The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation has a proposal to reclassify forest preserve lands in the Catskill Park, and there’s a public meeting tonight.
In December 2011, the New York State DEC acquired 1,200 acres on Belleayre Mountain, commonly referred to as the Big Indian acquisition. It was part of a deal with Crossroads Ventures, the developers of the proposed Belleayre Resort at Catskill Park. The property encompasses about 940 acres of Forest Preserve on the eastern ridge of Belleayre Mountain in the Town of Shandaken, in Ulster County, and adjoins the state's Belleayre Mountain Ski Center. Kathy Nolan, with Catskill Heritage Alliance, says her group generally supports the three classifications being proposed.
Earlier this year, DEC released a draft revision of the Belleayre Mountain Ski Center's Unit Management Plan that included a proposal to classify 263 acres of the Big Indian Acquisition as intensive use, to be added to the Belleayre Mountain Ski Center. In addition, the revised Ski Center plan proposes to reclassify 149 acres of the Ski Center property, currently classified as intensive use, to wilderness and add it to the adjoining Big Indian Wilderness. The proposal classifies the remainder of the new acquisition, approximately 940 acres. Of this, DEC proposes to classify about 542 acres on the eastern ridge of Belleayre Mountain — including all lands acquired east of Giggle Hollow Brook and north of the Belleayre Ridge — as wild forest, which would be added to the Shandaken Wild Forest. Again, here’s Nolan, who took part in preliminary discussions with DEC staff about the reclassification.
She explains that a wild forest classification, while permitting some forms of recreation, generally bans motorized vehicles. She points out that the proposal does contain leeway for snowmobile use only for grooming paths, not for recreation.
DEC proposes to classify some 361 acres in Lost Clove as wilderness, which would be added to the Big Indian Wilderness Area.
The DEC published its proposal in the Environmental Notice Bulletin September 4, but issued a press release September 16. DEC was scheduled to hold a public informational meeting to present the proposal and receive public comments Tuesday at 7 at the Belleayre Mountain Ski Center Overlook Lodge in Highmount. Nolan says unless you were closely following the topic, the press release may be the first time the public is learning of the proposal.
Comments on the draft revision of the plan may be submitted until September 30. A DEC spokesperson did not respond to a request for comment in time for this broadcast.