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Source: The Buffalo News

Larry Beahan: New master plan for Allegany Park gets it right

BY LARRY BEAHAN

Posted: April 27, 2010
Originally Published: April 27, 2010

In 1983, Allegany State Park supporters went into battle for the park against a flawed master plan that would have allowed logging in a quarter of the park. Ordinary park users banded together with the Adirondack Mountain Club, Sierra Club, Foothills Trail Club, Citizens Campaign for the Environment and Audubon against loggers, gas and oil drillers and a park administration that favored resource extraction over recreation and preservation. The plan stalled.

A bad master plan turned up again in 1993. Again, massive turnouts of master plan opponents stopped the threat to violate the park’s 100-to-350-year-old forest. “Righteous Babe,” Ani DiFranco, held a benefit concert for the park. A crippled American eagle met folks at the door of the hearing in Buffalo’s downtown library where the auditorium was packed to the rafters with plan opponents and the walls were papered with 10,000 signatures on a petition to shelve the plan. Then-Gov. George E. Pataki halted it and the park languished without a guiding plan but without lumbering and with minimal gas and oil activity.

On April 14, the State Office of Parks announced a new draft master plan for Allegany State Park. This plan is excellent. It recognizes the unique natural resource the park has in its forest: the tremendous recreational and ecological value of that forest when it is left undisturbed.

Logging is not the issue this time. The Office of Parks already has a policy prohibiting commercial logging in all state parks. The threat to the forest is private mineral rights. Under half of the park, mineral rights are privately owned. U. S. Energy Corp. has threatened to drill deep horizontal, high-volume-hydro-fracked Marcellus Shale wells that have well heads of five acres.

The new plan will designate Allegany as a “Natural Heritage Area,” a “Bird Conservation Area” and 85 percent of it as “Park Preserve.” Park Preserve status offers Allegany the same “Forever Wild” protection as the old growth forest in Zoar Valley and the forest preserve in the Adirondacks. Park Preserve status will make it possible for the state to reject oil or gas exploration proposals on environmental grounds.

The plan is not perfect. It is overgenerous in new trail incursions into the forest. Too much bicycle, horse, snowmobile and foot traffic through the deep woods makes the woods less hospitable to creatures that need them: the pileated woodpecker, wolverine, fox and bear. It is sad that National Fuel’s 9,000-acre gas storage area above France Brook will not be included in the Preserve.

I’m planning to tell park administrators all this at the hearings on the new Draft Master Plan, which will be held at 7 p. m. May 12 in Salamanca High School and at 7 p. m. May 13 in the downtown library in Buffalo.

Take a look at the plan at www.nysparks.com/inside-our-agency/ public-documents. aspx.

Larry Beahan is a longtime champion of Allegany State Park.