New rules on potential clear-cutting of Adirondack forests are on the verge of being adopted by the Adirondack Park Agency, with environmental groups warning changes could fuel much more logging.
On Tuesday, an environmental coalition urged Gov. Andrew Cuomo to put the brakes on Thursday's planned vote by the park agency, while a spokesman for the timber industry said fears of rampant clear-cutting are unfounded.
Under existing rules, the APA conducts an environmental review before its commissioners consider permits to clear-cut 25 acres or more. Permits are rare, with only three sought and then issued in the last two decades.
Under the changes, which could affect hundreds of thousand of acres of privately owned forests, logging permits for clear-cuts of any size would be granted routinely to forest owners whose property was certified as environmentally sustainable by either of two outside not-for-profit groups — the Forest Stewardship Council or the Sustainable Forest Initiative.
Existing requirements for public notice and comment prior to a permit being issued would be discontinued, and a vote by park commissioners would no longer be required before permits were issued.
Opponents likened that to the APA outsourcing authority over logging in the Adirondacks to the two certification programs, while also leaving the public uninformed about potential clear-cuts until after logging had already started.
"Any debate over clear-cutting as a tool is not the point. It can do some good in some habitats," said Dan Plumley, a partner with Adirondack Wild: Friends of the Forest Preserve, a Niskayuna-based environmental group. "The point is public transparency and maintaining the authority and role of the park agency. People want to know that the agency is still watching."
Keith McKeever, a spokesman for the park agency, said changes would give loggers a "greater sense of predictability" and encourage more property owners to join two certification program that have "the highest forestry standards in the world." He said the changes would mean "healthier forests and longer-term investments in the region's forest product industry."