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Democrat Photo by Ted Waddell

ON THE MONGAUP TRAIL: Participants in a tour of the Catskill Forest Preserve walk along a trail in the Mongaup campground. From the left: Elaine Carpenter, a business owner from Downsville; Jeffrey Rider, senior forester with the Department of Environmental Conservation Region 3; Dave Collins, a local farmer whose family has owned land overlooking the Beaverkill for more than 150 years; and Michael Austin of Austin PR, a public relations firm in NYC.

Tourists Get a Taste Of
Catskills Preservation

By Ted Waddell
SULLIVAN COUNTY — June 20, 2000 -- On Wednesday, June 7, the Catskill Center for Conservation and Development teamed up with the NYS Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) to conduct a day-long tour of selected sites within Sullivan County which are part of the Catskill Forest Preserve.
In Friday’s edition, we focused on the tour and what participants learned from their DEC guides. Today, we present a look at the Catskill Forest Preserve and the Catskill Forest Preserve Public Access Plan of 1999. The Catskill Center for Conservation and Development is a non-profit organization headquartered in Arkville that promotes environmental education and awareness in six NYS counties: Delware, Greene, Otsego, Schoharie, Sullivan and Ulster.
The mission of the NYS DEC is “to conserve, improve and protect New York’s natural resources and environment and control water, land and air pollution, in order to enhance the health, safety and welfare of the people of the state and their overall economic and social well-being.”
The Catskill Forest Preserve was created on May 15, 1885 when Governor David B. Hill signed legislation requiring that “All the lands now owned or which may hereafter be acquired by the State of New York (in three Catskill and 11 Adirondack counties) be forever kept as wild forest lands. They shall not be sold nor shall they be leased or taken by any person or corporation, public or private.”
The Catskill Park was created by Chapter 233 of the NYS Laws of 1904, encompassing 576,120 acres. Today, the park covers 1,102 square miles (705,500 acres).
According to DEC statistics, an estimated 530,000 people visited the Catskill Park in 1996.
In 1985, the DEC completed a Catskill Park State Land Master plan which implemented a series of recommendations made by the Catskill Study Commission.
The NYS Legislature authorized development of the state’s first Open Space Conservation Plan in 1990. Two years later, the DEC and Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation (OPRHP), working together with nine regional citizen advisory committees, completed the first Open Space Plan.
The plan proposed which open spaces should be saved for NYS’s future, and described how open space resources can be conserved and managed by sensible, cost effective methods.
The plan identified the forest preserve as a major resource category, and established a mechanism for adding Catskill Forest Preserve lands and acquiring conservation easements within the park. It specifically proposed a dedicated funding source to implement many of the recommendations.
In 1993, the NYS Environmental Protection Act was passed. The act established the Environmental Protection Fund (EPF) for State Open Space Conservation Projects and other related conservation/environmental protection projects.
In the 1999 plan, DEC said, “The Catskill Forest Preserve Public Access Plan treats, for the first time, the many parcels of state land within the Catskill Park as parts of a single Catskill Forest Preserve.”
A series of recommended actions for this unique approach includes a balanced approach to the development of appropriate access and recreational opportunities on the forest preserve… a system of information about the natural, cultural, educational and economic values… and the creation of new recreational opportunities and programs, “in a way that will enhance and protect the scenic travel corridors of the Catskill Park and take advantage of opportunities to form partnerships with Catskill governments, communities and businesses.”
The three main use classifications in the Catskill Forest Preserve are wilderness, wild forest and intensive. The wilderness classification is the most restrictive. In wild forest areas, higher levels of recreational use are allowed, while intensive use areas include campgrounds.
For information about the Catskill Forest Preserve, call DEC foresters Jeff Rider at 256-3083 or Bill Rudge at 256-3111, at the NYS DEC Region 3 headquarters in New Paltz.



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