Save the Pine Bush, You can fight City Hall and win!

 SPB Files Most Unpopular Suit Yet

Sues the Albany Pine Bush Preserve Commission

by Lynne Jackson

In October, Save the Pine Bush filed its most controversial and unpopular suit yet against the Albany Pine Bush Preserve Commission to over-turn its fire management plan for the Pine Bush. Attorney Lewis B Oliver filed suit on behalf of Save the Pine Bush in New York State Supreme Court.

"The Fire Management Plan the Albany Pine Bush Preserve Commission issued last June is inadequate because it does not address how 200 acres of Pine Bush will be burned each year, which is the minimum number of acres which need to be burned each year for the Pine Bush to survive. The Commission itself has said, in its own guidelines, that 10% or 200 acres of the Pine Bush Preserve should be managed each year by prescribed burns. In the past 9 years, the Commission has only averaged burning 73 acres per year, less than one half of what is required," said Oliver. "The Commission is failing to maintain the Pine Bush ecology because it is regularly failing to burn 200 acres a year."

The Pine Bush is considered a fire-disclimax ecosystem; an ecosystem that requires fire in order to survive. The plants and animals are adapted to fire. For example, the dominant plant species, the pitch pine tree, has a thick bark that is fire-resistant, and has pine cones that will open after a fire. Blue lupine, the feed-plant of the Karner Blue, only grows in sunny areas where there is no shade. These open areas are achieved by the use of fire. The Pine Bush has burned naturally and on its own for thousands of years. However, with the advent of so much development in and near the Pine Bush, wild fires can no longer be permitted. The way to stop the wild fires, and to maintain the Pine Bush ecosystem, is through the use of controlled burns.

Scientists have recommended the use of controlled burns to manage the Pine Bush. Scientists have calculated that for the long-term survival of the Pine Bush, a minimum preserve size of 2,000 fire-manageable acres is required. This calculation is based on the assumption that the Preserve will be subjected to intensive management, including regular burning of the entire 2,000 acres every ten years. To achieve this intensive management, 200 acres or 10% of the Preserve must be fire managed every year. The Commission has not come anywhere near that number.

The Commission is mandated by state law to develop a plan to manage the Pine Bush using controlled burns.

Last June, the Commission adopted a fire-management plan for the Pine Bush. Save the Pine Bush is asking that this plan be declared invalid because it does not address the issue of meeting the goal of burning 200 acres per year.

Safety is an important issue. Save the Pine Bush does not wish to see wild fires in the Pine Bush. The only way to stop wild fires is through controlled burns. The Pine Bush will die without fire.

As may be expected, this lawsuit went over like a lead balloon with the Commission. People have asked why SPB would sue its "friends" at the Commission. After all, theoretically, the Albany Pine Bush Preserve Commission and Save the Pine Bush have the same goals, preservation of our beautiful Pine Bush ecosystem. However, this is not the first time SPB has filed suit against the Commission. SPB sued the Commission over its original guidelines for Pine Bush preservation. These original guidelines were nothing more than a licence for any developer to build anything in the Pine Bush. We sued to have the Commission change the guidelines. The Commission was so embarrassed that we sued them, they asked us to settle out-of-court, with an agreement that the Commission would revise its guidelines. In 1996, the Commission came out with its "Implementation Guidelines," a much more thorough document that outlines what a minimum preserve size should be and ranking parcels for protection. Though SPB does not agree with everything in the Implementation Guidelines, these guidelines do offer some protection of the Pine Bush and are no longer a license to pave it.

SPB hopes to have the same result in this suit over the Commission not burning enough. The entire basis of the Commission's plan as to the size of the Preserve is the assumption that 200 acres of the Preserve can be burned each year. Since the Commission has never even come close to burning 200 acres a year, then either they must burn more or protect more land.

 

published December 1999/January 2000 Newsletter
Last Updated 12/3/99

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