NYC watershed/reservoirs still closed to hunting an fishing

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The following column was published in the Mid Hudson Times and the Wallkill Valley Times, Orange County, New York -- 1/30/02 (some text was changed from the original to eliminate confusion of out of region readers)
                                           

Written by Frank Carbone Jr.

To Fish or Not to Fish  

New York City Watershed/Reservoirs in the Catskill Mountains still closed to hunting, fishing and hiking.

Recent news reports are saying that New York State (NYS) Governor George Pataki is announcing this year's NYS Budget has been increased to $88.6 billion up from $79.6 billion last year. Reports also say there will be many (500+) job cuts in the state s prison systems and no new money for education. But ($40 million) boondoggle projects like the Drury Lane and Interstate 84 Interchange Project will still move forward. The construction of this interchange project will open up (to development) 2,000 acres of the 7,000 Stewart Buffer Zone Hunting Co-op in Orange County. Also, Pataki expects increased revenues, to help balance the budget, by raising hunting and fishing license fees. In the past, license sales had been steadily falling but recent reports say that they've leveled off.

I wrote in a previous lengthy column of 8/15/01 ( License Fee Increase -- Enigma, Sham? ) that proved what a minuscule percentage -- of the entire NYS budget -- that was dedicated to the operation of the NYS Department of Environmental Conservation (NYSDEC). At that time the DEC s total budget was $74.6 [million]. This was equal to about 0.09% of the entire NYS budget -- at that time the total budget was $79.6 [billion]. Previously (in 2000) $25.4 million (or 34%) of the total DEC budget came from general funds. The remainder of the DEC budget (66%) was comprised of monies collected from hunting, fishing, trapping license sales and excise taxes from the sales of hunting and fishing equipment.

The 34% that the state contributed was a paltry sum that was equal to 0.03% of the total NYS Budget (last year) of $79.6 billion. It just doesn't make good business sense to only set aside a paltry 0.03% (3/100ths of one percent) of the total state's budget to protect wildlife, habitat, our environment and also to fund and manage Environmental Conservation Law Enforcement -- for the entire state and marine waters. A good analogy would be if your family had an annual income of $50,000 and you had one child -- the weekly allowance for that child would be 29 cents.

Even if Gov. Pataki doubled all of the different hunting and fishing license fees -- which is not going to ever happen. The new fees would only contribute about 0.08% ($74.6 million) to the new $88.6 Billion budget.

The irony of the limited information, in the previous paragraphs, and the following New York City Department of Environmental Protection (NYCDEP) press release, says that Pataki wants us to pay more to hunt, fish, trap while he attempts to sell 2,000 acres of the Stewart Buffer Lands Hunting Co-op here in Orange County, NY. At the same time the NYCDEP closed all of the NYC Reservoir Watersheds (100,000 acres) to fishing, hunting and hiking as of September 11, 2001 -- and they don't know when they will reopen them for public use.

The bottom line, as I see it, is that Gov. Pataki should be taking a lot more than a paltry 0.03% from the general fund for the DEC operating budget -- there is entirely too much emphasis and responsibility put on hunters, fisher-folks and trappers to support the DEC budget -- we aren t the only ones who benefit from NYS fish, wildlife, mountains, air and waters.

A special note to Gov. Pataki: Using the excuse well, that's the way we always did it doesn't hold water anymore.

In the retail and manufacturing industry -- when sales begin to fall -- management finds cost effective ways to stay in business, become more competitive or just have a giant sale. With hunting and fishing license sales in a slump it's not a good time to raise the fees.

* * *

New Permit System Requirements for all NYC Reservoirs

The New York City Department of Environmental Protection (NYCDEP) introduces a new public access permit system for recreational use on water supply lands. If you plan to fish the NYC Reservoirs this year you may want to read the following information from a NYCDEP press release.

Commissioner Joel A. Miele Sr., P.E., of the New York City Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) announced today that the agency is introducing a new Public Access Permit system for certain Water Supply reservoirs and lands. All City-owned properties have been closed and individual recreational permits suspended as a security precaution in response to the terrorist attacks of September 11th. Under the new system, all current permit holders -- anglers, rowboaters, hikers and hunters alike must acquire a new Public Access Permit that will allow for access to designated, City-owned properties in the watershed when they are reopened.

We have reviewed and continue to review our security practices in consultation with federal, State and City agencies, and the FBI has notified police agencies nationwide to remain on high alert through March 11, 2002, said Commissioner Miele. Unfortunately, we have had to cancel ice fishing on Croton System reservoirs this winter and, at this time, we cannot say precisely when Water Supply lands will be reopened. To allow recreational use of City-owned lands to resume, however, it has been determined that we must revamp DEP s permit system to enhance our ability to identify users and to maintain complete records.

The one Public Access Permit will afford access to designated City-owned lands for both fishing and hiking and, with additional special registration, for rowboats and hunting, said Commissioner Miele. By requiring all permit holders to re-apply, DEP will have a current, comprehensive record of each and every active permit holder. DEP takes very seriously the responsibility of delivering water to over nine million people each and every day. We believe that the new permitting system will allow us to do that and still accommodate the many people who treasure the recreational opportunities afforded on Water Supply properties.

Each DEP Public Access Permit will be individually numbered and allow the holder to fish from the shores of reservoirs, and to fish and hike on specified properties acquired by the City since the signing of the Watershed Memorandum of Agreement in 1997. All currently valid five-year boating permits will remain valid, but each permittee must apply for a new Public Access Permit. Those who want to register for hunting in the future, or register a new rowboat, must have a Public Access Permit to obtain these additional benefits. More information about boating and hunting registration and any revised procedures for those uses will be provided later this spring and fall.

To obtain a new Public Access Permit, current permit holders and new applicants must fill out an application form and send it to the specified address. DEP will mail applications for Public Access Permits to all current holders of five-year fishing permits and hiking permits, to all registered boat owners, and to everyone who has applied for a hunting permit in the past. While current holders of lifetime and five-year permits may retain their old permit cards, they must apply for the new Public Access Permits. Only permits issued in 2002 or thereafter will be acceptable for admittance to City lands.

DEP will supply town halls and bait and tackle shops in the watershed with application forms. All DEP Police Precincts and Protection Permit Offices will have applications. Additionally, people can print the application directly from the DEP Web site at http://www.nyc.gov/watershedrecreation. If currently registered permit holders have not received a new application form from DEP by March 1, they should obtain and fill out a new application form.

Completed applications must be mailed to NYCDEP, 71 Smith Avenue, Kingston, NY 12401. Once an application is received and accepted by DEP, a 2002 permit will be generated and the applicant will receive notice that it can be picked up -- in person with an acceptable, government-issued photo identification -- at the DEP Police precinct specified by the applicant on the application form.

DEP has appreciated the support, recommendations and patience of all the users of our Water Supply lands during these trying times, said Commissioner Miele. Now I want to encourage people to send in their applications as soon as they receive them so that we can process them before the lands are reopened, said Commissioner Miele. This new permit system will enable us to better manage and facilitate recreational use and to help us avoid disruptions to access in the future. Once the new permit system is in place, DEP will be able to communicate better with recreational permit holders and work more closely with groups interested in outdoor recreational activities as well as the protection and continued use of Water Supply lands.

People with questions about obtaining new permits may call 1-800-575-LAND. Applications may be obtained at the following DEP locations:
DEP Web site: http://www.nyc.gov/watershedrecreation

Police Precincts [Normal business hours Monday-Friday]
Ashokan Precinct, Route 28A, Shokan 845/657-8433
Beerston Precinct, Route 10 south of Walton 607/865-4185
Croton Precinct, Route 129, 1.5 mile south of the Taconic Parkway, Yorktown 914/245-6694
Downsville Precinct, Route 30, Downsville 607/363-9000
Hillview Precinct, 100 Central Park Avenue North, Yonkers 914/237-3720
Neversink Precinct, Route 55, Neversink 845/292-4315
Protection Permit Offices [Permit Offices are closed during winter months, but applications will be available in boxes outside the offices.]
Croton (East of Hudson) Reservoirs, 54 Croton Falls Road, Mahopac, NY 10541 - 914/232-1309
Ashokan Reservoir, Route 28A, Shokan, NY 12468 - 845/657-2663
Rondout & Neversink Reservoirs, Route 42, Grahamsville, NY 12740 - 845/985-2524
Pepacton & Cannonsville Reservoirs, Route 30, Downsville, NY 13755 - 607/363-7009

DEP Offices in NYC [Normal business hours Monday-Friday]
Bureau of Customer Services, 1250 Broadway (8th Floor), New York, NY 10001 - 212/643-2172 or 2201
One-Stop Center (First Floor), 96-05 Horace Harding Expressway, Corona, NY 11368 -- 718/595-7778

* * *

The Stewart Park and Reserve Coalition (SPARC) -- the folks who have been saving the "Buffer" from development since 1987 -- has been running a public service announcement on Cable 6 and CNBC. The message is to make everyone aware that the NYSDOT is still moving forward with the Drury Lane Interchange Project that will open 2,000 acres of the Buffer Lands to development. Call Gov. Pataki at 518-474-1041 and tell him that you think this project is a threat to the Buffer, another boondoggle to a failing airline industry and if Pataki really wanted to tighten the budget belt he should start by canceling this unnecessary project and other "pork" monies.

* * *

"Outdoor Liaisons" appears every other week in the Times - Frank can be reached at the Times or email [email protected] or 845-562-0941.
 


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