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Guilderland Archives — The Altamont Enterprise, March 11, 2010

New management plan drafted
Pine Bush Preserve looks to expand by 1,500 acres

By Anne Hayden

GUILDERLAND – On March 18, the Albany Pine Bush Preserve Commission will decide when the new draft of its management plan will be released to the public.

The plan outlines the commission’s desire to increase its acreage – from 3,100 to 4,600. All 1,500 acres the commission is seeking to add to the preserve are currently privately owned.

“It is all private property. We can’t acquire it unless people are willing to sell, and we are required to pay fair market value for any land we buy,” said Christopher Hawver, the commission’s executive director.

By law, the commission’s management plan must be reviewed every five years, and the last time changes were made to the plan was 2002, said Hawver. If the commission decides the new draft of the management plan is ready for release, hard copies will be provided in the Guilderland Public Library and Guilderland Town Hall, and it will be posted online, by March 24. A public hearing for the plan will be held on April 15.

The commission was founded by state legislature to oversee preservation of the globally rare pine barrens.

The plan, which takes into account new research and resources, details improved management of the Karner blue butterfly population, which has dipped below a sustainable number, and calls for new recreational and educational opportunities in the Pine Bush Discovery Center, according to Hawver. It contains a Draft Environmental Impact Statement.

In a letter to the Enterprise editor this week, Suzanne Perry-Potts expressed her concern that the directors of the Pine Bush Preserve conspired with the town of Colonie to rezone land in 2007, rendering it worthless, so the commission could buy it.

Hawver told The Enterprise that the Town of Colonie was drafting its comprehensive plan three years ago, and the commission worked with the town to make sure its own management plan was considered; a large portion of the Pine Bush is in Colonie, in addition to parcels in Guilderland and Albany.

Colonie rezoned a large amount of property, and, because the commission consists of, and is overseen and funded by, the state’s Department of Environmental Conservation, and the state’s office of Parks Recreation and Historic Preservation, it was granted eminent domain – meaning it had the power to appropriate the rezoned land for public use.

“We do not have the power to rezone town-owned land. We will only buy land from people willing to sell,” Hawver repeated. He said the commission had participated in the public process when Guilderland drafted its comprehensive land-use plan nine years ago, and is currently participating in the same process with the city of Albany.

The purpose of adding 1,500 acres to the existing preserve is to create buffers, ensure contiguity, and provide greater resources for sensitive ecosystems, he said.

The vote to release the commission’s drafted management plan will take place at the Pine Bush Discovery Center on March 18, from 9:30 to 11: 30 a.m.

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