Adirondack Mountain Club: Protecting the Hemlock and Canadice State Forest from Gas Drilling

In the Northeast, the current hotspot in the battle to keep public lands from being exploited for natural gas production is 7,000 acres comprising the Hemlock-Canadice State Forest (H-C SF).  About 24 miles south of Rochester, NY, the H-C SF is one of the most valuable and unique public properties in New York.  The area encompasses the only two undeveloped Finger Lakes left of the original 11 lakes.  The cold, deep waters of Hemlock and Canadice lakes provide pure fresh drinking water for nearly a quarter million people in the greater Rochester area.

The steep shorelines of the H-C SF are a refuge for mature temperate deciduous forests, that provide a vital nesting habitat for many neotropical songbirds.  The secluded shores of the Hemlock-Canadice were selected for the first successful hacking site for re-introduction of the bald eagle in New York.  The spectacular scenery of the lake draws many kayakers and boaters.  The magnificent forests have 14 miles of hiking trails with many vantage points of the lakes. The H-C SF is totally surrounded by the forests and wetlands of the watershed of the City of Rochester. The springs and tributaries of that watershed feed these lakes.  The land manager of H-C SF, the New York Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) in a proposed unit management plan (UMP) has now proposed horizontal drilling from wellpads located on these adjacent watershed lands in order to exploit the natural gas located under the H-C SF.

Gas drilling would cause wellpads, wastewater reservoirs, roads and pipeline construction in the forests and wetlands which buffer and encircle Hemlock and Canadice State Forest.  If the state leases its gas rights to drillers, they would have the right to cross the lands of H-C SF with pipelines and compressor stations.  The gas revenues that might be earned by the state from exploiting the gas under the H-C SF would be a very poor trade for probable contamination of the Rochester water supply from the clear cutting, habitat destruction and industrial disturbance of the forests and wetlands in the Hemlock Canadice watershed.   We who cherish these unspoiled lakes, pure water and the forested slopes surrounding them must never acquiesce in the natural gas leasing and extraction under the Hemlock-Canadice State Forest.

What is the solution? The Adirondack Mountain Club (ADK) proposes to pass legislation that designates the H-C SF as a "Unique Area", placing the lands in the State Nature and Historic Preservation Trust.  No gas drilling on or under lands placed in the Trust can occur under New York's state constitution.  Alternatively, ADK will work for a Unit Management Plan for the H-CSF in which the state gives a conservation easement to the City of Rochester wherein DEC gives up the right to lease any gas and oil resources under the H-C SF to any energy company.  

ADK has been fortunate enough to receive a grant from The Conservation Alliance to help us in our efforts.  The grant has enabled us to exhaustively study the H-C SF UMP and build an alliance of groups and individuals who will help us preserve the Hemlock – Canadice State Forest as a "Unique Area". It is ADK's hope that the Hemlock-Canadice State Forest will become a constitutionally protected state Nature Trust, protecting the watershed of the City of Rochester from gas drilling and exploitation for years to come.