Friends of Zoar,
The NYS Department of Environmental Conservation has issued the Draft Unit Management Plan for the public land at Zoar Valley, and there is much good news. However, about half of Zoar's 3,000 acres would be protected under the plan, the other half would be opened to logging and the creation of a hunting preserve introducing non-native species.

Heartwood Alert has posted more information and a sample comment letter you can use.
The DEC has proposed placing much of Zoar Valley into a "Protection Area".  The DEC is recommending that the State Legislature place all of the public land in the gorges (both Main and South Branch Cattaraugus Creek), plus 300 foot buffers around the gorges, and 200 foot buffers along trails, into the NYS Nature and Historic Preserve Trust (the "state forest preserve").  This is the highest level of land protection in NYS.  The DEC reports that State Sen. Cathy Young has agreed to sponsor such legislation in the future (and we will all need to express our support and make sure it gets passed!)
This recommendation by the DEC is a major victory in the effort to protect Zoar Valley's natural resources, and everyone who wrote a letter, participated in a meeting, signed a petition, marched in a protest, banged a drum in public or in private, or in some other way participated in the process as a citizen and a friend of mother nature, can feel good about their efforts.  Let's all keep working to get Zoar Valley placed into the forest preserve.
The DEC proposes that the remainder of the public land, the uplands outside of the gorges and outside the buffer protection areas, continue under a Multiple Use Area designation.  While this is necessary and suitable for many of the upland areas - beaver ponds, meadows, wildlife habitat, Chestnut Foundation plantation, etc., the DEC's proposals for other upland areas, particularly forested areas, should be reviewed in depth, discussed with the DEC and commented on in writing by the public before the written comment period ends (8-22-06).  The DEC proposes plantation tree lots and timber harvesting in some of the upland areas.  The DEC proposes this to be a ten-year plan, with a review after five years.
The DEC is accepting written comments from the public until August 22, 2006The DEC will have the draft plan up on their website tomorrow ( and should have instructions there for submitting comments by email and regular mail.
While this is by no means comprehensive, a few other highlights include:
* no road building
* no rebuilding of the Forty Road bridge
* no public motorized/ATV vehicle use
* no horse trails (possible consideration of horse and snowmobile trails on detached Zoar parcel to the east (in Otto))
* improved and increased foot trails
* signage and kiosks with maps and safety info.
* posting of boundary signs to help the public stay off private land
* getting rid of the no wading rule
* adopting no alcohol and no glass container rules
* addressing the needs of the handicapped in parking areas and vista spots
* a desire for stewardship agreements and trail maintenance agreements with local groups
* a goal of acquiring additional land from willing sellers (though the NYS Environmental Protection Fund, from where funds would come to acquire land under the NYS Open Space Plan, currently is budgeted for ZERO dollars by our state government representatives.  We need to work to rectify this!!!!),
and, drumroll please,
* for the first time, the DEC has included a definition of Old Growth Forest in a unit management plan.  Let all good things flow from Zoar!
Please read the plan, participate in the process, submit written comments, pass the word, and keep enjoying Zoar Valley and the fruits of your efforts.
Julie Broyles
Zoar Valley Nature Society