FULTON COUNTY -- Changes to keep motor vehicles out of state-owned forest and a plan to harvest limited amounts of timber are coming for state forest lands in Johnstown, Ephratah and Oppenheim, according to the state Department of Environmental Conservation.
The planned changes follow DEC's approval of a unit management plan for 5,850 acres in the Lassellsville State Forest, Peck Hill State Forest and Rockwood State Forest. All are in wild and remote areas and have hiking trails.
"The plan advances DEC's commitment to managing state forests for multiple purpose -- public recreation, protection of water quality, wildlife habitat, maintenance of forest health and timber production, and for the environmental, social, and economic benefit of the people of New York state," said DEC Region 5 Director Bob Stegeman.
All three forests sit just outside the boundary of the Adirondack Park, where timber harvesting on state lands is prohibited.
Natural features in the Fulton County forests include Timmerman Creek, Rockwood Lake, and Willie Wildlife Marsh. The primary recreational uses are hunting, snowmobiling, cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, hiking, mountain biking, camping, fishing, and bird and wildlife watching.
The snowmobile trails on Lassellsville and Peck Hill state forests, as well as the cross-country ski trails on Rockwood State Forest, will continue under the new plan, and there are mountain bike trails planned in Peck Hill State Forest.
Projects included in the final management plan include installation of steel locking gates at entrances to all three forests to prohibit public motor vehicle access, while allowing individuals with a permits due to disabilities to enter.
Also planned is the installation of a privy in Rockwood State Forest to accommodate campers at nearby primitive campsites; the designation of a primitive campsite in Peck Hill State Forest near the County Route 101 trailhead; the construction of single-track mountain bike trails in Peck Hill State Forest, through a volunteer stewardship agreement with a local mountain bike club; and commercial timber harvests.
The timber harvests will follow standards set by the Forest Stewardship Council and the Sustainable Forestry Initiative, which work to have commercial timber harvests follow certain environmental standards. DEC officials said the agency is part of a growing number of public, industrial, and private forest land owners throughout the U.S. and the world whose forests are certified as sustainably managed.
The final Unit Management Plan for Fulton County State Forests is available to view and download on DEC's website.