More Wilderness, more Wild Forest, and a bigger Belleayre Intensive Use area. That’s the outcome of a classification process by New York’s Dept. of Environmental Conservation (DEC) on 1,200 acres of land within the Catskill Park in the Town of Shandaken, Ulster County. The process amends the Catskill Park State Land Master Plan.
The state acquired the land, known as the Big Indian Acquisition in 2011. Since then, consulting with various stakeholders, including the Trail Conference, DEC has been reviewing the land for classification into Forest Preserve management categories. In January, the department announced that the lands would be divided and added to three adjacent, but distinct, management zones:
- 630 acres on the eastern ridge of Belleayre Mountain, including all lands acquired east of Giggle Hollow Brook and north of the Belleayre Ridge, will be classified as Wild Forest and added to the Shandaken Wild Forest unit. This includes lands in Lost Clove from the Lost Clove Trailhead east to the front of the Belleayre Ridge. A Wild Forest classification will allow several existing wood roads in that area to accommodate recreational activities such as hiking, bicycling and the development and grooming of improved cross-country ski trails on the property, which is in close proximity to the Belleayre Mountain Ski Center. Grooming will be limited to the use of a snowmobile with a drag.
- Approximately 300 acres in Lost Clove, including the Lost Clove Trail, will be classified as Wilderness and added to the Big Indian Wilderness Area. This classification will protect important natural resources and the character of these lands, while allowing non-motorized recreational uses such as hiking and hunting.
- As part of a draft revision of the Belleayre Mountain Ski Center’s UMP, which DEC released in May of 2013, DEC also proposed to classify 270 acres of the Big Indian Acquisition as Intensive Use and add these lands to the Ski Center. Also under the draft UMP, 150 acres would be reclassified from Intensive Use to Wilderness and added to the adjoining Big Indian Wilderness. These proposed revisions are still being reviewed.
Now that the classification of these lands has been completed, the next step will be to undertake an amendment or revision of the Shandaken Wild Forest Unit Management Plan (UMP) to reflect the addition of the newly added lands to this unit, and to make management proposals such as the development of trails on the property. The DEC hopes to begin that process later this year.
The Trail Conference, together with our regional partners, will continue to work with DEC, the agency responsible for managing the constitutionally protected Forest Preserve in the Catskill Park, to ensure the development of access areas and sustainable trail networks in the area. In addition, the Trail Conference looks forward to the opportunity to provide stewardship and maintenance for any new proposed trails as part of our Catskills Trails Program.
To learn more about the Trail Conference’s programs in the Catskills, please visit www.nynjtc.org/catskills
For more information and a copy of the approved amendment to the Catskill State Land Master Plan, visit http://www.dec.ny.gov/lands/43013.html
–By Jeff Senterman, Catskills Program Coordinator