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Victory at Hand:

Hunting Camps Will Be Saved on Leases on Champion Conservation Easement Lands

The DEC has issued a revised conservation easement allowing the 220 hunting camps to remain on leases located on the 110,000 acres of land that was formerly owned by the Champion International Corp., now owned by Heartland Forestland. In 1999, when the state acquired the Champion lands and conservation easements, all of these camps in St. Lawrence, Franklin, and Herkimer Counties were doomed to be removed by 2014.

When the conservation easement is approved, the multi-generational family culture of these hunting camps will finally be secure. And other hunters will benefit with public access. As stated publicly, the owners of the forest will continue to benefit because the camp owners are the eyes and ears on the ground that assist with the management of the productive forest. The communities of the North Country will benefit because the land will continue to support their traditional culture and economy.

The state had originally imposed a schedule of removal of the camps on the conservation easement lands of fifteen years, and for the camps on the 29,000 acres of lands acquired in fee simple of five years. The latter camps, most notably the lovely Sunbeam Club owned at the time by Industrial Contractors Corporation, are gone. Bare land is all that a person can see at the site of the Sunbeam Club at the oxbow of the St Regis River, because the location is now fully "restored" according to the official report to the APA. The new easement will prevent this awful fate for the hunting camps on the conservation easement lands.

After the loss of an estimated 77 camps of the original 298, the state's announcement of the revised conservation easement represents a great victory for the leaseholders and especially the leaders in St. Lawrence County who originally came on board our lawsuit to save the clubs in 1999 (which was not allowed a court hearing) and persisted in working with landowner Heartland Forestland LLC and the DEC over the years.

Each camp will be allowed a one-acre plot. The leaseholders will retain the right of motor vehicle access. Heartland will be permitted to lease no more than the present number of camps, which is 220.

The environmentalists will benefit because the state will receive land in exchange for allowing the camps to stay. Heartland will transfer 2,261 acres (about 3-1/2 square miles) near the Deer River Primitive Area just inside the northern boundary of the Adirondack Park to the DEC. This land will be added to the Adirondack Forest Preserve, which now is approaching three million acres in size.

In addition, 515 acres outside the park in Franklin County will become a new state forest.

The Adirondack Park Agency will be involved, as the amended conservation easement requires an amended subdivision permit. Once the subdivision process is complete, the clock will tick for one more year, at the end of which the land will also be open for the public to hunt, with the exception of the one acre at each hunting camp.

Support for this long-negotiated revision in policy is greatly needed.

Comments are important, either by letter or e-mail, by the deadline of December 28 in support of the revised conservation easement allowing the 220 hunting camps to remain on leases on the 110,000 acres of former Champion International lands to one of the following addresses:

 

Robert K. Davies, Director
Lands and Forests
NYS Dept. of Environmental Conservation
625 Broadway
Albany, NY 12233-4250

E-mail: HFF3DEIS@gw.dec.state.ny.us

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