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Old 07-18-05, 06:47 AM   #1
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Proposal to limit trail use in Upstate NY

I haven't totally formed an opinion since this article is the first i'm seeing it. On the surface though, the hypocricy runs rampant

Sorry about the formatting, it cut 'n pasted very strangely:

"State foresters are endorsing a proposal that would open forests in Broome and Tioga counties to drilling for natural gas companies and put seasonal restrictions on mountain biking and horseback riding.

THOMAS LA BARBERA / Press & Sun-Bulletin

Jim Youngs of the Town of Owego, front, rides with Lorrie and George Elmy of Endicott at Oakley Corners State Forest in the Town of Owego. A new plan allows drilling on state forest land, but restricts mountain biking and horseback riding.

If You Go
A meeting about Broome County forests will be from 7 to 9:45 p.m. July 26 at the Windsor High School auditorium on Route 79. It applies to eight state forests that encompass 5,373 acres in the towns of Sanford, Windsor, Vestal and Kirkwood.

The meeting about Tioga County forests will be from 6:30 to 8:45 p.m. July 27 at the Candor High School auditorium, Academy Street, Candor. The plan includes four tracts encompassing 3,692 acres at Jenksville State Forest in the towns of Berkshire and Newark Valley, and Oakley Corners State Forest in the Town of Owego.

The state is accepting public comments on the plans, available at local libraries, until Aug. 26. Copies also will be available at website/dlf/publands/ump/ index.html.

The draft plans -- one for each county -- give a blueprint for how 9,055 acres of state forests in the area will be managed to balance recreational and economic interests. They call for maintaining a ban on all-terrain vehicles, with some exceptions for people with limited mobility, and creating additional parking spaces, informational stations and primitive camping sites.

The state will present the plans in public meetings on July 26 in Windsor and on July 27 in Candor. Officials will consider public comments until Aug. 26 before finalizing the plans.

Just about everybody has a stake in the issue.

Equestrians and mountain bikers are just two of many recreational groups considered in the management plans, including campers, snow-mobilers, skiers, anglers and boaters. Even taxpayers who never venture into state forests have an interest in their management, which includes consideration for economic and ecological interests for the greater community and future generations.

Under the plans released last week, mountain biking will not be allowed from the beginning of November through the end of April. Neither will horseback riding. Snowmobile access will be considered on a case-by-case basis.

The seasonal restriction for horseback riding and mountain biking is intended to protect trails from damage when the ground is soft and wet, according to the plans.

It's well-meaning but misguided, said some enthusiasts, who added that it's ironic the state is restricting their use while allowing heavy equipment to clear large swaths for roads, pipelines and drilling rigs.

"I don't see it as a fit," said Jeff Darrow, a mountain biker who lives in Owego. "They were all worried about the impression of a tire track from a mountain bike, now they're saying it's OK to bring in the heavy equipment."

Limiting mountain biking to a certain season is "ridiculous," Darrow said, because trail conditions vary from week to week and month to month. Sometimes, wet conditions in May make for poor riding, while dry conditions or firm ground in late fall or early winter make for ideal conditions. He said it was up to mountain bikers and other trail users to use the trails responsibly and educate those who don't.

Sometimes the best riding is in November and December, said Lorrie Elmy, a Town of Union resident who frequently rides with her friends in nearby Oakley Corners state forest, a 1,050-acre tract in eastern Tioga County.

"We get some of our best riding in before Christmas," she said. Like Darrow, she finds the seasonal restrictions silly when considering the damage from drilling rigs.

Good point, said Dave Sinclair, a forester who manages lands in the Southern Tier.

"There is some validity to that," he said. "It's certainly going to have an impact." He added that the plan is not final, and the state is willing to work with user groups to manage the forests.

"If they have suggestions, we will listen to them," he said.

The issue of how state forest lands are used is not new. Foresters have been working on a statewide plan since 1999 that lays ground rules for recreational users. That plan, which still hasn't been finalized, originally limited horseback riding and mountain biking to designated trails. That part of it was changed after "resounding feedback" from some of the groups, Sinclair said.

The plan has been delayed while the state develops a comprehensive policy dealing with all-terrain vehicle use. ATVs are not allowed on state forest land, and it looks like that won't change, Sinclair said. The most recent plan does include a limited number of designated ATV trails in certain areas to permit access for people with disabilities.

Debate over public lands -- who uses them and how -- tends to be led by users who often are fiercely passionate about their particular interests. But many of the groups are united in their opposition to the drilling proposal.

Rosie Illsley, owner of Pleasant Hill, a horse farm and tack shop in Port Crane, said the forests are an asset to businesses like hers.

"The more people ride, the further they ride, the better for business," she said.

She can understand the benefit of tapping their natural resources -- such as natural gas and timber -- to help the economy and the state, but not unless some money filters back to the local economy.

New York has earned more than $10 million in land leases to natural gas exploration companies since 1999.

But only money from gas rigs on specially designated wildlife management areas -- none of which are in Broome or Tioga counties -- goes back to the state DEC to purchase new lands. The rest goes into the general fund.

"The money's getting too lost," Illsley said."
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Old 07-18-05, 07:10 AM   #2
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I'll definitely be reading this later. I MTB'd up in the area a few times... doesn't sound good from a first glance!
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