|SPARC Newsletter Fall 2005
SPARC, OCFSC, Sierra, Announce Big Win
Lawsuit Settled, Lands Saved
At a press conference held on Tuesday, November 22, 2005, at the Little Britain Grange in New Windsor, N.Y., SPARC and co-plaintiffs O.C. Federation of Sportsmen's Clubs and Sierra Club, announced a settlement of their 5-year lawsuit against the state.
SPARC President Sandra Kissam said, "throughout this past summer, we have been laboriously crafting an agreement with the state agencies. . . that would win for both sides their most important objectives. The highway project is to proceed, but balancing its impacts will be the impact of 1,700 additional acres that the state has agreed to add to Stewart State Forest. . . for a total of about 7,000 acres of preserved land."
Carmen Heitczman, OCFSC's President said, "This Coalition was victorious in its efforts to achieve what a lot of people thought was unobtainable and unrealistic. The Stewart Buffer Lands are an oasis in the midst of development and urban sprawl. This land represents the one thing mankind cannot manufacture, "More Land".
SPARC, founded by Ben Kissam and formed as a coalition of sportsmen's, environmentalists', and citizen's groups, started in 1987 with the mission of saving the lands for recreation, wildlife habitat and a buffer for Stewart Airport. The agreement with the state defendants DOT and the Thruway provided that the legal challenges to the I-84 Interchange and Drury Lane highway project would be dropped, in return for the lands being preserved. A press release from Governor Pataki last Monday evening, November 21st, announced the deal, even as the press event was planned for Tuesday.
Jurgen Wekerle, Vice Chair of the Atlantic Chapter of the Sierra Club and Conservation Chair of the Ramapo/Catskill Group of the Atlantic Chapter, said, "The various lawsuits have always been about protecting the land. Against all odds, that protection has now been accomplished. None of this would have happened without an incredible grassroots citizen effort and without the leadership and perseverance of Sandra and Ben Kissam who founded SPARC. Nor would this have happened without the dedication of Carmen Heitczman and the efforts of the Orange County Sportsmen. Major Sierra Club acitivists were Gerald Davison of the Mid-Hudson Group and Ann Botshon and Betty Quick of the Ramapo/Catskill Group, with a special thanks to John Stouffer, Legislative Director of the Atlantic Chapter."
Chris White, speaking for Congressman Maurice Hinchey, attended the event and commended the coalition for its achievement. Hinchey has supported SPARC for years in its goal to protect the Buffer lands, and in June of 2004 he wrote to Governor Pataki urging him to negotiate a compromise. This past summer's negotiations have indeed made that a reality.
The press conference ended with remarks by SPARC's Vice President, Bo Eriksson, who reminded everyone about the remaining legal debt, some $60,000. In this newsletter you will read about how you can help SPARC and co-plaintiffs to pay this bill as soon as possible.
Highlights of the Agreement
The agreement is the result of negotiations that were most intense during this past summer and included the NYS DOT, the NYS Thruway, SPARC, the Sierra Club, the O.C. Federation of Sportsmen's Clubs, the NYS Attorney General's office, and SPARC coalition attorney John Caffry, with input as well from NYS DEC. The resulting consent decree is under review of the Federal District Court Judge who will maintain jurisdiction over the provisions of the settlement.
- About 75% of property between Drury Lane and Maple Ave., preserved
- The entire parcel of land located south of Crestview Lake and east of Drury Lane, up to the Catskill Aquaduct and bordering International Plaza on Stewart Airport, preserved.
- Previously unprotected land on both sides of Barron Rd., about 300 acres, preserved.
- The roadbeds and ROW's of Barron Rd. and Maple Ave. included as part of the parklands.
- Hunter access points preserved or reconstructed along Drury Lane and on Rt. 207 east of Drury Lane.
- Access preserved for the public to Tenney's Pond with a 25' easement around the pond, a boat launch area and use of the entire waters of the pond. Meanwhile, prior to any sale or transfer of lands, access to Tenney's Pond will continue. Note that Tenney's Pond is within the parcel reserved for development.
- The requirement of a 500' setback for any buildings in the developed area, so as not to impede hunting on adjacent Stewart State Forest lands.
- A guarantee that the Unit Management Plan shall be completed by December of 2006.
- A provision that each of the plaintiffs, SPARC, OCFSC, and Sierra Club, shall be included on any advisory committee or other such body for Stewart State Forest and/ or the Unit Management Plan.
- The provisions of this agreement incorporated into a Consent Decree that has the force of law.
In return, SPARC and co-plaintiffs will drop their legal challenges in both the federal and NYS courts, permitting the Drury Lane Interchange/highway project to proceed.
The coalition accepts that the "Area to be Reserved for Development" will be some 300 acres west of Drury Lane and about 100 acres east of Drury Lane, directly south of I-84, as well as about 100 acres planned for industrial development, located west of Barron Rd., just south of I-84 and between Barron Rd. and the village of Maybrook.
There are a number of other issues covered by the agreement, not mentioned here. Please feel free to email or write to SPARC or to attend upcoming meetings for answers to any questions you may have. We are very proud of what we have accomplished and happy to respond to the public.
Anyone wishing a copy of the entire document, about 25 pages, may obtain one at upcoming SPARC events or meetings. The cost (to cover printing) will be $2.00. If you wish to have a copy mailed, please request one and send $3.00 to SPARC.
The Indiana Bat
The Indiana bat is a state and federally-listed endangered species. It is easily mistaken for the common brown bat, but can be distinguished by its pinkish colored nose, as well as its dark gray or grayishbrown coat. Roughly two inches in length, it hibernates for the winter in large, tightly packed clusters in selected caves or mines. It is a friend to activist groups that will save its habitat
SPARC and co-plaintiffs Sierra and OCFSC were not thinking about the Indiana bat, and didn't know it was playing a part in the I-84 Interchange/highway project. This came to light only because of an article published in the Poughkeepsie Journal in early August of 2005. The reporter, who was trying to understand why the Army Corps of Engineers had not yet approved the amended permit for the mitigation wetland planned on Barron Rd., stumbled over the bat issue.
It seems that NYS DOT was doing habitat studies and a biological assessment regarding the bat, because there had been a documented sighting within three miles of the planned Interchange project. Apparently the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service was prohibiting the Corps from issuing any permit approvals for the mitigation site until the DOT could show that the construction of the roadway project would not harm the bat or its foraging areas.
It is interesting that the DOT had not revealed anything about this matter until the Journal broke the story. Kudos to that reporter.
It then developed that the DOT had not convinced Fish & Wildlife that bat habitat would not be harmed by the highway construction. Instead the federal agency wanted answers to many questions, especially about the secondary development that the road would encourage.
Finally, DOT revealed to Fish & Wildlife that they were in negotiations with SPARC and co-plaintiffs to agree on a settlement, and that it would result in at least 1,600 additional acres of open space being annexed to the Stewart State Forest, leaving only 400 acres available for development. Further, due to wetlands and other natural constraints, only a portion of the 400 acres would be developable.
With this dramatic increase in preserved lands and limited specific development areas, the Fish & Wildlife Service agreed that the bat would have sufficient potential foraging and nesting areas, notwithstanding the road being built.
The Coalition's attorney, John Caffry, put it so well. He wrote, "Overall, the sudden and unexpected prominence of the Indiana bat issue should really be no surprise. You [SPARC] have been saying all along that the Stewart Buffer Lands provide important wildlife habitat in a rapidly developing area. This proves your point".
Dinner A Success
On the evening of October 28, 2005 over 100 members, supporters and guests gathered at the Spruce Lodge in Coldenham to honor the memory of Rudy Vallet. Many local office holders and seekers attended as well. Fall was in the air finally and it was a perfect night to be with people, have a good meal and enjoy the memory of Rudy. He would have appreciated the atmosphere that prevailed.
Sandra, Bo Eriksson and Lynn Barber planned the event with the expert help of Sharon Soons. It would not have been possible without our Patrons: The New York/New Jersey Trail Conference, The Windy Hollow Hunt.
The room was very inviting. Joan Ruffino and Sandra had arranged centerpieces for the tables from the bounty of the fall harvest provided by Soons Orchard. Thanks to Rusty Fassnacht and his expert staff we enjoyed a buffet of very tasty dishes after a pleasant cocktail hour.
After a welcome and introduction by Sandra, Jean Paul Vallet gave an eloquent tribute to his father. His voice and manner were so evocative of Rudy we were deeply moved.
Thanks to Dr. Eric Singman we were able to award three Ben Kissam Scholarships this year to Rebecca Young, Michael Weidel and Tim Zoll
Carmen Heitczman, President of OCFSC introduced the lapel pin designed by Bo Eriksson, available for purchase at the dinner.
Our speaker for the evening was Dr. Ward Stone, Senior Wildlife Pathologist for the DEC. His talk about the work he does gave us all a lot to think about. He is really on the front lines in the struggle to keep up with the health of our wildlife and ultimately our own well being on this shrinking planet.
Environmental awards were given to Carmen Heitczman, Pres. of OCFSC, John Yrizarry, Naturalist and Artist, and Nick Zungoli, Hudson Valley landscape photographer.
By any standard, it was a very successful evening.
Susan Mischo, SPARC Board
We Are Grateful
SPARC wishes to recognize and thank the numerous organizations that have endorsed and/or supported and/or worked with us, during the 18 years we have been striving to protect the Stewart Buffer Lands.
The Sierra Club
The Orange County Federation of Sportsmen's Clubs
Black Rock Fish & Game Club, Inc.
The Hudson River Fishermen's Association
Southern Catskill Anglers
The Beacon Sloop Club
Tri-States Rod & Gun Club, Inc.
The O.C. Audubon Society
Bethlehem Rod & Gun Club
Northern Catskills Audubon Society
County Seat Conservation Club
Federation of Sportsmen's Clubs of Sullivan County
Maybrook Sportsmen's Club
Modena Rod & Gun Club
Orange Lake Fish & Game Club
Friends of the Shawangunks
Orange County Trappers
AFFIRM of New Paltz
Rock Tavern Rod & Gun Club
The NY/NJ Trail Conference
Shawangunk Fish & Game Assn., Inc.
The Adirondack Hiking Club
Silver Fox Sportsmen's Assn.
Knickerbocker Chapter of the ADK
Ulster County Trappers
Ramapo Chapter of the ADK
Walden Sportsmen's Club
The O.C. Land Trust
Woodbury Field & Stream, Inc.
Windy Hollow Hunt
Wallkill Rod & Gun Club
Citizens for Montgomery
Howell's Game Club
Historic Montgomery Association
The Gallatin Rod & Gun Club, Inc.
CLEAN Task Force
Balmville Citizens Association
The Cragsmoor Association, Inc.
The Edgar A. Mearns Bird Club
John Burroughs Natural History Society
Federation of Dutchess County Fish & Game Clubs, Inc.
The Federated Sportsmen's Clubs of Ulster County, Inc.
The Rockland County Conservation Assn., Inc.
Citizens for Crestview Lake
Friends of Sport Cycling
New Windsor Democratic Committee
Putnam County Federation of Sportsmen's Clubs
Westchester Retriever Club, Inc.
NYS Conservation Council
Suffolk Alliance of Sportsmen, Inc.
GORP, Gunks Off Road Patrol
The Westchester Conservation Council, Inc.
The Sullivan County Conservation Club
Orange County Horse Council
Rural Coalition of Landowners*
NYS Fish & Wildlife Management Board
Woodland Wingmasters Trapshooting Club
Plattekill Rod & Gun Club, Inc.
The Gallatin Rod & Gun Club, Inc.
East Hook Sportsmen's Assn. Inc.
North Shore Waterfowlers
American Bowhunters Committee
Audubon Council of NYS
The Burnside Association
C.U.R.E. Citizens United for Responsible Environment
Deer Search, Inc.
Mid Hudson Group of Atlantic Chapter of the Sierra Club
Orange County Off-Road Club
Save Our Streams
SOFAC: Save Our Forest Action Coalition
Sterling Forest Resources
Citizens for a Better New Windsor
The Hudson Valley Green Party
Bethlehem Presbyterian Church Mens Club
Bethlehem Rod & Gun Club
Big Buck Club of Greenwood Lake
Black Meadow Club
Blooming Grove Rod & Gun Club
Bucky Lane Hunting Club, Inc.
Greenville Sports Club
Little Britain Grange
Lloyd Rod & Gun Club
Middletown Pistol & Rifle Assoc.
Montgomery Sportsmen's Club
Newburgh Heights Association
Newburgh Neighbors Network
Orange County Horse Council
Otisville Sportsmen's Club
Rockland Co. Trappers
Sherman Tavern Sports Assn.
Tuxedo Sportsmen's Assn.
Walden Sportsmen's Club
Wallkill Rod & Gun Club
Warwick Valley Rod & Gun Club
Wee Wah Fishing Society
Whitetail Hunting Club