September 8, 2013

No firearms on SUNY ESF lands

Last week the SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry (SUNY ESF) released a statement alerting both big- and small-game hunters that hunting with firearms on their properties is no longer allowed, at least for the upcoming hunting seasons. 

When Governor Andrew Cuomo’s famed NY SAFE Act was hurried through the Legislature earlier this year he clearly stated that the package was not intended to affect hunters. He’s obviously been wrong about that, and although this latest development from SUNY ESF was actually unintentional, those who hunt two of these tracts of land in the Adirondacks will likely be frustrated. The announcement comes just before the Adirondack range early black bear season opens Saturday, Sept. 14.

Specifically, the 2,500-acre Pack Forest Demonstration Area in Warrensburg as well as the 2,800-acre Dubuar Memorial Forest adjacent to SUNY ESF’s Ranger School at Wanakena near Cranberry Lake in St. Lawrence County are off limits to firearms hunters. Bowhunting and trapping are still allowed.

Under the SAFE Act possession of firearms on these properties, and also on two other properties managed by the college, is currently prohibited and is considered a Class E felony.

Article 265.01a of New York’s Penal law, which went into effect March 16 of this year, prohibits firearms possession on schools and college universities. There is an exemption for forestry lands that are both owned and maintained by SUNY ESF. According to the school’s Director of Forest Properties Robert Davis, the wording is the problem.

“We don’t own those lands, they’re owned by Syracuse University,” Davis said. “We may maintain them, they may be held in trust for us, but we do not own them.”

The ownership factor was brought to Davis’ attention by Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) staff. Davis, in turn, consulted with the SUNY’s legal council and after speaking with DEC attorneys decided it was best to prohibit firearms usage until the legislation can be changed, hopefully in early 2014.

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