November 3, 2013

New conservation easements beckon hunters

A lot of attention has been paid recently to new recreational opportunities on former Finch Pruyn lands in the Essex Chain Lakes that opened to the public Oct. 1.

Area hunters, however, may want to take a look at the recently opened Sable Highlands conservation easements in Clinton and Franklin counties.

Since the state entered into an agreement with Chateaugay Woodlands LLC in 2008 to purchase 84,000 acres of conservation easement, the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation had been eyeing public access, especially for hunting, to at least some of these lands.

They’ve succeeded nicely with this deal opening up more than 28,000 acres, much of it seeing recent timber harvesting that should be attractive to hunters.

“Follow the chainsaws,” as they say.

“DEC is pleased to be able to provide access for outdoor recreation on the managed forest lands that we administer through conservation easements,” Region 5 spokesman David Winchell said. “DEC plans to open additional road mileage on the easement lands in the future to provide access to more remote areas for sportsmen and women of all abilities.”

Conservation easements involve the state purchasing development rights on a particular tract of land. Forest management continues and public access is not always guaranteed.

In many cases, and such is the case with the remaining 56,000 acres of the Sable Highlands, properties are still leased privately, usually to hunting and recreational clubs.

On DEC’s website (, interested parties, not just hunters, can find detailed information and maps on the parcels that have recently opened. The agency has even broken down favored areas for outdoor recreation, including maps geared toward hunters that show recent timber harvests.

These areas include the new Cold Brook Public Use Area, where a six-vehicle parking area has been constructed on Standish Road in Saranac, not far from the Clinton/Franklin County lines. Timber harvests have occurred in the areas north and east of Norton Peak where more than 2,500 acres adjacent to the Chazy Highlands Wild Forest are now open.

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