State proposes new recreation access points

The state is proposing 50 new outdoor access projects to connect hunters, anglers, bird watchers and other outdoor enthusiasts to about 380,000 acres of state-owned lands across New York.

The cost of the projects will be $6 million for the hunting and fishing access points, boat launches and new hiking opportunities.

“These projects will enrich the outdoor activity offerings, improve the quality of life in our communities and position New York state as a recreation destination,” Gov. Andrew Cuomo said in a press release.

The universally designed projects are meant to provide people of all ages and abilities access to a variety of natural areas and a range of activities and experiences. In addition to hunting access, boat launches, fishing platforms and hiking trails, the projects are meant to improve access to existing recreational trails, additional parking areas, trail maps, signage and kiosks. Many projects will make trails and launches available to persons with disabilities for the first time.

Here is the list of projects slated for the North Country:

Grass River Conservation Easement in towns of Claire, Clifton and Colton in St. Lawrence County: A new car-top boat launch, parking and trail network is planned for Pleasant Lake.

East Branch of Fish Creek South Easement in town of Turin, Lewis County: Construction of an accessible parking area and fishing/wildlife platform is slated for the Salmon River, a popular site for anglers.

Oswegatchie waterway and state forest access site at Wegatchie in the town of Rossie in St. Lawrence County: Proposal to construct an accessible car-top boat launch for five cars that would provide access to the river as well as Twin Bridges Historical Site.

Fish Creek WMA in Macomb in St. Lawrence County: Plan is to create accessible parking, trail and car-top boat launch.

Vanderwhacker Mountain Wild Forest in Essex County: The plan is to construct 17 miles of new snowmobile/multiple use trails connecting the towns of Newcomb and Minerva.

Meacham Lake Campground and Debar Mountain Wild Forest in the town of Duane in Franklin County: The proposal is to build a new accessible state Department of Environmental Conservation boat launch and parking at this location.

Township 19 Conservation Easement in Indian Lake in Hamilton County: The hope is to open open a public recreation use area in Indian Lake to provide access to Barker Pond via O’Neil Road and hunting/camping on adjacent Forest Preserve parcel.

Blue Ridge, Township 20, Township 33, Somerville road on Lake Desolation Tract Conservation Easements in the towns of Long Lake and Hudson in Hamilton and Essex counties: The plan is to create new accessible parking areas at various locations with some access trails to Fishing Brook Bog, Fishing Brook, Branch River, County Line Flow, Palmer Pond, English Brook, Archer Vly and Cedar River.

Input on waterfowl sought

Hunters are invited to submit recommendations to regional Waterfowl Hunter Task Forces for the dates of the fall 2014 duck hunting seasons by April 4, the state announced recently.

DEC will evaluate the task force recommendations in setting waterfowl seasons that must comply with federal rules.

“DEC encourages public input and feedback to help in many aspects of wildlife management, and that includes determining the waterfowl hunting season dates that are most advantageous for sportsmen and women,” DEC Commissioner Joe Martens said.

New York is divided into five waterfowl hunting zones: Western, Southeastern, Northeastern, Lake Champlain and Long Island.

DEC recently appointed task forces for each zone, except Lake Champlain, to solicit recommendations for the fall 2014 hunting seasons, including opening and closing dates, split seasons and a special hunting weekend for junior hunters ages 12 to 15 years old.

Each task force includes representatives from the New York State Conservation Council, established waterfowl hunting organizations and individual waterfowl hunters who provide input from diverse points of view.

Waterfowl seasons in the Lake Champlain zone will continue to be set by the Vermont Fish and Wildlife Management Board, with input from DEC and waterfowl hunters in New York and Vermont. Although there is no formal task force for this zone, hunters can send their suggestions to any DEC season-setting team member.

The recommended dates must be within federal guidelines established by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. For fall 2014, DEC expects the USFWS to allow a 60-day duck season, split into no more than two segments per zone, opening no earlier than Sept. 27 and closing no later than Jan. 25, 2015.

Waterfowl hunters can participate in the season-setting process by providing duck season suggestions to any task force member on or before April 4. Names and contact information for all task force members are listed in alphabetical order on DEC’s website: www.dec.ny.gov/outdoor/42364.html.

Comments can be provided to DEC’s Bureau of Wildlife by mail, telephone or email, with email being the preferred method at fwwildlf@gw.dec.state.ny.us. The task forces will meet in April, and DEC plans to announce tentative duck hunting season dates in June.

Input on hunting seasons for other migratory game birds, including Canada geese, snow geese, brant and woodcock, may also be submitted to any member of DEC’s season-setting team. The list can be found on the DEC website: www.dec.ny.gov/outdoor/42364.html#Team). However, due to greater uncertainty about federal regulations for those species, decisions and tentative dates will probably not be known until summer.