Nov. 19, 2008: Cause for concern with DEP lands

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To The Editor:
A new era is upon us. As such, I wish to inform interested readers about recent changes of use in New York City lands managed by the Department of Environment Protection (DEP). These changes demand greater vigilance in protecting private property and pets.
In October, the DEP posted new signs. Lands previously open to access for hiking and fishing, by permit only, are now open to hunting and trapping. Recreational access has expanded to DEP lands contiguous with New York State. One no longer needs a permit to hike. Hunting and trapping are now allowed with proper permits. I asked a DEP employee posting signs why property owners weren’t informed about this change. He advised me to contact my town supervisor.
Middletown Supervisor Len Utter informed me that “we’ve been trying to open up more of the lands” for these purposes. He couldn’t say why affected property owners were not directly notified, nor could town council and planning board members. Mr. Utter referred me to Acting Secretary Chief of Natural Resources Management, Paul Lenz, in Kingston. His assistant, Linda Bank, said it is the town supervisor’s authority to inform the public.
On October 27, one of my fears was realized. Walking the dogs on our usual Hill Road route within the Huckleberry Brook Unit, just half a mile from my home, Diva’s terrified screams had me racing onto a sliver of New York City forest, bordered on either side by private lands. She writhed in agony, her front paw crushed in a trap while the other dog, tied to a tree, howled in sympathy. Ignorant of such devices, I managed to release it after long, painful deliberation. DEC Officer Vernon Bauer visited the site with me, determining that the trap, with identification tag, is legal. Since then, the trapper has been observed on the land adjacent to mine. Yet the State DEC reminds trappers to “use good judgment in selecting areas for trap placement” by avoiding areas “frequented by pets…to stay away from hiking trails” and to use dog-proof trap sets, placing them out of dogs’ reach with suggested devices.
As for my fears about hunting activity in closer proximity, on November 9, I observed a young neighbor carrying an inflated pop-up tent over the meadow across the road, to use for a deer blind. DEP Officer Mike Davis investigated. He cautioned the man about the dangers of wandering at dusk dressed head-to-toe in black during archery season. Officer Davis was kind enough to follow up the next day, saying that the agreement between city and state agencies has caused confusion among wardens, law enforcement personnel, and users. He cited Chapter 16 of Title 15 of the Rules of the City of New York. However, the Rules for the Recreational Use of Water Supply Lands and Waters posted on DEP’s website do not reflect new provisions for change of use. One must contact the Downsville (607 363-7045) or Shokan (845 657-7680) headquarters for updated literature.
As for me, I am investing in an electronic pet containment system and will monitor my pets’ activities when traveling a route we have enjoyed for 18 years. The rules do state, incidentally, that dogs must be leashed and controlled. Who knew?
Here is not the appropriate forum for discussing the ethics of trapping, the use of public lands for commercial enterprise, or the miscalculations and misadventures of novice hunters. However, recent events have raised deep concern among my neighbors who hike, walk, and hunt with their dogs. Increased access makes private properties more susceptible to trespassing violations and makes humans and domestic animals more vulnerable to flying bullets and traps. Moreover, it raises genuine concerns about property devaluation in newly-sensitive areas.
Readers, if you see these new blue signs, protect your property by clearly posting your land. Protect your animals as best you can by limiting their movements. Report any suspicious activity to 800-575-5263 or Officer Davis at 607-865-4185.

Amy A. Metnick,
Margaretville