The Albany Pine Bush Preserve Commission is mandated by law to revise its Management Plan every five years. The last revision to the Management Plan were the Implementation Guidelines, adopted by the Commission in 1996.
The Commission will hold a public hearing on its Draft Management Plan and Draft Environmental Impact Statement for the Albany Pine Bush Preserve on Thursday, October 18 from 7:00 to 9:00 pm at the Town of Colonie Community Center, 1653 Central Avenue, Colonie. Originally, the Commission had scheduled the hearing on September 11, but canceled it.
All people interested in preserving the Pine Bush should attend this hearing. This plan will influence the size and shape of the Pine Bush Preserve for the next five years, and it is essential that people interested in preservation comment on this Draft Plan.
To summarize the main points, the Draft Plan accurately notes (on page iii) that Ò. . . development remains the primary challenge or threat to achievement of Preserve goals, and ultimately to the long-term viability of the natural communities and native species that make up the Preserve. The continued incremental loss of undeveloped land makes it increasingly difficult to assure adequate protection of the land necessary to allow natural ecosystem functions to occur in the Preserve. In addition, development results in increased fragmentation of the Preserve and increased human population and infrastructure in the areas surrounding the Preserve. Ó
Destruction of the Pine Bush ecosystem by development is the number one threat to the survival of the Pine Bush, as the Draft Plan accurately notes. But, the Draft Plan does not go far enough to protect the Pine Bush.
The major flaws in the Draft Plan are:
1) The Draft Plan speaks of Òwilling sellersÓ as the only method to acquire land for the Preserve. However, some key parcels, such as the land behind the Teresian House on Washington Avenue Extension, where the Diocese wants to build senior housing, are not for sale.
The State of New York and other entities have spent approximately $25 million to purchase Pine Bush for Preservation. The Pine Bush is of national and international importance. Other states such as Ohio, Indiana, New Hampshire and in Canada, Toronto, are actively trying to reintroduce the Karner Blue back into its original habitat. In Albany, we are destroying potential Karner Blue habitat.
The Pine Bush ecosystem is less than 10% of its original size, and less than half of that is in Preserve.
The Commission should be given the powers of eminent domain or should be able to compel the state to use eminent domain to acquire land from unwilling sellers to complete the Preserve. In light of the tremendous amount of money that has been spent to create a Preserve, it would be a crime if not enough Pine Bush were protected for the ecosystem to survive. The powers of eminent domain have been used by the government for decades to build and widen roads and build other public works projects which have not always benefited the people. It is time to use the power of eminent domain to create some good.
Time is of the essence. Developers are out to make as much money as possible and the Pine Bush will only suffer.
2) The Draft Plan does not cover the entire remaining Pine Bush ecosystem. Valuable ecosystem has been lost because of the CommissionÕs refusal to acknowledge that Pine Bush ecosystem extends beyond its arbitrary boundaries. Especially important to include is land north and west of the current boundaries. Also, the University at Albany is built on Pine Bush and should be included within its boundaries. Perhaps the massive destruction of Pine Bush on the University campus would not have been so severe if the Commission had been able to review its plans.
3) The Draft Plan still insists on dividing up the Pine Bush into ÒFull ProtectionÓ and ÒPartial Protection.Ó All of this land, whether full or partial protection, is made up of current or historic Pine Bush ecological communities. The only distinction between the two is political, not ecological. The Commission defines Òfull protectionÓ as land that should be fully protected and not developed. ÒPartial protectionÓ is land the Commission believes can accommodate some development. However, developing parts of patchwork parcels simply increases the fragmentation of the ecosystem. The Pine Bush has already lost 90% of its original extent.
The final plan should remove the designation of Òpartial protectionÓ.
4) The burn plan in the Draft Plan is inadequate. Fire is essential to the survival of the Pine Bush. The entire basis for the size of the Preserve (2,000 fire-manageable acres) is that the Commission burn 10% or 200 acres of the ecosystem every year. Since the Commission began setting controlled burns ten years ago, it has never burned 200 acres. In the past two years, the Commission has burned less than 15 acres each year, with no controlled burns as of yet in 2001.
The Pine Bush must burn to survive. The Commission must devise a plan where more Pine Bush can be burned. The burn windows are quite small. However, more burn crews should be formed so that more parcels could be burned at the same time.
The main reason that the Commission cannot conduct enough controlled burns is due to fragmentation of the Preserve and too much development adjacent to the Preserve.
5) The proposed interpretive center (costing about $1.3 million in public funds) is not in an appropriate place. The reason the Pine Bush is in trouble is because of suburban style development. Suburban style being building one-story box-like structures surrounded by parking lots, with no pedestrian or mass transit access. It is ironic that the proposed Pine Bush Discovery Center copies the style of what has destroyed the Pine Bush.
The preferred location in the Draft Plan is on Kings Road, near no mass transit. This means that the cost of the ticket to visit the Discovery Center is quite high Ñ one must own a car. The drawings in the Draft Plan do not even show a sidewalk along the driveway. The design of the Discovery Center, as presented in the Draft Plan, is made for cars, not people.
6) The Commission should fire Environmental Design and Research (EDR) who are listed as one of the organizations responsible for preparing the report. EDR cannot be objective in regards to preservation of the Pine Bush. They have been hired by developers to prepare statements as to why certain parcels of land can (such as area 29) can be developed. EDR is playing both sides of the fence: either they are for preservation of the Pine Bush or against it. Any input they may have had into the preparation of the Draft Plan is suspect because of their advocacy for developers.
The executive summary of the Draft Plan has been posted on the FORCE website at http://www.capital.net/~force/pibuexsu.htm. Complete copies of the Draft Plan are available for public review at the main branches of the Albany, Guilderland and Colonie Town Libraries, Albany City Hall, Guilderland and Colonie Town Halls, Region 4 of DEC, The Nature Conservancy, NYS Office of Parks and Recreation, and SUNYA. The complete list of addresses and phone numbers of these locations can be found at http://www.capital.net/~force/pibuloc.html.
It is extremely important for as many supporters of Pine Bush preservation attend this hearing as possible. The developers will be out in force; we need to counter their destructive comments with reasons why more protections should be made for the Pine Bush.
If you would like more information about the Draft Plan or would like to discuss specifics of how the Draft Plan needs to be improved, please call Lynne Jackson at 434-1954.
Printed in the October/November, 2001 Newsletter