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Question 11 - Impact on Open Space and Recreation - Full EAF (Part 2)

Full Environmental Assessment Form (FEAF) Workbook

The proposed action may result in a loss of recreational opportunities or a reduction of an open space resource as designated in any adopted municipal open space plan.

There are many recreational opportunities that may be impacted by proposed actions. When a location is converted from undeveloped land to residential, commercial, or industrial uses, there is at least some loss of open spaces that are or could be used for outdoor recreation. There could be a loss of recreational opportunities such as hunting, fishing, and hiking, as well as, but not limited to hiking, mountain biking, bird watching, photography, and recreational vehicle use. Some communities have unique recreational opportunities such as caves for spelunking or cliffs for rappelling that could be impacted.

Open space resources are defined differently in different places. All open spaces are undeveloped areas, but these may range from, but not limited to large forests, patches of woodland, and farm fields to village greens, public parks, state lands, wetlands, and rivers and river corridors.

Municipalities can plan for their recreation and open space needs by developing and adopting a recreation plan, open space plan, or comprehensive plan. Sometimes, a comprehensive plan includes both recreation and open space planning. Part 1 will identify which of these plans are present and relevant to the proposed project. However, it will be useful if the reviewing agency become familiar with recreation, open space and comprehensive plans to understand what the community's goals for these resources are.

These plans may also establish municipal policies, and outline plans for capital improvements to or purchase of lands for new trails, open spaces, or recreation areas. Many of these plans will also identify critical open spaces and establish municipal policies oriented towards protection of those areas. Both applicants and reviewing agencies should be familiar with the municipal plans so that they can fully evaluate potential impacts on those resources.

To answer this question

Review Part 1 questions C.2.c., E.1.c., and E.2.q.

If after examining Part 1 answers and local recreation, open space or comprehensive plans, the reviewing agency determines that the proposed project will result in a loss of recreational opportunities or open space resources, check 'Yes' to Question 11 and answer all the sub-questions (a) through (e). If the reviewing agency determines there are no recreational or open space resources that will be lost as a result of a proposed project, check 'No' to Question 11 and move on to Question 12.

Identifying potential impacts

The reviewing agency should evaluate the following sub-questions and decide if there will be any impact. If there will be an impact, the reviewing agency must then evaluate the magnitude of that impact, and decide if the impact will be small or moderate to large. This will depend on the overall scale and context of the proposed project as described in the Introduction to Part 2. The reviewing agency should be reasonable when conducting this review.

  • If the proposed project exceeds a numeric threshold in a question, it is presumed to be a moderate to large impact.
  • If the proposed project does not exceed a numeric threshold in a question, the reviewing agency should consider the scale and context of the project in determining if an impact may be small or moderate to large.
  • These sub-questions are not meant to be exhaustive. The reviewing agency should use the "Other impacts:" sub-question to include any additional elements they feel need to be analyzed for potential impacts.

a. The proposed action may result in an impairment of natural functions, or "ecosystem services", provided by an undeveloped area, including but not limited to stormwater storage, nutrient cycling, and wildlife habitat.

Natural ecosystems and the plants and animals within them provide humans with services that would be very difficult to duplicate. Many of these services are performed seemingly for "free", yet are worth many trillions of dollars. Ecosystems provide many "services". For example some ecosystem services include seed dispersal, wetlands that detoxify waters, natural control of agricultural pests, pollination of crops and natural vegetation, protection of streams, river and coastal shores from erosion, and contribution to climate stability, among many others. Ecosystem services are fundamental to life.

Many human activities disrupt, impair, or reengineer ecosystems every day including those that impact the resources and activities that are a subject of SEQR such as:

  • Runoff of pesticides, fertilizers, and animal wastes and erosion of soils
  • Pollution of land, water, and air resources
  • Destruction of wetlands or deforestation
  • Urban sprawl

By examining Part 1 questions, especially those that provide information about what ecosystems are present, the reviewing agency can begin to understand what ecological role those areas play. Evaluating this question in Part 2 will require reviewing agencies to be familiar with all aspects of the project and to synthesize Part 1 information so that they understand what natural ecosystems and functions may be impacted.

Applicable Part 1 Information

D.2.e., E.1.b., E.2.h., E.2.m., E.2.n., E.2.o., and E.2.p.

Analysis

There are a wide variety of questions that could be asked related to this sub-question. A sampling of major questions includes:

  • Will additional stormwater or changes surface water flows result from the project?
  • What surface water bodies will be affected by the project?
  • Will the project affect groundwater?
  • Will there be removal of natural vegetation, such as in a woodland or along a stream or river?
  • Will wetlands be impacted?
  • Will there be a loss of natural cover types such as woodlands, meadows, or grasslands?
  • Will there be a loss of habitats or biodiversity?

Will there be an impact?

All development impacts natural functions, even if in a small way. There may be limited situations where no impact could occur. It is possible that no impact to natural functioning would result if a proposed project is located at a site that is already fully disturbed and converted to developed land uses. An example of this could be development of a new structure in an existing parking area located at a large regional shopping mall. If there is no impact, check 'No, or small impact may occur.'

Small Impact:

A small impact could occur under one or more of these circumstances:

  • The physical size of the area to be impacted is small in relation to the scale of the natural resource and the resource is not identified as a significant or rare habitat or other critical location.
  • The proposed project will not induce growth or contribute to the cumulative degradation of a natural resource.
Moderate to Large Impact:

A moderate to large impact could occur under one or more of these circumstances:

  • The physical size of the area to be impacted is small, but the natural resource affected is unique, significant, limited in its range, or plays an important role in the ecology of the area.
  • Large areas of the natural resource will be physically disturbed, obstructed, or diminished.
  • The proposed project will have impacts on and off-site to natural resources due to ecological or physical connections.
  • The proposed project may have small impacts but is one that is likely to induce future growth that will have adverse cumulative impacts.

b. The proposed action may result in the loss of a current or future recreational resource.

c. The proposed action may eliminate open space or recreational resource in an area with few such resources.

Some actions may convert natural areas that are used now, or planned to be used in the future for recreational activities. This question asks the reviewing agency to explore the recreational role that the area plays. Thus, you should examine whether opportunities for hunting, trapping, fishing, hiking, bird watching, photography, or use of motorized recreational vehicles will be lost or minimized, or whether the proposed project would prevent such uses in the future. Reviewing agencies should think broadly to how the particular parcel relates to other nearby areas. For example, a community has long-term plans for creation of a 10 mile trail between two villages. The proposed project is located in the middle and in a location that would fragment the lands available for that trail. Conversion of that land to commercial use could result in a disconnect from one end of the trail to the other. In that case, the proposed project affects future recreational resources.

Some urban and suburban communities have limited open spaces and recreational resources. There may be only small patches of woodland, ribbons of greenspaces along creeks and streams, or public parks. For example, stream corridors and the trees and plants that grow beside them are critical travel corridors for wildlife and link larger habitat areas. A proposal includes removal of that vegetation and conversion to a commercial use. There may be a park or other greenspace near the project site that is a favored location for bird and other wildlife viewing. If a proposed project includes removal of that streamside vegetation, then it is possible that wildlife populations may be reduced in the nearby park and thus the project has impacted the limited recreational resources of the community.

Applicable Part 1 Information

C.2.a., C.2.c., E.1.c., and E.2.q.

Analysis

  • Is the project site currently used as a recreational resource?
    • If so, how?
  • Is the project site an open space that serves as an important link between other larger open spaces? (An aerial photograph can easily show this).
  • Will the project result in a loss of those resources?
    • If so, how, and to what extent?
  • Does the community have long-term plans for recreational use of that property?
    • If yes, how?
    • If yes, will the proposed project prevent those plans from coming about?
      • If so, how?

Will there be an impact?

If there are no recreational uses of the project site now, or if there are no planned recreational uses for that site, then there will be no related impacts. Check 'No, or small impact may occur.'

Small Impact:

A small impact could occur under one or more of these circumstances:

  • Existing or planned recreational resources are near, but not adjacent to the proposed project.
  • The proposed project is adjacent to an existing or planned recreational resource and may cause minor disturbances during construction phase but will not impair use or enjoyment of that resource.
Moderate to Large Impact:

A moderate to large impact could occur under one or more of these circumstances:

  • The proposed project diminishes recreational resources or access to those existing or planned recreational resources.
  • The proposed project disturbs land in one location that will result in direct or indirect loss of habitats that support fish and wildlife species on existing or planned recreational lands.
  • Construction and/or operational phases of the proposed project will significantly reduce access to the recreational resource.

d. The proposed action may result in loss of an area now used informally by the community as an open space resource.

Sometimes, private and public lands become informal recreational areas for neighbors and residents. Areas used informally are not officially designated as parks, trails, public open spaces, or having public access for other outdoor activities. Nonetheless, these opportunities are sometimes important to the community, and to the area's economy. Common activities done on an informal basis include hunting, trapping, fishing, hiking, and using recreational vehicles on self-made trails. They may also provide informal connections between other, more formally designated recreation areas. Most of the time, these uses have the approval of the landowner, but there is usually no written agreement with the users. A new owner or a new project may not want to continue such an arrangement, and the informal use may be discontinued under the proposed action. This question explores the impact of loss of such lands on the recreational opportunities in the area.

Applicable Part 1 Information

C.2.c. and E.1.c.

Analysis

  • What recreational activities may be taking place informally on the property?
  • How important to the community are those informal opportunities and are there other locations that can provide those same open space resources?
  • Are there any methods to maintain those informal uses after the proposed project is approved?

Will there be an impact?

If there are no recreational or open space resources used informally by the community, then there will be no related impacts. Check 'No, or small impact may occur."

Small Impact:

A small impact could occur under one or more of these circumstances:

  • Existing or planned recreational resources are near, but not adjacent to the proposed project.
  • The proposed project is adjacent to an existing or planned recreational resource and may cause minor indirect disturbances during construction phase but will not impair use or enjoyment of that resource.
Moderate to Large Impact:

A moderate to large impact could occur under one or more of these circumstances:

  • The proposed project diminishes recreational resources or access to informally used recreational resources.
  • The proposed project disturbs land in one location that will result in direct or indirect loss of habitats that support fish and wildlife species on lands used informally for recreational purposes.
  • Construction and/or operational phases of the proposed project will significantly reduce access to the recreational resource.

e. Other impacts:

There may be other impacts identified by the reviewing agency that are not addressed by the above questions. If so, they should be identified and briefly described here.

Some proposed actions may have beneficial impacts on the environment. The reviewing agency can use the 'other' category for that purpose, too.

Other questions that may apply to open space and recreation include the following. Some of these questions are related to and explored in other Part 2 questions, but the reviewing agency may want to note them again in this open space section. The project may result in a loss of:

  • An important habitat that links two larger habitats together
  • Open spaces identified by the local community as important farmland
  • Open spaces that contribute to the community's character or scenic designations
  • Open spaces that will result in fragmentation of large, intact habitats
  • Open spaces that are significant natural communities, natural landmarks, or important to endangered, threatened, or rare species or those listed as species of special concern

Back to Part 2 (FEAF) Identification of Potential Project Impacts || Continue to Part 2 (FEAF) Question 12 Impact on Critical Environmental Areas


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