By Brian Nearing, TimesUnion.com, link to original post
The state’s forever-wild state Forest Preserve in the Adirondack Park is growing by more than 400 acres of forests and wetlands along the western shore of Lake Champlain.
The state is adding more than 2 miles of protected shoreline to the preserve near the Washington County hamlet of Clemons off Route 22, the Department of Environmental Conservation announced Tuesday.
This area is the southern end of the 132-mile lake. Here the lake is narrow, appearing more like a river, and is predominantly wetlands and isolated forest. Being added to state forever-wild lands are 156 acres along the lake donated by The Nature Conservancy and an adjoining 283-acre parcel and island donated by Washington County.
There is no cost to the state, which will pay local property taxes on the land as it does on all state-owned lands in the 6 million-acre Adirondack Park, DEC spokeswoman Lori Severino said on Tuesday.
The Nature Conservancy spent $500,000 three years ago to buy its parcel, located in an area called Chubbs Dock off Route 22, 9 miles north of the village of Whitehall. That money came from a half-million-dollar federal wetland protection grant to the conservancy from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. The donated county-owned parcel is in a part of the lake called Maple Bend Island. “Chubbs Dock conserves excellent wildlife habitat along the narrow headwaters of Lake Champlain,” DEC Commissioner Joe Martens said.
The area also will provide new public access to launch boats into the lake. It is several miles north of the existing state boat launch at South Bay. The other public access to the lake is much farther north at Ticonderoga.
Michael Carr, executive director of the Conservancy’s Adirondack Chapter, said: “Not only is New York state keeping intact some of the largest wetlands on Lake Champlain, but doing it in a way that will also secure public access for hunting, fishing, boating and wildlife-oriented recreation — all of which contribute to the state’s outdoor recreation economy.”
The newly protected lands also are important because moose, bears, bobcats, fishers and otters use that relatively undeveloped area to travel between the Lake George region and the Green Mountains in Vermont.
The Nature Conservancy has been studying the southern Champlain region as a “wildlife corridor,” said Michelle Brown, a conservation scientist for the conservancy. “We are looking at this landscape with a big lens, and are exploring ways to make sure that the Adirondacks do not become a kind of ‘island,” and remain connected to the Green Mountains.”
Large carnivores like bears can range up to 10 miles in a single day, and up to 40 miles over the course of a season. Even a smaller predator like a fisher, a member of the weasel family that can reach 4 feet long and weigh 10 pounds, can cover three or four miles a day.
Keeping the forest and lake link open between the mountains allows for continued genetic mixing between animals. When animal populations become isolated, genetic variability declines, making animals more susceptible to disease outbreaks.
The conservancy’s five-year study looks at three strategies — land conservation, like what is being done in Clemons; methods to reduce barriers to wildlife presented by roads in the area, and land use planning to ensure development does not occur in critical areas.
The Champlain study is part of a larger, four-state project including New Hampshire and Maine that seeks to protect connections in the forests of the Northeast. That study includes the conservancy, DEC, as well as the Vermont Department of Fish and Wildlife, Wildlife Conservation Society and The Conservation Fund.