2. Introduction to the Pine Barrens Act

2.1 The Long Island Pine Barrens Protection Act of 1993

The "Long Island Pine Barrens Protection Act" (Chapters 262 and 263 of the New York State laws of 1993) was passed unanimously by the New York State Legislature in the closing days of its 1993 legislative session. Sponsored by Senator Kenneth LaValle and Assemblyman Thomas DiNapoli, the Act was signed into law by Governor Mario Cuomo on July 14, 1993. The Act established a process for creating the third largest forest preserve in New York State, centered upon Long Island's Central Pine Barrens.

The Pine Barrens Protection Act is an amendment to the Environmental Conservation Law (ECL) Article 57, "the Long Island Pine Barrens Maritime Reserve Act" of 1990 (Chapter 814 of the laws of 1990), which delineated a terrestrial and marine planning area for Eastern Long Island, and established an accompanying planning entity, the Long Island Maritime Reserve Council. The 1993 amendments which comprise the Pine Barrens Protection Act require that a comprehensive management plan be developed for that subset of the Maritime Reserve known as the Central Pine Barrens. This 100,000 acre area covers portions of the towns of Brookhaven, Riverhead and Southampton, and small portions of the villages of Quogue and Westhampton Beach. Specifically, ECL Section 57-0105 states that

The legislature further finds that a portion of the system known as the Central Pine Barrens area requires the preparation and implementation of a state supported regional comprehensive land use plan that will provide for the preservation of the core preservation area, protection of the Central Pine Barrens area and for the designation of compatible growth areas to accomodate appropriate patterns of development and regional growth with recognition of the rights of private land owners and the purpose of preservation of the core area.

The Pine Barrens Protection Act defines two geographic areas, the overall Central Pine Barrens (CPB) zone and the smaller 52,500 acre Core Preservation Area (CPA), contained within the larger area. Those portions of the Central Pine Barrens which are not within the Core Preservation Area are referred to as the Compatible Growth Area (CGA, approximately 47,500 acres).

Figure 2-1: Central Pine Barrens statutory areas

(Please see printed version of Plan.)

Other provisions in the 1993 act contain amendments to the State Finance Law and Public Officers Law, and address the relationship between the new legislation and the State Environmental Quality Review Act (ECL Article 8) and the Sole Source Aquifer Protection Act (ECL Article 55, informally referred to as the Special Groundwater Protection Area law). Each of these laws must be considered in the implementation of the newly amended Article 57.

Immediately after the passage of the Pine Barrens Protection Act, the State Legislature passed a statewide Environmental Protection Act, providing long term funding for a variety of conservation efforts, including the implementation of the new provisions of Article 57. This measure involved the amendment of various state laws, including portions of the Environmental Conservation Law, in order to provide funds for landfill closure, waste reduction and planning, secondary materials marketing, local waterfront revitalization plans, and conservation assistance to local governments and not for profit organizations. Title 13 of the Environmental Protection Act specifically authorizes the appropriation of funds for Central Pine Barrens planning.

During the ensuing 20 months, the legislative milestones set forth in the Act were addressed as detailed in Figure 2-2. On March 13, 1995, a legislative extension to June 30, 1995 (Senate bill number 2322, Assembly bill number 3657) was passed and signed into law by Governor George Pataki. The extended period provided additional time for completion of the Plan review and the production of the final generic environmental impact statement.

2.2 The Pine Barrens Act in a Long Island context

Concurrent with the pine barrens work, several other regional environmental planning efforts are also underway. The Long Island South Shore Estuary Reserve Act (Chapter 556 of the laws of 1993) passed in the same legislative session as the Pine Barrens Protection Act. This law created a fifty mile long planning area extending from the western boundary of Hempstead Town in Nassau County to the eastern shoreline of Shinnecock Bay in Southampton Town, and including the waters between the barrier beach and the mainland. It also created the South Shore Estuary Reserve Council, to oversee the preparation of a comprehensive plan focused upon the Great South Bay waters, adjacent wetlands and upland areas which feed these waters. The state's East End Economic and Environmental Task Force completed its preliminary report in November of 1993. In addition, the National Estuary Program's Peconic Bay Task Force is actively pursuing its policy and management work. Several generic environmental impact studies are also underway or have been completed within the Central or eastern Suffolk area as well.

A snapshot of current activities, though, does not explain their evolution. The roots of these contemporary initiatives stretch back through a generation, and identifying a discrete historical point as an origin of the current pine barrens work is problematic.

Early in 1993, two events, a Long Island Water Summit conference (1/26/93 at SUNY at Stony Brook), and a Why Can't Long Island? conference (4/12/93 at Melville, NY) were held, capping several years of litigation and controversy, preceding the discussions which eventually led to the passage of the Long Island Pine Barrens Protection Act in July of 1993. Yet, these events were only the most recent. The 1992-93 period also saw the release of the Article 55 based Long Island Comprehensive Special Groundwater Protection Area Study by the Long Island Regional Planning Board (Hauppauge, NY 1993).

The close of 1992 witnessed the final resolution of the much publicized pine barrens cumulative impact litigation, filed by the Long Island Pine Barrens Society in November of 1989. The State Court of Appeals ruled that no cumulative impact study could be required, while endorsing the desirability of the study.

The year 1992 also saw the issuance of two significant environmental studies. One was the first New York State open space plan, Conserving Open Space in New York State (New York State Department of Environmental Conservation and the Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation, Albany, NY). That document cited the pine barrens region as a resource of statewide importance. The second was the issuance of the Brown Tide Comprehensive Assessment and Management Plan (Suffolk County Department of Health Services, Hauppauge, NY), whose study area included portions of the Central Pine Barrens.

Prior to these events, in 1987 and 1988, Suffolk voters approved the Drinking Water Protection Program to purchase lands for protection of groundwater supplies. In 1986, Suffolk County approved a $60 million open space initiative, targeting nearly 5000 acres across the County for protection, a large portion of which are in the Central Pine Barrens. Prior to this, in 1984, Suffolk County instituted the Pine Barrens Review Commission through a county charter law, providing a level of development review specifically concentrating upon four geographic areas defined in that new law.

The original Long Island Pine Barrens Task Force was formed by the Commissioner of the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation in 1978. In that same year, New York State received a corporate gift of pine barrens land from the Radio Corporation of America. The gift involved two tracts totalling several thousand acres in Rocky Point and the area of Southampton Town immediately south of the hamlet of Riverhead. The Task Force later proposed creation of a 90,000 plus acre preserve, and examined a range of issues related to pine barrens protection and management.

In 1974 the County's Farmland Protection Program, one of the earliest purchase of development rights (PDR) programs in the country, began. In the early 1960's, Suffolk County embarked upon its open space and parkland programs, notably with the purchase of portions of the Peconic River system's contributing streams and ponds, an area now known as Robert Cushman Murphy County Park. This early open space purchase, some thirty plus years ago, presaged the current pine barrens work by its location in the area now known as the Core Preservation Area.

2.3 Implementation of the Act to date

Since the passage of the Pine Barrens Protection Act in July of 1993, several of the statutory calendar dates specified in the law have been reached. These include the filing of official maps, the passage of interim goals and standards for development in the Compatible Growth Area during the planning period, the inventorying of private parcels in the Core Preservation Area, notification of the owners of the inventoried land, production of the Draft Plan and draft generic environmental impact statement, various public hearings, and production of the first annual report. Figure 2-2 details these statutory activities through this date.

Figure 2-2: Pine Barrens Protection Act statutory activities to date
Statutory Date
Event or Requirement
July 14, 1993
(Effective date)
Long Island Pine Barrens Protection Act signed into law by Governor Cuomo at Southaven County Park
Start of statutory calendar.
August 13, 1993
(Within 30 days of
effective date)
Initial meeting of Commission must be held, following public notice by County Executive.
Public notice given 7/30/93.
Held August 6, 1993 at the Riverhead County Center
August 28, 1993

(within 45 days of
effective date)

A map of the Central Pine Barrens classifying and depicting the Core Preservation Area and the Compatible Growth Area must be filed with the Secretary of State, the Suffolk County Clerk and the clerk of each town or village whose boundaries are included within the Central Pine Barrens.

Notice of the filing and availability of the map must be published at least twice in a paper of general circulation in Suffolk County.

Filed with:
NYS Secretary of State on
Suffolk County Clerk on
Town clerks on 8/26/93
Village clerks on 8/27/93.

Notice published in Newsday on 8/28/93 and 8/29/93.

October 12, 1993

(within 90 days of
effective date)

Expiration of the ninety day period following enactment during which a lead agency can allow an active project to qualify under Section 57-0121(8)(c) for a planning period exemption from Interim Goals and Standards.
Ninety day period expired without extension by Commission.
October 14, 1993

(within 3 months of
effective date)

Interim Goals and Standards for hardship cases and for Compatible Growth Area developments must be published.
Adopted on 10/13/93 as emergency rules.
Published in NYS Register 11/17/93.
State Administrative Procedure Act hearing held 1/3/94.
Readopted as emergency rules on 1/12/94.
Adopted as final rules on 2/23/94, and published in
NYS Register on 3/23/94.
February 6, 1994

(within 6 months of
first meeting)

All private parcels within the Core Preservation Area must be inventoried.

Upon completion of inventory, those property owners must be notified.

Upon completion of inventory, development yield for each property within the Core Preservation Area must be calculated and assigned.

Inventory was completed by 2/4/94. Inventory was adopted at 2/7/94 meeting.

Letter was approved at 2/9/94 Commission meeting. Approx. 3500 letters were mailed by 3/2/94.

Development yield calculation and assignment was completed by 6/28/94. The Commission accepted the calculations at its 7/11/94 meeting.


July 14, 1994

(Within 12 months of
effective date)


Draft Land Use Plan must be prepared and published, following consultation with Advisory Committee.

Draft GEIS must be prepared and published.

Preliminary versions of the Draft Plan were published on 2/23/94 and 4/20/94.

The Draft Plan was published and accepted by the Commission at its 7/13/94 meeting.

A positive declaration for the Plan was issued by the Commission at its 4/13/94 meeting.

A scoping session for the GEIS was held 4/27/94 at Longwood Junior High School in Middle Island. Comment period was kept open through 5/11/94.

Draft GEIS was published and accepted by the Commission at its 7/13/94 meeting.

August 6, 1994

(Within 12 months
of first meeting)

Receiving districts within and without the Central Pine Barrens sufficient to receive transferred development rights and/or values of the core area, and sufficient for the continuation of an adequate transfer of rights and/or values program, must be identified.

Fiscal impacts of the established transfer of development rights and values system must be considered.

This was contained in the Draft Plan published and accepted at the Commission's 7/13/94 meeting.

An initial report on existing conditions was issued by the Harriman School on 8/1/94 and
considered by the Commission.

October 13, 1994

(Within 3 months of
publication of the
Draft Land Use Plan)

Public informational meetings must be held in the towns of Brookhaven, Riverhead and Southampton.

At least one public hearing within the Central Pine Barrens must be held.

The Riverhead session was held 9/7/94 at Riverhead Town Hall, the Brookhaven session was held 9/13/94 at the Brookhaven Town offices, and the Southampton session was held on 9/21/94 at Remsenburg-Speonk school in Remsenburg.

Public hearing was held on 9/28/94 at the Brookhaven Town offices. The comment period was kept open through 11/7/94.

January 15, 1995

(Within 3 months of
last public hearing)

Revised Plan must be completed and recommended to town boards
Revised Plan (Volumes 1 and 2) was recommended by Commission at its 1/13/95 meeting.
After March 13, 1995
Modification of the Plan by the Commission at the request of town representatives.
A modified proposed final Plan was approved by the Commission and recommended to the towns at the Commission's 4/12/95 and 4/26/95 meetings.
Once per year
Report to Governor and State Legislature, with copies to town and village legislative bodies
The first report covered the period 7/14/93 to 7/14/94 and was adopted by the Commission at its 8/10/94 meeting.

Implementation of the Act has not been limited to statutory requirements, however. The Commission's planning and interim period development review work have coexisted, involving workshops for planners and local government officials, community outreach programs, workshops for property owners, hearings and project reviews under the interim development standards, and coordination of the state, county and town staff, plus working committees on various topics, who have participated in the plan development process.

Governmental staff support for the planning and project review work has been provided by the Suffolk County Water Authority, in conjunction with the Suffolk County and Town planning departments, the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation, and numerous additional agencies at several levels.

2.4 Goals of the pine barrens statute

Sections 57-0121(1),(2) and (3) of Environmental Conservation Law Article 57 describe the goals and objectives for the Plan, and break these down by statutory zones: the Central Pine Barrens, the Core Preservation Area and the Compatible Growth Area.

These passages principally address preservation of the pine barrens ecosystem and water quality, but also address development patterns, land use categories, and agricultural, recreational and human uses. Overlaps occur across the three geographic categories, but the combination of goals in each area is unique.

The Plan goals for the overall Central Pine Barrens are found in ECL Section 57-0121(2) as follows:

The land use plan for the Central Pine Barrens area shall be designed to:

(a) protect, preserve and enhance the functional integrity of the Pine Barrens ecosystem and the significant natural resources, including plant and animal populations and communities, thereof;

(b) protect the quality of surface water and groundwater;

(c) discourage piecemeal and scattered development;

(d) promote active and passive recreational and environmental educational uses that are consistent with the land use plan; and

(e) accommodate development, in a manner consistent with the long term integrity of the Pine Barrens ecosystem and to ensure that the pattern of development is compact, efficient and orderly.

The Plan goals for the Core Preservation Area are found in ECL Section 57-0121(3) as follows:

The land use plan with respect to the core preservation area shall be designed to protect and preserve the ecologic and hydrologic functions of the Pine Barrens by:

(a) preserving the Pine Barrens area in their natural state thereby insuring the continuation of Pine Barrens environments which contain the unique and significant ecologic, hydrogeologic and other resources representative of such environments;

(b) promoting compatible agricultural, horticultural and open space recreational uses within the framework of maintaining a Pine Barrens environment and minimizing the impact of such activities thereon;

(c) prohibiting or redirecting new construction or development;

(d) accommodating specific Pine Barrens management practices, such as prescribed burning, necessary to maintain the special ecology of the preservation area;

(e) protecting and preserving the quality of surface and groundwaters; and

(f) coordinating and providing for the acquisition of private land interests as appropriate and consistent with available funds.

The Plan goals for the Compatible Growth Area are found in ECL Section 57-0121(4) as follows:

The land use plan with respect to the compatible growth areas shall be designed to:

(a) preserve and maintain the essential character of the existing Pine Barrens environment, including plant and animal species indigenous thereto and habitats therefor;

(b) protect the quality of surface and groundwaters;

(c) discourage piecemeal and scattered development;

(d) encourage appropriate patterns of compatible residential, commercial, agricultural, and industrial development in order to accommodate regional growth influences in an orderly way while protecting the Pine Barrens environment from the individual and cumulative adverse impacts thereof;

(e) accommodate a portion of development redirected from the preservation area. Such development may be redirected across municipal boundaries; and

(f) allow appropriate growth consistent with the natural resource goals pursuant to this article.