Department of Environmental Conservation

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Lands and Waters

New York has an astonishing wealth of land and water resources:


Image of a forest
New York's forests cover over 18.6 million acres

Today New York has more forest than it has had in the past 150 years. New York's forests serve as an important economic and recreational resource. Preserving and protecting our forests benefits local communities and industries, and the state as a whole.

Nearly 3 million acres are classified as Forest Preserve. Comprised of 2.6 million acres in the Adirondack Forest Preserve and 286,000 acres within the Catskill Forest Preserve, these lands represent a majority of all state owned property within the Adirondack and Catskill Parks.

The Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) manages more than 770,000 acres of State Forests, which include Reforestation Areas, Multiple-Use Areas, Unique Areas and State Nature and Historic Preserves, throughout New York State.

Additionally, the Department also manages nearly 902,000 acres of conservation easements lands across New York State. More than 785,000 acres (86%) of these lands are located within the Adirondacks.


Image of New York State showing watershed areas
New York State is divided into 17 watersheds

New York State's watersheds, or drainage basins, are the basis for management, monitoring, and assessment activities.

Everyone lives in a watershed. It might be large or small. All watersheds are part of the bigger environment. What you do at your house affects everyone downstream and around you.

Find watersheds facts and reports about NYS watersheds.

Lakes and Rivers

New York State is richly endowed with freshwater lakes, ponds and reservoirs, as well as portions of two of the five Great Lakes and thousands of miles of rivers and streams.

These inland water bodies serve as the drinking water supplies, provide flood control to protect life and property, and support recreation, tourism, agriculture, fishing, power generation, and manufacturing. These water bodies also provide habitat for aquatic plant and animal life.

Learn about the programs that manage lakes and rivers.

Find information about:


An estuary is a place where salty water from the ocean mixes with fresh water from the land and creates a unique and special place for marine species to live, feed, and reproduce. New York's Marine District has several estuaries which are managed cooperatively by DEC with other state, local, and federal government agencies, the scientific community, and direct input from private citizens.

More about Lands and Waters:

  • Forests - Programs to manage and protect New York State's privately and publicly owned forest lands
  • Open Space - New York's Open Space Conservation Plan serves as the blueprint for the State's land conservation efforts. DEC's smart growth program encourages economic growth within the footprint of existing communities.
  • Watersheds - Main bodies of freshwater and their watersheds in New York State.
  • Lakes and Rivers - New York State has more than 70,000 miles of rivers and streams and more than 7,600 lakes, ponds and reservoirs.
  • Oceans & Estuaries - Protecting and managing New York State's marine and estuary resources
  • Wetlands - Information on freshwater and tidal wetlands status, protection and mapping in New York State; where to see freshwater wetlands maps
  • Flood Recovery and Resiliency - The Resilient NY program will develop state-of-the-art studies to reduce flooding and ice jam formations, and improve riparian ecology on 48 high-priority flood-prone watersheds throughout New York State. The program will employ advanced modeling techniques and field assessments to identify priority projects and actions to reduce community flood and ice jam risks, while also improving habitat.
  • Groundwater - Groundwater is a critical source of water in New York State. Learn about groundwater including basic information, Primary and Principal Aquifers, groundwater resource mapping and quality monitoring, Long Island aquifers, the Divison of Water recommended pump test procedures, water supply well decommissioning recommendations, and the water well driller program.
  • Dam Safety, Coastal & Flood Protection - Programs related to flood protection, floodplain development, dam safety, and coastal management.
  • Water Quantity Management - DEC programs for protecting New York's water supplies including water withdrawals (public, non-potable, agricultural), water well reporting, Water Well Contactor Program, water conservation, drought, and interbasin water diversions.
  • Mining & Reclamation - Information about mining in New York, for general audiences and mine owners/operators.