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New York State Ornithological Association, Inc.

[letter on Wakely Mountain / Blue Ridge Wilderness Area]

February 17, 2006

Richard Fenton, Supervising Forester
701 South Main Street
P.O.Box 1316
Northville, NY 12134

Dear Mr. Fenton,

The New York State Ornithological Association, formerly The Federation of New York State Bird Clubs, is pleased that the DEC in its Draft Unit Management Plan is proposing to limit the group size of people allowed to camp and hike in the Blue Ridge Wilderness Area.

The plan proposes retaining the now obsolete Wakely Mountain Fire Tower, rebuilding a helipad and mounting communication equipment on the tower, all of which are at the summit. The State Land Master Plan requires the DEC to remove the fire tower, the cabin and the helipad – all are non-conforming structures.  The New York State Ornithological Association urges the DEC to comply with the Adirondack State Land Master Plan and remove these non-conforming structures so the area can be classified as “Wilderness”.  Of further concern is the status of the Bicknell’s Thrush.  Wakely Mountain is one of the few areas within New York State that this Species of Special Concern is found.  Any structure at the summit (Bicknell’s Thrush habitat) fragments and thus diminishes the already severely reduced habitat that is critical to the survival of this species.

Another section of the Draft Unit Management Plan is the proposal to cut vegetation at the summit of Sawyer Mountain to provide a vista for hikers.  Cutting trees on a Forest Preserve is a violation of the “Forever Wild Clause” (Article XIV) of the New York State Constitution.  Large tracts of wilderness are becoming increasingly rare and any fragmentation of the forest allows predators to prey on those species that require deep woods.

The New York State Ornithological Association strongly urges the Department of Environmental Conservation to comply with the State Land Master Plan which dictates that Wilderness and Primitive Areas should be, “protected and managed so as to preserve, enhance and restore, where necessary, its natural conditions.” Fire towers, helipads, cabins and cutting the mountaintop vegetation are clear violations of the “Forever Wild Clause” and the Adirondack State Land Master Plan.

Sincerely yours,

Gail M. Kirch
Conservation Co-chair

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