East Branch of Fish Creek Project
Region 6 Natural Resource Highlight
In autumn of 2005 the DEC acquired the first two of three parts of the largest acquisition projects ever on the Tug Hill Plateau. Known as the East Branch of Fish Creek Project, the People of the State of New York acquired a "working" forest conservation easement on approximately 30,000 acres of land south of the G & W Road (the old railroad bed of the Glenfield and Western Railroad) in the towns of Martinsburg, West Turin, Osceola, and Lewis in Lewis County from GMO Forestry Fund 3, L.P. (GMO) via The Nature Conservancy (TNC). GMO is a timber investment company that purchased the land in June of 2002. A private company, LandVest will manage these lands for GMO.
As part of the project, the DEC acquired full ownership of a 1,350-acre corridor of land along several miles of the creek to become the East Branch of Fish Creek State Forest. The third component of this acquisition project, an easement on approximately 14,000 acres of land held by TNC north of the G & W Road in the towns of Martinsburg, West Turin, Montague, and Osceola is expected to be acquired shortly.
The East Branch of Fish Creek State Forest has had its entire boundary surveyed and blazed with yellow paint. It is most accessible by motor vehicle from the Michigan Mills Road, a town road in the town of West Turin. Motor vehicles can be driven into the property nearly to the bridge over the East Branch of Fish Creek. The road is signed as open to public motor vehicle use to a turnaround and parking area just short of the bridge.
The Heron Brook Compartment of the GMO conservation easement lands, as shown on the map of East Branch of Fish Creek Project Lands, and a portion of the East Branch of Fish Creek State Forest is open to public recreation, including hunting. This area is accessed by motor vehicle from the Gallo Road, a town road in the town of Lewis. From the Gallo Road, proceed up the Camp Four Road. The public may drive motor vehicles to the gate across the Camp Four Road. Motor vehicles should only drive where the road is signed for their use and should not proceed past the gate on the Camp Four Road whether the gate is open or not. You could inadvertently be locked in by others using the gate. A parking area for approximately three vehicles is available by the gate. Please do not block the gate.
The boundary of this compartment includes the Camp Four Road, marked just with conservation easement signs; the exterior boundary surveyed, blazed with yellow paint and conservation easement signs; and the northern boundary signed with conservation easement signs and marked with blue paint. Look for the yellow-orange conservation easement signs with green text and the name "EBFC West Public Hunting" in the lower right hand corner of the sign. The portion of the East Branch of Fish Creek State Forest adjacent to the Heron Brook compartment has boundaries that are also blazed and painted yellow with State Forest signs posted.
The Goals of this project were originally formulated by a group of individuals and organizations that came together to form the East Branch of Fish Creek Working Group. The goals formulated were used to guide the DEC in negotiations. They are:
- To maintain a high-quality, sustainable environment for the health, safety and enjoyment of our children and successive generations.
- To provide for the protection of the core forest's long-term timber productivity, water quality, and overall natural resource and habitat health, as well as traditional hunting, trapping, fishing and recreational uses.
- To provide for resource protection in a way that avoids a shift in the property tax burden to local taxpayers, prevents a negative impact on local job availability, and sustains the economic viability of area communities.
- To help spread the costs of protection over the many beneficiaries at the local, regional and state level.
- To maintain mixed ownership of most of the eastern core forest, and find ways to provide for recreational access in a way that does not threaten natural resource quality or adversely affect private property rights.
- To encourage continued private land stewardship through voluntary compliance with environmental standards and methods, such as timber harvest guidelines.
The Objectives of this project are to protect watershed values, to sustain working landscapes of timberlands, to provide trailways for a variety of user groups, and to protect freshwater wetlands.
Great Eastern Timber Company LLC, part of Hancock (John Hancock Mutual Life Insurance Company) Natural Resource Group, Inc., acquired these lands in February of 1996 from Lyons Falls Pulp and Paper Company. Then GMO purchased approximately 30,000 acres from Great Eastern Timber Company LLC in June of 2002. GMO (Grantham, Mayo, Van Otterloo and Company LLC) is a privately held global investment management firm with an office in Boston, Massachusetts.
On the same day in June of 2002 that GMO purchased the 30,000 acres, specified rights on that land were sold by GMO via a conservation easement to TNC. At the same time, Great Eastern Timber Company LLC sold an additional 14,000 acres in fee to TNC. Within the 14,000 acres, approximately 1350 acres are directly adjacent to the East Branch of Fish Creek. All of this was done with the understanding that New York State would acquire this conservation easement and the 1350 acres directly adjacent to the East Branch of Fish Creek from TNC.
Part of the overall project provides that TNC would sell a second conservation easement to the State of New York across the remaining TNC ownership acquired from GMO and an additional 1400 acre parcel that TNC purchased in August 2002. (This 1400 acre parcel is referred to as the "Technopulp" property that is adjacent to the original project area.) The second easement across the entire TNC parcel, including the Technopulp property amounts to approximately 14,000 acres.
The approximately 30,000 acres of conservation easement land and the 1350 acres on the East Branch of the Fish Creek was purchased by the State of New York in the fall of 2005. A separate conservation easement agreement between the State of New York and TNC across the remaining 14,000 acres is pending. The 1350 acres is now the East Branch of Fish Creek State Forest.
Suggestions or Further Questions? Contact:
NYSDEC Division of Lands and Forests
7327 State Route 812
Lowville, NY 13367
Tel.: (315) 376-3521