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For Release: Wednesday, March 12, 2014

DEC Classifies Big Indian Acquisition to Enhance Recreational Opportunities and Protect Forested Lands

The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) has completed a classification process for 930 acres of recently-acquired Forest Preserve lands in the Catskill Park, DEC Commissioner Joseph Martens announced today. The property, part of a larger tract of land commonly known as the Big Indian acquisition, is located on the eastern ridge of Belleayre Mountain in the Town of Shandaken, Ulster County, and adjoins the State's Belleayre Mountain Ski Center.

"Governor Cuomo is committed to expanding recreation opportunities throughout the state, and the acquisition and classification of these lands provides a great opportunity for people to enjoy the outdoors," Commissioner Martens said. "This property offers a range of year-round activities, including hunting, fishing, hiking, wildlife viewing and more. We encourage people to enjoy these lands throughout the year."

In December 2011, New York State acquired 1,200 acres on Belleayre Mountain -- the Big Indian acquisition -- to be added to the Catskill Forest Preserve. In September 2013, DEC released a draft land classification proposal as an amendment to the Catskill Park State Land Master Plan and held a public meeting to provide information, answer questions and obtain comments. After reviewing all the public comments received, DEC finalized the classification for 930 acres of the Big Indian lands. Under this classification:

  • 630 acres on the eastern ridge of Belleayre Mountain, including all lands acquired east of Giggle Hollow Brook and north of the Belleayre Ridge, will be classified as wild forest and added to the Shandaken Wild Forest. This includes additional lands in Lost Clove. The draft plan had proposed to classify these lands as wilderness. However, a wild forest classification will allow several existing wood roads in that area to accommodate recreational activities such as bicycling that are permissible in wild forest. In addition, the wild forest classification will allow the development and grooming of improved cross-country ski trails on the property in close proximity to the Belleayre Mountain Ski Center. Grooming will be limited to the use of a snowmobile with a drag.
  • Approximately 300 acres in Lost Clove, including the Lost Clove Trail, will be classified as wilderness and added to the Big Indian Wilderness Area. This classification will protect important natural resources and the character of these lands, while providing non-motorized or mechanized recreational use such as hiking and hunting.

As part of a draft revision of the Belleayre Mountain Ski Center's UMP, which DEC released in May of 2013, DEC also proposed to classify 270 acres of the Big Indian Acquisition as intensive use and add these lands to the Ski Center. Also under the draft UMP, 150 acres would be reclassified from intensive use to wilderness and added to the adjoining Big Indian Wilderness. These proposed revisions are still being reviewed.

DEC is responsible for managing the constitutionally protected Forest Preserve in the Catskill Park. The Catskill Park State Land Master Plan, developed by DEC, applies a classification system that ranges from wilderness to wild forest to intensive use and provides guidelines for the management of those lands. Classifications are based on the physical character of the lands and their capacity to accommodate human use, including recreational activities. The Land Master Plan also designates management units and directs DEC to develop individual unit management plans that guide management activities and public use of those units, while also ensuring the protection of natural resources. For a comprehensive explanation of state land classifications and a copy of the classification and a map of the recently classified lands visit DEC's website.

Governor Cuomo's NY Open for Fishing and Hunting Initiative is an effort to improve recreational activities for sportsmen and sportswomen and to boost tourism opportunities throughout the state. This initiative includes the streamlining of fishing and hunting licensing and reducing license fees, improved access for fishing at various sites across the state and increasing hunting opportunities in various regions. This year, Governor Cuomo unveiled the NYS Adventure License, which allows outdoor enthusiasts, boaters, anglers and hunters to consolidate their recreation licenses and benefits onto their New York State Driver's License, and the NYS Adventure License Plates, featuring nine plate designs available for free to those buying new lifetime hunting, fishing or park licenses in 2014.

In support of this initiative, this year Governor Cuomo has proposed creating 50 new land access projects to connect hunters, anglers, bird watchers and others who enjoy the outdoors to more than 380,000 acres of existing state and easement lands that have gone untapped until now. These 50 new access projects include building new boat launches, installing new hunting blinds and building new trails and parking areas. In addition, the Governor's 2014-15 budget proposes to: include $4 million to repair the state's fish hatcheries; limit the liability of landowners who allow recreational activities on their properties, which could open up vast, untapped resources for additional hunting, fishing and many other recreational pursuits; and allow crossbow hunting once again in New York State.

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