7. Public Lands Management

7.1 Establishment of a Protected Lands Council

In order to protect and preserve public lands in the pine barrens, a Protected Lands Council should be formed. The Council should consist of, but not be limited to, the major public pine barrens land holders and conservation land managers as follows:

(Note:  This is the list in the 1995 Plan.  Please see the current Protected Lands Council roster for today's participants.)

Agencies and utilities holding easements on public lands, or owning special purpose sites within the matrix of protected conservation lands (e.g., the Suffolk County Water Authority (SCWA), the Long Island Lighting Company (LILCO) or others), may also be added to the Council. In general, additional entities may be added at the discretion of the Council if they own or manage protected land in the Central Pine Barrens zone.

The Council will be a working association that will formulate strategies for implementing the provisions of Chapter 7 of this Plan. The Council may make recommendations as they pertain to their respective public lands, and may recommend appropriate changes to the protected lands management provisions of the Plan, especially Chapter 7, as needed.

The public agencies and authorities listed above already have the authority, on an individual basis, to carry out the respective activities as stated in this chapter. As a result, the Commission recognizes that these agencies have, and retain, the authority to modify and amend the activities and procedures described in this chapter.

Land use planning for public lands in the Central Pine Barrens has historically emphasized environmental protection, and rightly so. However, human recreational use of public land in the Central Pine Barrens has steadily increased. It is, therefore, a prime responsibility of the Protected Lands Council to evaluate the human impact on natural environs in an effort to avoid conflicts, and to both protect and enhance the resources of these lands, while promoting recreation.

To carry out this mission, the Protected Lands Council will provide a regional approach to management of pine barrens lands held in the public trust. The Council will identify topics needing special consideration and establish temporary subcommittees of specialists (which include specialists that may or may not be staff of the Council members), undertake interagency programs as deemed necessary and appropriate, and share resources to the extent possible in pursuing their mutual goals.

7.2 Summary of the field management agency survey

Based upon the response surveys conducted during the Plan development period, the agency undertaking the most active natural resource or biological management on its lands is the NYSDEC.

All responsible agencies identify underfunding and insufficient staff as major obstacles to their success. The resources devoted to land management have not kept pace with the land acquisition programs of the past and therefore the programs are ill equipped to carry out the overall goals of this Land Use Plan.

The long term stewardship of public lands in the pine barrens is dependent upon the growth, development and coordination of park and natural resource management and law enforcement programs within each agency. Insufficient resources create the inability to adequately protect and preserve environmental features and address threats to natural areas. It is increasingly difficult to maintain the present facilities and resources in the face of mounting use pressure.

Since most of the protected land is in the natural state, agencies ideally require staff or access to persons with ecological, planning and recreational facility management expertise.

Generally, the county and municipal public agencies responsible for stewardship of public lands in the pine barrens do not have staff with such expertise. On the state level, the NYSDEC has trained and experienced staff; however, resources have been limited. The forest ranger program, for example, has a high turnover which hinders long term program development.

The situation faced by the agencies for land stewardship is not unique to the pine barrens, nor to the Long Island region. Insufficient funding and staffing for land stewardship is a national concern shared by all levels of government.

However, the public lands surveys also show potential for efficiency improvements and creative management through maximum use of interagency cooperation. The management strategies which follow explore these areas as well.

During development of this Plan, managing agencies identified the most common problems which they face as the following:

1. There is a lack of adequate survey information for public land acquisitions. Consequently, boundary identification and posting of public land becomes difficult, as does enforcement of environmental protection laws.

2. There is a lack of management access to computer based environmental mapping of ecologically sensitive areas. Although there has been a great deal of scientific research done in the pine barrens, there is no universal data base upon which to base management decisions.

3. There is a lack of interagency coordination procedures concerning land acquisition. Lack of coordination has led to delays in transfers of jurisdiction, which in turn has made it difficult to identify recently surveyed boundaries.

4. There is a lack of regional management plans. Ideally, public land management plans should be prepared before land acquisition takes place. The real estate, planning, and managing departments and agencies should jointly participate in preparing such plans. Land management for the various public lands should reflect a regional initiative rather than only a unit management (i.e., site management) approach.

5. There is a lack of user friendly regulations governing public lands in the Central Pine Barrens. Citizens wishing to use public lands for recreational purposes are subjected to a variety of rules and regulations concerning permitted activities on public lands. Initiatives which encourage legitimate access by contributory individuals and groups will also reduce future needs for later enforcement and remediative actions.

6. Suffolk County, the largest public land holder in the Central Pine Barrens, is subject to certain inadvertently awkward provisions within the County Nature Preserve Handbook. The guidelines apply to the management of most of the 16,000 acres of core area County owned parkland. The Handbook states that management plans may be formulated subsequent to acquisition; however, if the County Legislature's acquiring resolution does not specifically mention certain elements, then the property remains forever wild, thus making it virtually impossible to coordinate recreational activities through management planning.

7.3 Immediate recommendations for the Protected Lands Council

With the Council's purpose specified in Section 7.1 of this Plan and the results of the management survey described in Section 7.2 in mind, the Protected Lands Council should meet on a regular basis to address areas of mutual concern as identified above or in the future.

Immediate recommendations for actions by the Protected Lands Council are as follows:

7.3.1 A regional approach to public land management in the pine barrens should be adopted. Management plans for existing large tracts of public pine barrens land should be developed. Land use planning for proposed acquisitions in the Central Pine Barrens should be developed by the public land holders affected by the proposed acquisition for approval by the Protected Lands Council before final recommendations are made to the Commission.

Agencies should cooperate to develop a regional management plan for all public land in the Core Preservation Area within five years. Regional plans should address, but not be limited to, administration, recreational uses, natural resource management, law enforcement, and site management.

7.3.2 A universal data base for mapping resource inventories should be established with all land managers having access to the computer based information. All environmentally sensitive areas should be mapped on a geographic information system at a sufficiently high spatial resolution to support the field work of the Council. Integrated with this should be the construction of a database of natural species and communities, an inventory of archeological and historic sites, and other subjects identified by the Council.

The management data base should be upgraded on a regular basis (perhaps weekly or monthly), using information gathered routinely by various public agencies such as the Suffolk County Water Authority (SCWA), the towns and county Departments of Planning, and the Suffolk County Department of Health Services. Solid, reliable data of both cartographic and tabular information is an interagency wide need.

7.3.3 Members of the Protected Lands Council should share personnel where the shared effort will complement individual agency administrative staff for realization of a common goal. One such goal is the sharing of funding to train an interagency survey team to be used to identify, and mark in the field, the public land boundaries in the Central Pine Barrens.

7.3.4 The department of an agency responsible for public land acquisition should coordinate efforts between the legal section and the managing unit of that agency. This will insure both more expedient transfers of jurisdiction and timely enforcement of environmental protection laws.

7.3.5 A uniform set of regulations and permitting procedures governing recreational activities on public lands should be developed by the Protected Lands Council. Interjurisdictional recreational permitting in Central Pine Barrens public land should be simplified in an effort to become user friendly to the general public (e.g., one type of permit for each recreational activity).

7.3.6 The management dilemma created by the Suffolk County Nature Preserve Handbook should be resolved by an amendment to the Handbook permitting the development of management plans for previous parkland acquisitions governed by the Handbook. The amendment should also anticipate cooperative management efforts of the Protected Lands Council as approved by the Commission.

7.3.7 Assessment of agency resources. Each agency within the Council will assess the available resources (staffing, operational , fiscal) for the administration and management of the lands within the Core Preservation Area by March 1996 and make recommendations for program growth.

7.3.8 Assess funding mechanisms. Each governmental entity within the Council should explore and attempt to develop funding mechanisms that will provide adequate support for annual operations and capital needs. An example of such a mechanism is the creation of Park Districts.

7.3.9 Enhance public participation. Involvement of those who frequent the public lands is more than a democratic procedure. Rather, explicit incorporation of the knowledge and experience of knowledgeable private individuals enriches the development of management plans, allocation of park resources and the effectiveness of conservation efforts in general. Strong, active private involvement should be an essential component of management.

7.4 Law enforcement

Effective law enforcement is one of the key tools for protecting public lands and natural resources to assure quality public use and enjoyment. At the present time, there is a lack of effective enforcement of rules and regulations controlling the use of public lands. Many of the real or perceived land management problems and issues would be diminished if the existing rules are adequately enforced.

Implementation of the following recommendations will curtail the abusive activities of a very small minority of public lands users, and thereby enhance the recreational opportunities available for the majority of law abiding park and preserve constituents.

7.4.1 Law enforcement goal

The overall goal of this Plan component is to develop a law enforcement program that will, through interagency coordination and cooperation, improve the enforcement of all relevant land use and natural resource laws within the Central Pine Barrens.

The objective is to develop this law enforcement program by January 1, 1996.

7.4.2 Law enforcement problems

1. Lack of law enforcement personnel. Public law enforcement agencies lack the personnel to provide complete law enforcement coverage for the vast pine barrens preserve due to the large land area, scattered public ownership of noncontiguous parcels, and the great diversity of laws and regulations that control the area.

2. Overlapping law enforcement jurisdictions. The following law enforcement agencies have been identified as having jurisdiction within the Central Pine Barrens:

(Note:  This is the list in the 1995 Plan.  Please see the current Law Enforcement Council roster for today's participants.)

This diversity and overlap of jurisdictions causes duplication of some services and lack of other services. A formal interagency forum to address enforcement issues, methods, needs, and other topics on an ongoing basis is needed to coordinate enforcement agency functions.

3. Lenient court rulings. The court system issues lenient court rulings in the enforcement of land use and natural resource laws. The Law Enforcement Council (see Strategies section below) must meet with the court system's administrative staff to share common concerns and problems affecting the Central Pine Barrens.

4. Abuse of public lands. Lack of effective law enforcement has resulted in significant abuse of public lands by a minority of people and cynicism by the majority of people towards enforcement personnel, agencies and the courts when performing their enforcement roles.

5. Lack of public involvement. Lack of involvement by the public in reporting and recognizing illegal activity in the Central Pine Barrens.

7.4.3 Law enforcement strategies

Interagency Coordination Develop a Law Enforcement Council of all involved agencies to meet on a regular basis to coordinate enforcement efforts, resolve interagency problems, foster cooperation, improve communication, and develop the interagency law enforcement program referenced above. The Council should consist of a representative from each agency with law enforcement duties in the Central Pine Barrens. Develop and provide a Central Reporting Station or clearinghouse, including a computer data base for all records. This would include violators' names, locations of violations, and type and severity of violations. This interagency data base would foster cross checking of all this information. Ensure that central dispatchers at all agencies have radios and radio frequencies of all agencies to improve communications. Provide dedicated phone connections for all involved agencies to interface computers for better record sharing. Develop an interagency field patrol plan so that all lands are consistently patrolled and no agency is given so much additional responsibility that will compromise its effectiveness. Develop an interagency training program regarding the enforcement of all laws and regulations relating to the pine barrens. Produce a Central Pine Barrens Law Enforcement Handbook to coordinate and reemphasize all applicable laws and regulations. The Handbook would be a complete field reference, containing jurisdictional information and maps of geographical boundaries. It would be carried and utilized by all members of law enforcement agencies with Central Pine Barrens jurisdiction. Establish procedures to relate and emphasize to the judiciary, throughout the court system, the importance of the enforcement of offenses committed within the pine barrens. Develop Assistant District Attorneys who specialize in environmental violations. Emphasize the seriousness of environmental violations with Assistant District Attorneys and the courts. Schedule court cases so that all environmental violations are handled at the same time in the appropriate courts. The courts should provide follow up information on cases that are dismissed. This information could be made available to participating agencies through the central clearinghouse's data base.

Staffing and Funding Provide law enforcement agencies with adequate staff and equipment to control illegal activities by increasing enforcement staff levels equal to be equal to the demands of the work and by expanding enforcement manpower capabilities (e.g., training of governmental employees and community members who reside in and around the Central Pine Barrens) to report minor violations such as dumping, illegal trail uses, vandalism, etc. Explore the possibility of dedicated funding for law enforcement in the Long Island Pine Barrens, such as the application of a mandatory surcharge to be applied to all monetary fines upon conviction for pine barrens related offenses. This surcharge would not to be attached to the New York State Environmental Conservation Law related offenses. These new proceeds could be dedicated to a fund under the direction of the Pine Barrens Law Enforcement Council solely used for the enhancement of law enforcement activities within the Long Island Pine Barrens. Provide funding for updated equipment and supplies in order to enhance the law enforcement agencies' capabilities to patrol and protect the Central Pine Barrens.

Education and Public Awareness Identify all public land within the Central Pine Barrens. Establish a 24 hour hotline for use by the public to report illegal activity in the Central Pine Barrens. Educate the public regarding identification and reporting of illegal activities. Develop a Long Island Pine Barrens Preserve Watch Program. This could be modeled after existing Park Watch programs.

7.5 Recreation, trails, hunting and fishing

7.5.1 Recreation overview

Opportunities for recreation are a principal objective of the Central Pine Barrens Comprehensive Plan. The Act also recognizes that the quality of present and future recreational activities depends on the protection and preservation of the pine barrens' natural resources; specifically, ECL Section 57-0105 states:

The Legislature further finds that the Pine Barrens-Peconic Bay system contains many other unique natural, agricultural, historical, cultural and recreational resources that are mutually supportive and ultimately dependent upon maintenance of the hydrologic and ecologic integrity of this region.

ECL Section 57-0121(3) stipulates that the Plan must be designed to protect and preserve the ecologic and hydrologic functions of the pine barrens by

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 ...

A comprehensive recreational program must also take into account the recreational needs of present and future users, including residents and users from more distant locales who are attracted to the area. Accommodation of these diverse needs requires active and cooperative efforts of public and private recreational providers.

It is recognized that there are several broad categories of recreational use, as follows:

1. Passive recreational activities are those which have minor physical impacts on natural resources, require minor facility development and maintenance, and are compatible with others using the same area or facilities simultaneously. Examples include, but are not limited to, walking, hiking, birdwatching, canoeing, hunting, fishing, and photography.

2. Active recreational activities are those which have moderate physical impacts on natural resources; require moderate facility development and maintenance; and may be incompatible with other users using the same area or facilities. Examples include, but are not limited to, mountain biking, horseback riding.

3. Incompatible recreational activities are those which have major physical impacts on natural resources. Examples include, but are not limited to, all terrain vehicle use, motorcycle riding and snowmobiling.

4. Exclusive use activities are those which need special areas designated and maintained (including extensive cleared lands) solely for such purposes. Examples of such areas include, but are not limited to, model airplane fields, ball fields, and golf courses.

7.5.2 Recreation recommendations

Recognizing these varied recreational uses, and the need to provide for continued and enhanced recreational opportunities in the public lands of the Central Pine Barrens, the following recommendations are included in the Plan: Passive recreational activities and facilities to accommodate them should be planned and implemented by public and private agencies and should avoid adverse impact on ecologically sensitive areas. Active recreational activities and facilities to accommodate them should be planned and implemented by public and private agencies and should avoid adverse impact on ecologically sensitive areas. New incompatible recreational activities and uses should be discouraged on public lands in the Core Preservation Area. They may be allowed in the Compatible Growth Area and may require coordination with the Protected Lands Council to ensure that all factors concerning facility installations and ongoing management for the protection of natural resources have been addressed. Expansion of existing public recreational activities established and sanctioned by a governmental agency owning or managing protected lands within the Central Pine Barrens, and expansion of existing facilities associated with these recreational activities, including but not limited to the addition, modification, expansion or replacement of structures or facilities necessary for recreational activities and such clearing as may be reasonable required for maintenance or expansion of those activities, are consistent with this Plan. Expansion of a recreational use on public lands requiring the clearing of more than two and one half (2.5) acres of land should receive prior advisory review by the Protected Lands Council. New exclusive use activities should require a full State Environmental Quality Review Act review, as well as a review by the Commission. A plan to phase out or transfer incompatible and exclusive use recreational activities on public lands in the Central Pine Barrens should be developed by the Protected Lands Council, as and if deemed appropriate. Since trails are a primary means of access for recreational activities in the pine barrens, basic recommendations for trail uses are needed for comprehensive planning to accomodate the diversity of recreational uses.

To develop the safe, enjoyable and resource compatible use and maintenance of trails, the Commission should establish a Trails Subcommittee of the Protected Lands Council, with membership from each public agency and trail user organizations. Agencies and user groups should cooperate in developing policies for trail building, maintenance and policing in the Central Pine Barrens. Some recommended policies and practices for consideration include the following: Informational signs stating the types of uses permitted on the trails and explaining marking systems should be posted at trailheads and other access points. Trails and trail intersections should be clearly marked with a uniform system of blazes or other symbols. Conflicting modes of trail use, i.e., foot travel (including cross country skiing and snowshoeing), mountain bike riding, and horseback riding, should be accommodated on separate trails designated for specific types of uses where possible, except in circumstances where:

1. The landowning or managing agency and the trail managing organizations agree that specified multiple uses are not only compatible with the preservation of the ecosystem but are also compatible with each other, and,
2. The landowning agency determines that separating the activities is not practical or feasible because of a lack of an alternative route. All trails should be designed, built, maintained, and managed to minimize erosion, especially to steep slopes, and to avoid any significant damage to rare, endangered, or fragile plant communities, and the wildlife dependent upon them. Where otherwise provided by law, public agencies may close specific trails and areas to some or all uses for any of the following reasons:

1. To protect a scientific study area;
2. To protect the location of threatened or endangered plant or animal species
3. To prevent overuse from adjoining intensively used recreational areas
4. To protect historic or archeological sites
5. To protect critical wildlife habitats
6. To protect extensively disturbed areas from further impact and to allow for their recovery

Where possible, the managing agencies should make an effort to provide an alternate trail to preserve contiguity and to prevent unauthorized cutting. Land managing agencies are encouraged to provide well fed water sources and troughs for trail users. Paved and unpaved roads are frequently used for nonmotorized recreation and should be integrated into a cohesive pine barrens trail system. Each public agency should be responsible for maintaining trails on properties it manages, and private, volunteer trail associations should be encouraged to assist public agencies in the establishment and maintenance of trails, and public agencies may delegate responsibility for trail maintenance to such associations (e.g., the Long Island Greenbelt Trail Conference is developing a management plan for the Long Island Pine Barrens Trail). Agencies should cooperate in the establishment and linking of the Pine Barrens Trail segment of the Rocky Point to Montauk Point Paumanok Path to assure the development of a contiguous route. Agencies should also cooperate in the development of comparable long distance trails for other user groups, such as equestrians and mountain bikers. A uniform access permit system should be considered to provide smooth, consistent and understandable access conventions for public use of land under different jurisdictions. Evaluation of such a system, and its implementation, should be conducted by the Protected Lands Council. An Educational and Interpretive section should be built into all public information and service programs as a cost effective tool for management of natural resources and public lands. An Education and Interpretation (E/I) Subcommittee should be formed as part of the Protected Lands Council to develop a coordinated plan for serving such functions as, but not limited to:

1. Enriching the experiences of visitors by providing information about the pine barrens
2. Informing users on how to conduct their activities in ways that do not affect other users of the pine barrens
3. Reducing destruction of public lands, resulting in lower maintenance costs
4. Encouraging involvement of visitors and area residents in developing and contributing to natural resource and public use programs
5. Directing visitors subtly from sensitive areas to sites which can sustain heavier impacts
6. Establishing public support for pine barrens preservation

There should be a minimum of one trained E/I specialist for each major public visitation site to provide E/I services and coordination for the public, other agency programs, and area schools. A careful balance must be sought among competing needs for recreational lands. A steady increase in the demand for recreational opportunities results in the need for accessible recreational opportunities. It must be recognized that the recreational potential of the pine barrens is limited, and the region may not be able to accommodate all of the demands placed upon its resources.

A key consideration is the maintenance of the quality of the recreational experiences provided. For instance, undesirable overcrowding of any activity area may require limitations on the use of that area.

The challenge, then, is to make a variety of the region's recreational opportunities available to satisfy public demand, but in ways which are compatible with protecting the essential character and natural resources of the pine barrens. Since all recreational activities carry inherent risks, it is recommended that the Trails Subcommittee of the Protected Lands Council evaluate and recommend techniques which would eliminate or reduce liability in order to encourage private and public landowners to open lands to public recreational use. Off road operation of motorized vehicles, other than official fire, police, emergency, administrative, or maintenance vehicles should be avoided on public lands in the Central Pine Barrens. Other motorized vehicles may operate only on trails or roadways designated for their use.

7.5.3 Hunting and fishing recommendations

The varied species of fish and wildlife found within the Central Pine Barrens provide a valuable recreational, food, ecological and economic resource. Each year, thousands of sportsmen and women are drawn to the Central Pine Barrens by the abundant fish and wildlife resources contained within its boundaries.

For example, whitetail deer, rabbits, bobwhite quail, and ringneck pheasant are commonly sought by upland hunters while waterfowl hunters seek geese, wood duck, black duck, and mallard duck on the numerous ponds, rivers and other wetland areas within the pine barrens. Trappers find excellent opportunities for raccoon, red fox, mink and muskrat to name a few species.

A diversity of freshwater fishing opportunities also exist within the Central Pine Barrens. Chain pickerel and largemouth bass are found in many pine barrens waters and, given the area's temperate climate, can grow to trophy proportions. Excellent cold water fishing opportunities for brook, brown and rainbow trout can also be found in waters such as the Carmans River and Wildwood Lake.

Consistent with the Environmental Conservation Law, such activities exist on controlled access areas such as Rocky Point Natural Resources Management Area, the Navy Cooperative Area, and the David Sarnoff Pine Barrens Preserve, among other areas. Certain county parks as well as undeveloped federal, state, county and other municipal lands are utilized as well. Sportsmen also pursue their activities at locations maintained by the Peconic River Sportsmans Club, the Fresh Water Anglers of Long Island, and other clubs, or as members or guests at shooting ranges open to the public or on individually owned properties.

The Environmental Conservation Law sufficiently addresses concerns of use and safety on a statewide basis by defining where hunting implements may or may not be discharged. Section 11-0931 of the Environmental Conservation Law, for example, regulates the use and possession of firearms. It reads, in part, as follows:

No person shall: (1) discharge a firearm or long bow in such a way as will result in the load or arrow thereof passing over a public highway or any part thereof; (2) discharge a firearm or long bow within five hundred feet from a dwelling house, farm building or farm structure actually occupied or used, school building, school playground, or occupied factory or church ...

The Environmental Conservation Law also permits the state to enter into cooperative agreements and to post lands in which it has an interest or right for managing or conducting public hunting, fishing, trapping, and associated activities.

The Environmental Conservation Law and related laws effectively determine where hunting, fishing, trapping, and associated activities may or may not take place throughout the state, including the Central Pine Barrens.

Hunting and fishing are traditional activities which have aided in the preservation of the Central Pine Barrens. They include hunting (e.g., big game, small game, water fowl, falconry and bow hunting), fishing, trapping, and associated activities. These activities are classified as "passive recreational activities" which have minimal impact on natural resources. The participants in such activities have been and remain stewards of the land and historically have supported open space purchases of lands by state, county, and town governments prior and subsequent to the enactment of the Long Island Pine Barrens Protection Act. Notwithstanding the increase in human populations and development, activities as hunting and trapping have assisted in maintaining wildlife populations in a proper balance.

Hunting proficiency being a necessary part of the ethical harvesting of game, participation in a shooting sport remains a prerequisite to engaging in such activity. In addition, the safety of hunters as well as that of those they encounter in the field is ensured by hunters' training.

In this regard, shooting ranges are valuable since they provide places where hunters may practice and receive educational training. While practical training is also received on the range, in order to engage in the sport of hunting, prospective hunters must first satisfactorily complete a state mandated hunter safety course. A similar course is required for prospective trappers as well.

Areas such as open fields, woodlots and shorelines within the Central Pine Barrens have historically facilitated dog training and field trials. Such activities serve to acquaint the hunter with his or her hunting partner. This leads to appropriate and predictable encounters with other hunters, game and nongame species, and other users of the Central Pine Barrens.

A primary concern among hunters, fishermen and trappers is their safety while on navigable waters. In connection with the use of watercraft, it is imperative that power be sufficient to provide a safe departure and return. Accordingly, the use of suitable gasoline driven outboard motors (no greater than fifteen horsepower) for the propulsion of watercraft within the Central Pine Barrens should continue. The use of such motors, in addition to addressing the safety factor, has been found to create channels through the aquatic vegetation to the advantage of hand powered craft and to increase the flow of water.

It is a goal of the Plan to maintain and enhance the opportunities for pursuit of hunting, fishing, trapping, and associated activities within the Central Pine Barrens. The following recommendations are considered essential to and consistent with meeting this goal. Maintain, unaltered, laws which have traditionally regulated hunting, fishing, trapping, and associated activities. These include the federal fish and wildlife laws, the New York State Environmental Conservation Law, and related state laws. Such related laws include such the federal and state water quality and air quality laws, wetland laws, federal and state navigation laws, federal and state endangered species laws, the State Wild, Scenic, and Recreational Rivers System Act (affecting the Peconic and Carmans Rivers), and the federal and state migratory bird laws.

It should be noted that the Pine Barrens Protection Act provides, in ECL Section 57-0131 that:

Nothing in this article shall be interpreted to authorize the regulation of hunting, shellfishing, fishing, trapping, possession of wildlife or other recreational activities in the Long Island Pine Barrens maritime reserve, except as otherwise provided by law. Existing state and municipally owned lands with permitted uses which presently do not include hunting, fishing, trapping, and associated activities should be evaluated for potential implementation of such uses where appropriate. For public lands included in the Central Pine Barrens, the continued need for existing local restrictions by ordinance, covenant, or otherwise which place burdens on nonresident hunters, fishermen and trappers greater than those which apply to residents should be evaluated by the respective locality. State and municipal funds should be sought to provide adequate fish and wildlife management as well as parking access and launching sites to facilitate hunting, fishing, trapping, and associated activities. The use of gas driven outboard motors with a maximum of fifteen horsepower for the propulsion of watercraft for hunting, fishing and trapping within the Central Pine Barrens should continue. Active management of lands and waters supporting wildlife and fish should continue, including the creation and maintenance of food plots, and activity sites for hunting, fishing, trapping and associated activities, the stocking of indigenous and nonindigenous species, the enhancement of wetlands, and other actions which will insure the abundance of wildlife and fish populations within the public lands of the Central Pine Barrens.

7.6 Natural resources management: Best management practices

Recommendations for best management practices are intended to fulfill the primary natural resources goal of the Pine Barrens Protection Act. ECL Section 57-0121(2)(a) specifically states one of the Plan goals for the overall Central Pine Barrens to:

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;

and ECL Section 57-0121(3) states several specific Plan goals for the Core Preservation Area with the overall intent to:

protect and preserve the ecologic and hydrologic functions of the Pine Barrens.

Recommendations are shaped and guided by a vision of the pine barrens landscape as a dynamic one, in which ecological processes such as fire, nutrient cycling, ground and surface water flow, natural succession, evolution, and plant and animal migration shape an intricate, shifting mosaic of diverse natural communities.

It is the intent of these recommendations to eliminate or greatly reduce adverse effects of human activities on pine barrens native species, natural communities, and ecological processes, while still allowing for appropriate, properly approved development, and recreational and educational use of the pine barrens. Where necessary, active management is called for to restore degraded habitats, favor native over nonindigenous species, and maintain or restore ecosystem processes upon which the continued existence of the pine barrens depends.

7.6.1 Recommendations for natural upland communities on public lands

The three natural upland pine barrens communities are the pitch pine-oak forest, pitch pine-oak heath woodland, and dwarf pine plains (including heath variants in local areas). All of these communities depend upon periodic fires or other disturbance for their rejuvenation and maintenance. These communities should be maintained in various successional stages, in a shifting landscape mosaic.

Dwarf pine plains will need the most frequent fire return intervals (10-30 years), the pitch pine-oak heath woodland will require less frequent intervals (20-40 years), the pine-oak forest will need longer intervals (35-60 years), and the oak-pine forest will require the least frequent fire intervals (60-100 years). Some areas of pine barrens may remain unburned for longer than 100 years, or possibly indefinitely.

In some cases ecologically designed land clearing techniques might be used to restart the successional process. Presently, a long term management plan cannot be prepared due to a lack of detailed information, including the identification of specific management techniques to be used in particular areas. A research component should therefore be part of the Fire Management Plan that must be prepared prior to commencement of controlled burning in the pine barrens.

Specific recommendations for natural upland communities on public lands include: Agencies are encouraged to use existing cleared areas whenever possible for new or expanded activities and to restore previously cleared but presently unused areas with native species. Limit the amount of new land clearing. Only the minimum amount of land clearing should be made to achieve the stated and approved goals. Do not plant nonnative species known to be invasive. Figure 5-2 lists some nonnative species which should be avoided. A comprehensive fire management plan for the Central Pine Barrens should be planned and implemented. (See Wildland Fire Management section below, as well as Appendix B regarding prescribed burning.) Review and consider alternative control methods to aerial or broadcast spraying of pesticides (e.g., for gypsy moths, mosquitos) and limit chemical use as much as possible. The impact of pest control measures upon nontargeted species should be evaluated. Avoid environmental intrusions that would alter or destroy habitat or life cycles of rare species (for example, avoid the use of nighttime lighting in areas of known habitat for rare lepidopteran species). When and where ever possible, restrict the use of authorized vehicles to areas not susceptible to erosion damage. Official vehicle usage should demonstrate sensitivity to erosion potential.

7.6.2 Recommendations for human created natural successional communities on public lands

Examples of human created natural successional communities are old fields and shrublands created by previous human activities. The ecological role of these communities should be evaluated within the context of the overall ecological goals for the pine barrens.

Specific recommendations for human created upland communities on public lands include: Old fields can be maintained, if desired, by periodic mowing. Prescribed burning might be an alternative management tool in some cases. When new lands are brought into protected status they should be evaluated for their ecological significance and a customized unit management plan developed for them. Clearings should be created or maintained only in areas that are already disturbed or fragmented, and should not be created or maintained within otherwise intact, contiguous blocks of pine barrens vegetation unless approved by a regional fire management plan, an approved park master plan or an agency plan. The use of fertilizers and limestone should be kept to an absolute minimum. Furthermore, these chemicals should not be used at all near sensitive wetland communities (see the following sections). Review and consider alternative control methods to aerial or broadcast spraying of pesticides, and limit chemical use as much as possible. The impact of chemical use upon nontargeted species should be evaluated. When chemical use is necessary, pesticides and methods which minimize effects on nontargeted species should be utilized.

7.6.3 Recommendations for freshwater wetland communities on public lands

Most freshwater wetland communities depend upon a continued, uninterrupted supply of high quality groundwater, surface water, or precipitation. Normally, little can be achieved on a local basis only to reduce pollutant inputs in precipitation. However, local management can prevent pollutant, sediment and nutrient inputs to surface runoff and groundwater, and prolonged, artificial drawdowns of the water table.

In addition to protection of water quality and quantity, wetlands may require protection from physical damage caused by human activities, such as trampling, horseback riding, all terrain vehicles, and beach raking or tilling. In some cases, wetlands may require active management to maintain or restore natural hydrological or ecological conditions or functions. For example, white cedar swamps may require cutting or fire management in order to stimulate cedar regeneration. Some wetlands may need periodic fire or other disturbance to remove organic matter and prevent the wetlands from filling in with sediments.

Coastal plain ponds and pond shores harbor the highest concentrations of rare species in the Central Pine Barrens, and are especially ecologically sensitive. These ponds may require a higher level of protection than other wetland types.

Specific recommendations for freshwater wetland communities on public lands include: Structural and nonstructural mitigation measures should be designed and installed where practical and economically feasible for existing direct stormwater discharges to wetlands. Runoff control structures should be designed to both protect wetlands ecology and provide flood control. Surface drainage from future development should not be discharged directly to these wetlands, or otherwise significantly impact the hydrologic regime of wetlands (timing, duration, magnitude, frequency of water inputs). Physical disturbance or removal of vegetation in or adjacent to wetlands should be avoided with the exception of that associated with the creation of educational or interpretive facilities, and agency approved public recreational uses. New hiking, bicycle or horseback trails should be located so as to avoid or minimize damage to wetlands. A minimum distance of 100 feet is recommended, except for spur trails to designated educational or interpretive stations and to public recreational access points and use areas (e.g., approved hunting blinds, bird observation points, fishing platforms). Existing trails that result in erosion, excessive trampling of wetlands vegetation, or other adverse ecological impacts should be rerouted where practical. Toxic boat bottom paints should be avoided on watercraft. Where scientifically justifiable, active management by cutting, fire, removal of invasive species, or other techniques may be used to prevent the loss of wetland communities or species (e.g., the use of fire for regeneration of white cedar stands or the removal of phragmites). Potential ecological impacts of such management, including not actively managing such sites, should be carefully examined.

7.6.4 Recommendations for saltwater wetland communities on public lands

All saltwater wetland communities require freedom from physical disturbance or alteration as well as an uninterrupted supply of both surface and groundwaters. Existing federal, state and local regulations provide strong and effective protection from physical disturbance. However, water quality may be negatively affected by storm water runoff, septic tank leachate, and fertilizers, which may occur despite the regulations.

Specific recommendations for saltwater wetland communities on public lands include: Protect and preserve tidal wetland values. Restore those tidal wetland areas diminished by manmade activities.

7.6.5 Restoration of degraded habitats on public lands

Ecological restoration is the practice of returning damaged or degraded areas to some semblance of their predisturbance condition. The goal of restoration is to emulate a natural, functioning, self regulating system that is integrated with the ecological landscape in which it occurs. In a successfully restored ecosystem "...natural processes, including evolution, proceed, with the bulk of the biodiversity surviving" (Packard 1993). The aim of restoration is not to recreate the past, but to use the past "...as a reference point for the future" (Falk 1990). Ecosystems and living organisms never stop changing; this capacity for change must be maintained in any restored ecosystem.

In most cases habitat restoration on public lands may be achieved by understanding and then redirecting injurious human activities (a process which also addresses cultural restoration). Many ecosystems will recover through the process of natural succession; however, there are possible exceptions to this "laissez faire" method. Exceptions include wetlands that have been impacted by development that has resulted in degraded water quality and possibly altered hydrologic regimes, severely denuded and eroded areas such as defunct sand mines and other developed areas where nonnative plant species present threats to adjacent natural pine barrens, and areas where disrupted ecosystem processes have caused losses of pine barrens diversity. Active intervention may be required in such cases. The Protected Lands Council should consider and prioritize the need for specific restoration efforts in specific public lands. Plans for restoration should be made on a site specific basis, restoration projects should use appropriate local native stock and materials, should model indigenous pine barrens ecosystems, and should address associated sociocultural issues.

7.6.6 Management of rare, endangered, threatened and special concern species on public lands

Rare, endangered and threatened plant species are those identified in the New York Rare Plant Status List which is updated regularly by New York Natural Heritage Program. The rare, endangered and threatened animal species are those identified and tracked by the New York Natural Heritage Program. Animal species of special concern are identified by the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation's Division of Fish and Wildlife.

For many species, specific habitat requirements and minimum viable population sizes are poorly understood. Thus, it is difficult to make detailed management recommendations for those species. However, maintaining existing natural pine barrens communities in good condition should suffice to protect most or all of these species. In accordance with current thinking in conservation biology, the focus of preservation efforts should be on preservation of habitats, intact ecosystems, and ecological processes that support the rare species and not on individual species.

Specific recommendations include: No known existing rare, threatened or endangered species should be extirpated rom the pine barrens. If downward trends of individual species are documented, management actions should be considered to favor those species. Investigate the need for further inventory and inventory updates of individual species and groups of species (e.g., lepidoptera, odonates and grassland species). Activities which might threaten the habitat of rare, threatened or endangered species should be discouraged. If an extant species becomes a federally listed species under the Federal Endangered Species Act, then management should favor that species where appropriate.

7.6.7 Reintroductions of species on public lands

Many plant and animal species have been lost from the pine barrens. Numerous plant species are listed in the New York Natural Heritage Program's database as "Historical" occurrences, not seen for many decades. Animals that are rare within, or have been extirpated from, the Central Pine Barrens include wild turkeys, the river otter, some reptiles and amphibians, and various butterflies and moths.

Recommendations for species reintroduction tasks include: A list of these species should be compiled, and the value of their possible reintroduction should be examined. Plant and animal species known to have historically occurred in the pine barrens should be considered for reintroduction.

7.6.8 Control of invasive, nonnative species on public lands

Nonindigenous plants and animals accidentally and intentionally introduced to North America over the last 300 or more years have had devastating and widespread effects. Nonindigenous weeds, for example, cost United States farmers up to $5.4 billion a year in crop loss, and require the use of up to $2.3 billion worth of pesticides annually (Devine 1994). "But damage done to natural areas by alien plants (and animals) is often overlooked, because the costs can't easily be rendered in dollars" (Devine 1994). Some nonindigenous species coexist with native species and are not a threat, but others are more aggressive and force out native species. Simplified and impoverished plant communities are the result (Devine 1994).

Invasive nonnative plant species are currently not a serious problem in the pine barrens, but they are present along roads and rights of way and have the potential of becoming a threat to the ecology of the pine barrens.

Management recommendations for control of invasive, nonnative species include: Populations of nonnative plant species known to become invasive, including but not limited to those species listed in Figure 5-2, should be identified and controlled. Planting of nonnative plant species on public lands in the Central Pine Barrens should be strongly discouraged. Species known to become invasive should not be planted. Figure 5-2 contains a list of some species which should not be introduced.

(Note:  The sections that follow were written prior to the creation of the Wildfire Task Force
by Commission resolution in November 1999.
Please see the Wildfire Task Force roster for both the Task Force membership
and a link to that Commission resolution.)

7.6.9 Wildland fire management

Natural lands within the core area of the pine barrens consist of a variety of habitats ranging from dry stands of pine to moist deciduous woodlands with streams, ponds, lakes and marshlands. Management of these systems could call for a prescribed burning or may require other techniques such as control of invasive non native species. Some communities such as moist woodlands could be adversely affected by prescribed burning while other communities such as dry pinelands could be burnt to reduce fuel load. Although appropriate management is not always obvious, it is apparent that careful monitoring is essential to develop appropriate management strategies for the pine barrens.

Historic evidence concerning precolonial pine barrens is somewhat contradictory in that there are opinions stating that the pine barrens cover approximately 250,000 acres while other scholars view of the pine barrens is much smaller and confined to the drier, nutrient poor soils of Long Island. However, fires set by man and wood cutting are well documented and could be a major factor in the extent of the postcolonial pine barrens on Long Island.

In an effort to avoid ecological errors, a conservative approach to the management of pitch pine dominated communities should be adopted. This approach would take into consideration a reduction of fuel load by prescribed burning to maintain the present ecosystem while other pitch pine communities should be allowed to undergo succession. This strategy would maintain a percentage of the pine barrens in its present state, allowing for the study of the biological succession within the area of pine barrens that is not burnt. The percent of pine barrens considered for prescribe burning should be well through out and a vital part of the comprehensive fire management plan.

The comprehensive plan would also take into consideration the effect of burning on nontarget organisms. It is evident that further research will be needed for species inventory in an effort to prepare a burn timetable. The plan would also present a detailed monitoring system for evaluating the effects of prescribed burning.

The Protected Lands Council should have the primary responsibility of preparing, implementing, and monitoring any prescribed burn program.

At present only the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the Department of Environmental Conservation, and The Nature Conservancy have trained individuals to carry out prescribed burns in the pine barrens area. Suffolk County is currently sending park personnel to burn school. All of these resources should be utilized in preparing a prescribed burn program.

Burning the pine barrens is neither the goal, nor the desired product, of the fire management process. Fire is but one tool which may be used in managing the pine barrens for ecological integrity and high biodiversity, and may not be necessary or appropriate for all ecological communities or locations within the pine barrens. Fire regimes are dynamic and the effects of fire are variable. Fire may be beneficial under some circumstances, and damaging under other conditions.

7.6.10 Wildfire

Wildfires once burned freely, occasionally for days or weeks, over thousands of acres extending from the Hempstead Plains of Nassau to the pine barrens of Southampton. Such extensive conflagrations no longer occur, partly because the pine barrens have been crisscrossed by numerous roads and clearings that serve as effective firebreaks, and partly due to heightened suppression and prevention activities. Most of these fires are single day events kept to a minimal size due to early detection, aggressive suppression and the fire regime itself. However, even small fires can pose an acute hazard in and adjacent to the pine barrens. The threat to human lives and property justifies the suppression and control of these wildfires. Aggressive fire suppression must remain an essential cornerstone of the pine barrens under these conditions.

Numerous wildfires now occur regularly in the pine barrens, and they are primarily set by people. These unplanned ignitions and resulting wildfires are not a substitute for the ecological process that fire plays in this ecosystem and are unacceptable from both an ecological and management basis. The expenses and risks to fire fighting personnel are also unacceptable. These fires are unacceptable from an ecological perspective since the fires tend to occur in the same locations repeatedly (usually not the areas in most ecological need of burning).

Wildfires can be suppressed using a variety of strategies including confinement, containment, and control. These strategies utilize the tactics of both direct and indirect attack. Control strategies with direct attack tactics and heavy reliance on mechanized equipment is the current means used by most fire departments in suppressing wildfires in the pine barrens. Most departments within the pine barrens use the Incident Command System (ICS) with heavy dependence upon Mutual Aid assistance. The Mutual Aid response is coordinated through the Suffolk County Fire, Rescue and Emergency Services Commission. This Plan realizes the success that this well established structure has had for suppressing wildfire within the pine barrens.

There has been an ecological cost to the way in which wildfires have been suppressed by the direct attack method. Although almost every area of the pine barrens is crisscrossed with fire and old woods roads, with each wildfire new firelines are constructed by brush trucks. These high impact suppression methods may cause longer term problems, including the introduction of new roads. Recovery of vegetation within these firebreaks is subsequently prevented due to the new firebreaks becoming unofficial roads for vehicle use. These temporary firebreaks may persist for many years, and may become access points for dumping. Currently, no one has responsibility to carry out rehabilitation of these new inroads.

Modified suppression strategies that use confinement and containment methods with indirect attack should be considered. This is especially true where there are already existing fire or woods roads. Full suppression should remain the standard for areas where wildland and developed areas meet, when fires threaten residential areas, and human life and property are in immediate danger. However, many areas of the pine barrens are relatively remote, and wildfires could be allowed to burn up to existing firebreaks under appropriate weather conditions. Guidelines for such an approach utilizing minimum impact suppression tactics to suppress wildfire need to be developed.

While there may be an increase in personnel time by utilizing modified suppression strategies, this can be offset by the reduction in equipment expenditures, especially those outlays caused by equipment damage. The modified suppression tactics will also reduce the firefighters' exposure to risk while also reducing the damage to the land resource. While this may lengthen the duration of the wildfire event and may increase overall acreage involved, the total number of personnel required at any one time is reduced. An Escaped Fire Situation Analysis (EFSA) completed for each extended attack fire might be recommended to evaluate the feasibility of the appropriate suppression response. The EFSA should be completed in consultation with the land owner. Agencies may assign a resource advisor for any fire to work within the Incident Command System and directly with the Incident Commander in developing suppression strategies and tactics. Prefire planning will be an important part of directing the appropriate suppression response due to the short duration of most fire events in the pine barrens. Since Long Island is not a state fire district, state funds are not available to local fire departments for wildfire suppression activities. Additional issues that need to be addressed include prevention programs and establishment of a standard system of record keeping for fire events.

Total fire suppression would result in continued, unchecked fuel buildup, which increases the risk of catastrophic fires outside the natural variability of this fire regime. Experience elsewhere in the country has shown there is a point of negative returns from total suppression. At that point, even heavy staffing is unable to suppress 100 percent of fires. Eventually events and conditions (i.e., heavy fuel loadings, multiple ignitions, weather events with low relative humidity, strong winds, and high temperatures) overburden suppression capabilities, resulting in conflagrations or multiple fires beyond the control of resources. A solution for this lies in development of a prescribed burning program. A detailed discussion of prescribed burning is presented in Appendix B.