MALONE — Franklin County endorsed a pilot program Thursday that allows extended clear cutting on privately owned forest land in the Adirondack Park.
The three-year experiment involves about 10 owners of around 700,000 acres in the 6 million-acre park.
To participate, they must be certified as sustainable by either the Forest Stewardship Council or the Sustainable Forestry initiative, Legislator Timothy Burpoe (D-Saranac Lake) recently told fellow legislators.
Clear cutting removes all trees, instead of leaving some selected growth to survive.
Existing Adirondack Park Agency regulations require owners to complete an environmental review of their clear-cutting plans before APA commissioners issue a permit to allow clear cutting on 25 acres or more.
Public notice and a public-comment period are required.
Under the pilot program, clear cutting would be allowed no matter how many acres are involved, as long as one of the two forestry-certification groups deems the owner’s property environmentally sustainable.
Commissioners will no longer review clear-cutting plans before the APA staff issues a permit, and there would be no public notice or comment period required.
A public-comment period on the pilot proposal ends April 11.
The project will be in effect in all parts of the Adirondack Park, including St. Lawrence, Essex, Oneida, Lewis, Clinton, Franklin, Herkimer, Hamilton, Warren, Washington, Saratoga and Fulton counties.
Opponents fear there will be little to no control over the volume of clear cutting that occurs, since there would be no APA or public oversight.
They also fear there will be no way to determine what permanent damage the Adirondack Park might sustain.
“Clear cutting is a method of regeneration of trees, so it’s a technique (loggers) use,” said Burpoe, who works in the forest industry. “The public has a bias against it.”
He said freshly clear-cut landscape “look like a scar at first, but they green up so you can’t tell” it had been done.