DEC releases draft of new Kushaqua plan

The state Department of Environmental Conservation recently released a draft recreation management plan for the Kushaqua Tract Conservation Easement Lands, and will hold a public meeting about them Wednesday at Paul Smith’s College.

The DEC is also accepting public comments on the plan until Feb. 21.

The Kushaqua Tract property is located in east-central Franklin County, on lands west of the hamlets of Ochiota and Loon Lake. About 10,210 acres are located in the town of Brighton and the rest, about 8,775 acres, is in the town of Franklin.

Most of the land surrounding this tract is part of the Debar Mountain Wild Forest. There is also private property adjoining the land to the south and east.

Some of the prominent nature features on the property include cliffs on the southern side of Loon Lake Mountain, the Sable Mountain Range, Mountain Pond and the headwaters of the North Branch of the Saranac River.

The land was owned for years by the International Paper Company, until April 2004 when IP and the state announced their intention to strike a deal for the property. The agreement stated that more than 255,00 acres of IP ownership, across 21 tracts in nine counties and 34 towns, would be held in a working forest conservation agreement. The private land owners also retained some development rights.

The lands were purchased in 2006 by Lyme Timber Company, which continues to actively manage the lands for timber. Much of the land has actually been logged for more than a 120 years and includes an extensive road system.

There are 31 one-acre camp envelopes on the property that still retain exclusive use for hunters and fishermen, a tradition that dates as far back as the late 1800s.

DEC developed the draft plan to facilitate and manage public recreational use of the easement lands and complies with the terms and conditions of the easement. DEC consulted with the landowner and its forest management consulting firm in developing the proposed plan. In addition, DEC obtained input from a variety of stakeholders, including local governments, snowmobile and ATV clubs, sportsmen and women, hikers and private lease club members.

The plan includes proposals to construct campsites and designated parking areas, construct new trails for motorized and non-motorized users, provide access for people with disabilities, enhance fishing access and repair, upgrade and open to the public more than 38 miles of existing access roads for motorized and non-motorized uses including ATVs, snowmobiles and automobiles.

Proposed management actions include:

– Maintaining and rehabilitate existing facilities (including brushing, raking, grading and rehabilitation of roads and bridges)

– Designating one existing logging road as open for people with disabilities

– Install informational, safety and boundary line signage

– Construct or upgrade seven trails intended for non-motorized use

– Construct five designated parking lots

– Upgrade and open for public access more than 38 miles of existing roads for both motorized and non-motorized uses including use by ATVs

– Install a universally accessible dock to provide for an accessible fishing, paddling and boating on the Mountain Pond;

– Construct 12 campsites

– Construct and maintain gates and other barriers to prevent illegal motorized use on sections of roads that are not open to public use

A public meeting will be held at 6:30 p.m. on Wednesday, Feb. 5 in the auditorium of the Freer Science Building at Paul Smith’s College in the town of Brighton. The meeting will provide the public with an opportunity to learn more on the proposed management actions in the draft recreation plan and to provide comment on the proposals. The meeting facility is wheelchair accessible. Please provide any requests for specific accommodations to 897-1291.

DEC will accept comments on the draft plan until Friday, Feb. 21. The draft is available for public review at DEC’s Region 5 headquarters in Ray Brook and at the town offices of Brighton and Franklin. Copies are available in electronic format for distribution on compact disc and may be requested by calling DEC at 897-1291. A limited number of printed copies are available as well. The complete document is available on DEC’s website.

Written comments may be sent to Sean Reynolds, Senior Forester, NYSDEC, P.O. Box 296, Ray Brook, NY 12977, or emailed to until Friday, Feb. 21.