Big Indian Acquisition in Catskills Leads to More Wilderness, More Recreation Opportunities

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.

032414BigIndMap_cpslmpamend-5

DEC map of Big Indian Proposed Classifications, which have since been approved.

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

About Trail Walker

Since 1920, the New York-New Jersey Trail Conference has partnered with parks to create, protect, and promote a network of more than 2,100 miles of public trails in the New York-New Jersey metropolitan region. The Trail Conference organizes volunteer service projects that keep these trails open, safe, and enjoyable for the public. We publish maps and books that guide public use of these trails. The Trail Conference is a volunteer-driven nonprofit organization with a membership of 10,000 individuals and 100 clubs with a combined membership of 100,000 active, outdoor-loving people.
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One Response to Big Indian Acquisition in Catskills Leads to More Wilderness, More Recreation Opportunities

  1. I would love to ski on groomed trails near Belleayre. The current XC trails there are not groomed, little used and seem to be poorly regarded by nordic skiers, though I don’t know them well myself.
    It makes sense to offer alpine and nordic skiing together, if possible. In many families or groups of friends there are individuals who prefer one or the other. All XC trails are groomed with a simple drag trailer behind a snowmobile, so that doesn’t seem like a real constraint.
    I’m also eager to see new Wilderness lands for warmer weather hiking.

What do you think?