing management objectives, unit characteristics such as historic disturbance regimes, riparian connectivity and the distribution of forest canopy were considered in relation to ecological conditions within the larger, private landscape.

Recognizing that the Tioughnioga Unit provides important environmental values within a changing rural landscape, the plan defines specific goals and objectives for sustaining biodiversity, enhancing recreational opportunities and fostering cooperative forest management. It emerges following a series of public programs intended to promote dialogue and citizen participation, including scoping, public presentations, forest walks and three facilitated focus group sessions. These programs helped foster the exchange of ideas and to raise public awareness and expectations about state land management.

To sustain biodiversity, the plan defines a series of objectives to support a full range of ecological conditions from open grasslands to late successional old growth forest. Management actions such as mowing, burning, clearcutting and selection harvests are intended to create and ultimately maintain ecological conditions suitable for a diversity of plant and animal species. Timber harvesting, mineral extraction and the development of recreational facilities will be controlled to either maintain habitat conditions or to ensure that the impact of these activities do not diminish biodiversity. Wetlands, riparian zones, steep slopes and designated natural areas are protected from timber harvesting, mineral extraction and recreational developments.

To enhance recreational opportunities on the Unit, new and improvements to existing facilities are proposed. Upgrades to the public campground, day use area and boating access site at Stoney Pond are proposed to improve safety, protect environmental quality and provide accessibility for people with disabilities. Sections of the 13 mile Nordic ski trail system at Stoney Pond will be upgraded and designated for mountain bike and horse use. New foot trails are proposed for the TWMA and DeRuyter State Forest including additions to the Madison County Link Trail, the Onondaga Trail and the larger North Country Scenic Trail. In addition to Stoney Pond, new horse trails are proposed for the TWMA and DeRuyter State Forest. Existing snowmobile trails on Stoney Pond, Morrow Mountain and DeRuyter State Forests will be officially designated and added to the NYS Corridor and Secondary Trail System. A new trail for people with disabilities using motorized vehicles is proposed for Morrow Mountain State Forest. Local recreational groups, including the Central New York Chapter of the North Country Scenic Trail Association, the Onondaga Chapter of the Adirondack Mountain Club, Snow Valley Riders, Moonlight Riders and the Cazenovia Area Equine Association have played key roles in the planning process.

Heavy opposition to adding new trails on the TWMA initiated by the Region 7 Fish and Wildlife Board caused a scale down of several miles of equestrian and hiking trails in the final plan. Opposition centered around the belief that recreational activities not related to hunting and fishing pursuits would be detrimental to sportsmen. Loop trails were scaled back to short cross through trails. Large scale changes were not made on the state forest properties.

Cooperative forestry is a strategy for achieving landscape-level management objectives such as biodiversity conservation, watershed protection and long distance trail development by establishing partnerships across ownership boundaries. In addition to collaborating with SUNY Morrisville and Madison County, the plan proposes to increase participation in DEC's Adopt-a-Natural Resource and Cooperative Forest Management programs. Furthermore, public programs such as guided walks, workshops and collaborative projects between private and public land managers are proposed to increase awareness about landscape ecology, environmental history and biodiversity conservation.

To request a copy of the UMP, please contact:

Greg Owens, Senior Forester
2715 State Route 80
Sherburne, NY 13460
Phone: (607) 674-4017

Please specify whether you would like an electronic copy on compact disc or a paper copy.

Final Plan: Final Tioughnioga Unit Management Plan (PDF) (3.04 MB)

Final Plan in parts:

Cover - page 22 (PDF) (1.06 MB)
Page 23 - page 45 (PDF) (0.92 MB)
Page 46 - page 67 (PDF) (0.76 MB)
Page 68 - page 125 (PDF) (1.09 MB)
Page 126 - page 172 (PDF) (1.01 MB)
Page 173 - page 202 (PDF) (0.80 MB)
Page 203 - end maps (PDF) (0.85 MB)