The state Adirondack Park Agency has postponed action indefinitely on a controversial clear-cutting proposal that was supposed to come before the agency board next week.
The news came first from Protect the Adirondacks, one of several environmental groups that urged the APA to reject the proposed general permit, when it issued a press release Thursday evening announcing the agency will not take the proposal up at its January meeting.
"The APA got the message that this new general permit to make it easier to clearcut Adirondack forests is not a good idea," Protect Executive Director Peter Bauer said in the release. "It was clear that the APA was trying to rush this through without any supporting evidence and by not holding a formal public hearing."
APA spokesman Keith McKeever confirmed to the Enteprise Friday morning that the proposal will not be on the board's agenda next week. He cited the volume of public comment the agency received, some 300 letters.
"It's just not moving forward at this time," McKeever said. "We're not saying its not going to move forward, we just need more time to go through all the public comments we received."
McKeever added later in an email that the agency will be meeting with stakeholders to discuss the proposal "and will bring the matter to a vote when that process is complete."
The proposed general permit would streamline the review of clear-cutting proposals for landowners involved in forestry certification programs like those run by the Forest Stewardship Council and the Sustainable Forestry Initiative. The general permit would also apply to lands under conservation easements with stewardship requirements. It would eliminate public notice requirements, shorten the time frame for approval and allow agency staff to issue permits without a vote by the APA board.
The agency said that incentivizing landowners to engage in sustainable forestry would improve the health of forests by. McKeever said that hasn't changed.
"We still feel that way," he said Friday. "We still feel as though it's a good way to approach timber cutting in the Adirondacks."
Environmentalists countered that the Park Agency didn't provide any data to back up its claim that forest health would be improved by the plan.
"Good data and good science makes good public policy," Bauer said. "The APA provided no data and no science to support this controversial new program."
Green groups were also concerned about timber companies engaging in large-scale clear-cuts on conservation easement lands, and that it could erode public support for land protection through conservation easements.
Earlier Thursday, Adirondack Wild: Friends of the Forest Preserve issued a press release calling for the APA to further study the proposal and involve scientists, foresters, land managers and conservation stakeholders in that process.
"We are calling for a deliberative, inclusive and transparent study of today's forest management and related regulatory issues facing the Park's private forest lands," Adirondack Wild's David Gibson said in the release. "Any permit policy or regulatory changes should be based in part upon the facts and conclusions emerging from that study."
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