November 3, 2013

New conservation easements beckon hunters

By Dan Ladd

---- — 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.

Just to the east there is another 3,700 acres that has opened up off True Brook Road where there is another parking area. Barns Pond and Mud Pond are part of this tract where plans are to put in a half-dozen campsites in the future. This area has also seen plenty of timber harvesting at higher elevations.

Further north, just west of Lower Chateaugay Lake, is the Figure 8 Public Use Area on the Blair Kilns Road in the Town of Bellmont, Franklin County, that is 3,900 acres in size. A good portion of the ridge-line west of Soulia Mountain has been timbered.

A smaller 415 acre tract has opened along the North Branch of the Saranac River off Goldsmith Road. While this may be more favorable for fishing, there is also a small area that was harvested for timber.

When combined with some other recently opened facilities, such as the Chazy Highlands, and other state forests, this really makes this portion of the Adirondacks attractive to hunters. There are likely more conservation easement lands open to hunters in the northern Adirondacks than in other parts of the park. That’s good news, especially if you are a deer hunter.


When you go to the polls this Tuesday, Nov. 5, keep in mind that there are other things to vote on besides politicians. On the back of the ballot you’ll find a number of propositions that require voter approval to amend the state constitution. Two of those involve land swaps in the Adirondacks.

Proposition 5, if approved, would trade 200 acres of Adirondack Forest Preserve land in the Town of Lewis (Essex County) to NYCO Minerals, who wish to expand a current wollastonite mine there. In exchange, NYCO is offering 1,500 acres to the state, some that would provide much better access to the Jay Mountain Wilderness off Well Hill Road.

NYCO is also offering tracts near the Bouquet River and near the Jay Mountain Wilderness’ northern border. Much of the lands NYCO currently owns, and wants to swap, has been in the state’s 480a program and thus have been managed for timber.

For more than a century in Raquette Lake, there has been contested property with New York state on one side and various homes, businesses and even public facilities on the other. All parties have agreed to resolve and the result is Proposition 4.

If approved, the landowners of more than 200 tracts of property would once and for all call them their own. They’ve agreed to pay fees that would go into an account to make a future land purchase that will likely be the Marion River Carry between Raquette Lake and Utowanna Lake. It is currently owned by the Open Space Institute.

Dan Ladd is the author of “Deer Hunting in the Adirondacks,” outdoors editor for the Glens Falls Chronicle, columnist for Outdoors Magazine and contributor to New York Outdoor News. Contact him at