To gather basic information about the current status of land management activities relating to natural resource management and recreation, a questionnaire was sent to public lands management agencies in January 1994. The questionnaire was divided into three sections:
1. Summary of acres, staffing, budget and other background information.
2. Description of activities on lands managed by each agency.
3. Threats to the land and issues relating to programs
A copy of the survey results is included in Appendix 6-2.
11.2 Town of Brookhaven
Brookhaven owns two nature preserves totalling 175 acres. These are the Panamoka Park Nature Preserve and Twin Ponds Nature Preserve. Both of these are undeveloped and used solely for passive recreation, hiking and educational purposes.
The Town's Division of Environmental Protection is responsible for the oversight of the two preserves. Their primary activity is law enforcement. Natural resource management and site management is minimal, although a phragmites control project is underway.
The land management problems of the preserves include erosion and habitat
degradation by all terrain vehicles (ATV) use and motorcycles, dumping,
vandalism of trails and markers and unauthorized hunting.
11.3 Town of Riverhead
The Town of Riverhead does not own any parks or open space within the
Core Preservation Area of the Pine Barrens.
11.4 Town of Southampton
The Town of Southampton owns 12 sites totalling 602 acres in the Pine Barrens. Three are recreational parks with sports facilities. These are the Red Creek Park (Hampton Bays), the Hampton West Estates Park (Westhampton), and the Ludlam Park (Riverside). The remaining parcels were generally deeded to the Town as open space areas associated with permitted subdivisions. The Town obtained these open space lands for watershed and aquifer protection, buffer land and passive recreation.
Two departments within the Town have management roles within the Pine Barrens. In 1994, the Department of Planning and Natural Resources had four staff people involved in periodic planning and management policy formulation for Town lands within the Pine Barrens. The Department of Parks and Recreation is responsible for management of the Town's three recreational facilities. Five seasonal employees maintain the sports fields and formally landscaped areas in these parks. In one case, the management responsibilities of the 108 acres adjacent to the Quogue Wildlife Refuge have been delegated by the Town to NYSDEC.
Town budget allocations are not specific to the Pine Barrens, or to general resource management. The Environmental Advisory Fund in 1994 totaled approximately $30,000; these monies are available for town-wide environmental protection and management purposes.
In terms of natural resource management, the Town does not currently engage in biological management for either game or nongame species in the Pine Barrens.
Lack of staff and time for adequate planning are identified as constraints affecting the effectiveness of the Town's Department of Planning and Natural Resources. There are no written management plans for any of the Town's sites. Insufficient funds for land management are also cited as a problem.
The unauthorized uses causing the most serious problems on Town land
are overclearing of woodlands for recreational or other purposes, unauthorized
off-road vehicle use and dumping.
11.5 Suffolk County
Suffolk County Parks owns 16,302 acres within the pine barrens. Three major parks provide recreational opportunities for an estimated 128,000 County residents. These are Cathedral Pines (in Middle Island), Southaven County Park (in Brookhaven), and Sears Bellows and Hubbard County Parks (located primarily in Southampton Town). The remaining County owned land is undeveloped. Some significant undeveloped properties include Robert Cushman Murphy County Park, Hampton Hills, scattered tracts within the dwarf pine plains, Maple Swamp, and Cranberry Bog/Sweezy Pond.
Activities at Cathedral Pines Park center around group camping and family camping. The County has constructed a new Camping and Environmental Learning Center at this site. Campers can view environmental education films and participate in environmental programs sponsored by the Parks Department.
Southaven is the County's most active recreational facility in the Pine Barrens with recreational activities such as camping, hiking, picnicking, hunting, horseback riding and row boating. Sears Bellows and Hubbard provide similar types of active recreational activities.
The primary activity in natural areas is hiking. However, horseback riding, off road vehicle (ORV) use and mountain biking do occur without the sanction of the Department.
There is a need for interpretative stations within the Pine Barrens especially along the Paumanok Path. Towards this end, the Parks and Planning Departments are developing a parks interpretive plan for some of these areas that suggest capital improvements promoting interpretation of natural resources. Currently, 10% of the total agency operating budget ($8.3 million in 1994) is spent on Pine Barrens management.
Primary land management activities include law enforcement by park police, management of the recreational facilities (including three campgrounds, picnic areas), swimming and boating areas, building and road maintenance and site management (such as trash pick-up), and some environmental education. By and large, these activities are focused on the developed parklands.
Natural areas of parks and undeveloped properties currently receive little direct attention besides law enforcement. The Parks Department does not currently have any staff positions responsible for natural resource management, although new positions have been requested.
11.5.1 Suffolk County Nature Preserve
The Suffolk County Planning Department has completed an inventory of all County parkland and has identified all land dedicated to the Nature Preserve. In the past it appears that some parcels were inappropriately dedicated to the Nature Preserve in that they do not meet the Preserve criteria, nor were required subsequent management reports prepared. The effect has been a general devaluation of the Nature Preserve designation.
Of the approximately 30,000 acres of parkland, there are approximately 2,500 acres formally dedicated as Nature Preserve. These preserves were established for the following reasons:
1. To preserve endangered, unique, vulnerable or representative biological,
ecological, or hydrological resources;
2. To provide a passive recreational setting;
3. To provide outdoor laboratories or learning centers;
4. To safeguard natural features and resources that are vulnerable to human disturbance.
Some of the criteria for choosing Nature Preserve sites are as follows:
1. Serves as a habitat for endangered, threatened of special concern
2. Contains a habitat that supports rare plant or animal species;
3. Contains a habitat that serves as a breeding, feeding, or resting sites for wildlife;
4. Contains geological features vulnerable to human disturbance;
5. Is suitable for environmental education;
6. Provides a buffer to lands already dedicated to the Nature Preserve;
7. Preserves of critical watershed areas.
In an effort to insure that appropriate lands are designated as Nature Preserves, the Planning Department will prepare management reports on a site specific basis that clearly the describes the site's unique geological features, endangered species and rare plant habitation as well as the best management practices for stewardship. Those parcels which meet the criteria will be rededicated to the Nature Preserve, those parcels not meeting Nature Preserve criteria will be redesignated for other park uses.
11.5.2 Identified Concerns of the Parks Department
Serious issues facing the Parks Department are compounded by insufficient funds, affecting facility maintenance, natural resource management and law enforcement. As a policy dilemma, the Department is also facing increasing demands by park user groups for specialized recreational uses.
The Department will make every effort to provide increased recreational activities within the County parkland system but only to the extent that it will not compromise the ecological integrity of the parkland.
Illegal use of off-road vehicles (ORV) has been identified as the most serious land management problem on County land, with dumping as a close second. The Department has set a firm policy of banning ORV use in parkland. It has been a difficult ban to enforce. However, some motorized vehicles have been confiscated by park police in an effort to curtail illegal use.
Additionally, all terrain bicycles (ATB) are a cause of concern. Generally, mountain bikers use trails designed for hiking where they cause some erosion but are deemed to pose more of a safety problem. The Department plans to designate parkland for mountain bike use and issue mountain bike permits along with safety and courtesy instructions.
In terms of land use policies and future park planning, the Parks Department in conjunction with the County Department of Planning will soon issue a park master plan for legislative approval. The plan verifies land use policies already in place and identifies future recreational needs of the County. The Department is also in the process of preparing individual management agreements with private environmental groups and other municipal agencies that are of mutual benefit to the involved agencies.
11.5.3 Cooperative Agreements
The County has cooperative agreements with The Nature Conservancy and the State University of New York at Stony Brook. The Nature Conservancy monitors rare species and natural communities at selected sites. Reports are sent annually to Commissioner of Parks that describe the Conservancy's activities on County lands and recommends for the management actions for ecologically significant areas.
The County has an agreement with the State University of New York at Stony Brook for the use of a County park site as a biological research station. This facility is located at Swan Pond in Robert Cushman Murphy County Park. The University has conducted biological research at this site since October 1988 and subsequently prepared a vegetation map of Robert Cushman Murphy County Park.
The County is also the major landholder of public lands in the Pine
Barrens Core Preservation Area. Consequently, based on the aforementioned
agreement with State University of New York (SUNY), the County Executive
has instructed Parks Commissioner Wankel to develop a proposal to establish
a Long Island Pine Barrens Environmental Science Center at Robert Cushman
11.6 New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation (NYSOPRHP)
NYSOPRHP owns one undeveloped park within the pine barrens. Brookhaven State Park consists of 1500 acres. It is neither staffed nor developed as a park. Although a park manager from another park is assigned to Brookhaven State Park he does not have an operating budget specifically for this park.
This park is plagued by serious dumping and unauthorized use. Construction and landscaping debris as well as abandoned cars are commonly dumped. Off-road vehicles freely enter the area.
A serious issue facing NYSOPRHP, in general, is insufficient funding
for law enforcement, facility and site maintenance, and natural resource
11.7 New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (NYSDEC)
NYSDEC owns 7,522 acres within the Pine Barrens. The Rocky Point Natural Resources Management Area (5,154 acres), Sarnoff Preserve (2,183 acres), and the Ridge Environmental Conservation Area (185 acres) are all natural resources management areas which provide a variety of resource-related uses.
Rocky Point and Sarnoff do not have built facilities except for maintenance center areas. The Ridge Environmental Conservation Area is the NYSDEC hunting check station, and also has an interpretive center. All visitors to these sites are required to obtain use permits. Approximately 22,000 visits are made per year.
Primary activities on State Forest land include hunting, fishing, hiking, dog training, nature observation, bicycling and cross-country skiing. At Rocky Point, over 5,000 permits are issued annually for hunting. Over 2,000 permits are issued for hiking and mountain biking on the dedicated trail.
State land is administered by the Office of Natural Resources. Within the office, the Bureau of Forest Management is responsible for the administration and management of the properties, as well as implementation of its Unit Management Plans.
A Unit Management Plan is developed through an integrated team approach, where professionals from all of the regional natural resource units provide input. The Forest Management Bureau concentrates on silvicultural management and recreational use of the property, including stand prescriptions, prescribed burning programs, evaluation of recreational uses, identification of rare and endangered plant communities, etc. The Forest Rangers address the forest protection function, as they provide on-site stewardship, state land patrol, law enforcement and fire control. The Division of Fish and Wildlife manages hunting, fishing, other wildlife related programs, wildlife population management, restoration, stocking, wildlife habitat enhancement activities and freshwater wetlands protection and management.
Presently the annual staff time dedicated to land management in the Pine Barrens consists of one forester, three forest rangers, one wildlife biologist and two wildlife technicians.
Management goals and objectives are very similar for all properties. It is the policy of the NYSDEC to manage state land for multiple purposes. Natural resource management activities are primarily those related to wildlife management such as annual surveys of deer, quail, breeding birds and tiger salamanders as well administering the hunting program. The wildlife habitat enhancement program includes the maintenance of openings on old antenna fields and firebreaks and the planting of various grasses, annual grains and shrub seedlings for food and cover. Other wildlife management activities include pheasant stocking and the placement of bluebird boxes and other nesting structures.
Written management plans are in draft form for Rocky Point and Ridge. A management plan was written for Sarnoff in 1983, but is recognized as needing revisions.
The unauthorized uses that cause the most serious problems are dumping,
illegal access and vandalism. Determining compatible uses is identified
as a difficult challenge. Insufficient management funds and the need to
resolve conflicting use dilemmas are noted as facility management and administrative
11.8 United States Department of Defense
The Navy owns 3,125 acres associated with the undeveloped portion of the Naval Weapons Industrial Reserve Plant at Calverton (the "Grumman" lands). The Navy has a cooperative agreement with NYSDEC Division of Fish and Wildlife for the management of this land. NYSDEC also manages 901 contiguous acres owned by Suffolk County. Altogether this is referred to as the Navy Cooperative.
Long term wildlife and forest management plans have been written for the area, but both are in need of update. Primary recreational opportunities provided on the areas include hunting, fishing, trapping, canoeing, hiking, nature observation, dog training and field trials. As with the Rocky Point and Sarnoff areas, a permit from NYSDEC is required for access to the area.
Approximately 5,000 permits are issued each year (mostly for hunting), resulting in more than 15,000 visits per year.
NYSDEC management of the property includes the erection of barriers and gates to control ORV access and dumping. Natural resource management of the property includes surveys of deer, quail, breeding birds and tiger salamanders; pheasant stocking, placement of blue bird boxes, wood duck boxes and other nesting structures and habitat management. Wildlife habitat enhancement activities include creating and maintaining openings, planting various grasses, annual grains and tree and shrub seedlings for food and cover.
The unauthorized uses that cause the most serious problems are dumping,
illegal access and vandalism.
11.9 United States Department of Energy
The US Department of Energy's Brookhaven National Laboratory (BNL) in
Upton comprises approximately 2,500 acres of Pine Barrens. This land is
managed by the staff of BNL. This land is not open to the public for safety
and confidentiality reasons.