Recreate on DEC Conservation Easement Lands!
Every conservation easement is different regarding public access and recreation opportunities. Please read an easement's individual webpage or contact the DEC Lands and Forests office nearest to the easement property for details.
Protecting Natural Resources while Connecting People to the Land
A conservation easement is a voluntary, legal agreement that protects the natural resources of a parcel of land by restricting future land use and/or development on the property "in perpetuity" (permanently). This agreement is held between a landowner and a government agency or land trust, with the landowner maintaining ownership. The conservation easement can either be sold or donated, resulting in a variety of tax benefits for the landowner. The easement is recorded with the property's deed and transfers to all future landowners.
The natural resources and landscape values that easements aim to protect include water quality, wildlife habitat, sensitive ecosystems, wetlands, riparian areas, scenic areas, working forests, and historic sites. All DEC conservation easements prioritize environmental protection, with many allowing some level of public recreational access. There are more than 900,000 acres of conservation easement lands managed by DEC's Division of Lands and Forests in New York State. While most of these lands are located within the Adirondack Park and Tug Hill Plateau, DEC also holds easements on a variety of other properties around the state. Links to DEC conservation easements that offer public access are available at the bottom of this webpage.
Every Conservation Easement is Unique
The purpose and terms of each conservation easement are tailored to the specific characteristics of each property, and most are designed to meet multiple conservation objectives. For example, an easement intended to conserve a scenic area will have different restrictions than an easement designed to protect an endangered species habitat. Some prohibit all future development, while others allow for limited new construction or other improvements. Most easements allow traditional uses of the land such as forestry, agriculture or recreation to continue as long as the conservation goals of the property are being met.
Public Recreational Opportunities
DEC has acquired some level of public recreation rights on most easement properties. The amount of public access depends on the goals and objectives of the landowner at the time the easement was negotiated, as well as the natural resources being protected by the easement. Working forest conservation easements provide public access to hundreds of thousands of acres of private land. However, public access may be suspended or relocated when forest management activities are underway. Many working forest landowners also rely on income from private hunt club leases, so public hunting may be restricted or prohibited in certain areas of the property.
Public recreational opportunities on conservation easement lands are managed either through an interim recreation management plan (IRMP) or a recreation management plan (RMP) prepared by staff from DEC's Division of Lands and Forests with input from the public. These documents address existing natural resources, land uses, and laws and policies, as well as plans for future recreational development. When a property is first acquired by DEC, an IRMP will be created so that some recreational opportunities for the public can be immediately offered while a formal RMP is developed. In some instances, the IRMP or RMP may be part of a state land unit management plan (UMP).
Public access varies among conservation easements. People who plan to visit an easement should read the property's individual web page or contact the DEC Lands and Forests office nearest to the easement property.
Working Forest Conservation Easements
Working forest conservation easements allow the landowner to professionally manage the eased property's forest resource so that it remains available for sustainable forestry in perpetuity (permanently). DEC has acquired working forest conservation easements on nearly 807,000 acres of land. Primarily in the Adirondacks, these easements account for 90% of the total acreage of DEC-held conservation easements.
Most working forest conservation easements provide the landowner the choice of two forest management options:
- The forest certification program option. This option allows landowners to obtain certification from a Forest Certification Program such as the Forest Stewardship Council® (FSC®) or the Sustainable Forestry Initiative® (SFI®). Under this option, the landowner works with a professional forester (DEC maintains a list of cooperating professional foresters) to create a forest management plan that meets the requirements of the forest certification program. Upon receiving certification from one of these programs, the management plan is then filed with the program. The certifying program is responsible for conducting onsite audits to ensure the forest management plan is being followed by the landowner. Just over 710,500 acres of DEC-held working forest conservation easement lands are certified to the forest management standards of either the FSC® or SFI®, while nearly 482,000 acres are dually certified to both FSC® and SFI® program standards.
- The forest management plan option. Under this option, the landowner works with a professional forester to create a forest management plan that is then approved by and filed with DEC forestry staff. DEC forestry staff conduct onsite audits to ensure the plan is being followed. About 96,000 acres of DEC held working forest conservation easement lands are managed under a DEC-approved forest management plan.
Both of the above options require landowners to develop and update detailed forest management plans that integrate sustainable forest management with the conservation of soil, water quality, wildlife and fish habitat, historical significance, recreation and aesthetics. Regardless of which option the landowner chooses, a forest management plan must be in place prior to any forest management activities being conducted on the eased property.
Proud of our Past - Confident of our Future
The DEC is proud of its record of conserving lands through its conservation easement (CE) program. The program keeps land in private ownership and on local tax rolls, while cost effectively achieving tremendous environmental and outdoor recreation benefits. DEC is a leader in the country in using easements to conserve important landscapes. Indeed, DEC's conservation easements, most of them in the Adirondacks and Tug Hill regions, amount to more acreage than our century-old State Forest system and about one third of the acreage in the Adirondack Forest Preserve, which has been adding acreage since the 19th century. The combination of the conservation easement tool and the Environmental Protection Fund (EPF) have delivered the most successful conservation results in decades while positioning New York State well to ensure our forests continue to provide environmental and economic benefits into the future.
How to Learn More
For more information on a specific DEC conservation easement, contact the DEC Lands and Forests office nearest to the easement property you are interested in.
To learn more about sustainable forestry visit:
To learn about nonprofit land conservation organizations, visit our partners' websites:
- Land Trust Alliance (LTA)
- Open Space Institute (OSI)
- The Conservation Fund (TCF)
- The Nature Conservancy (TNC)
Conservation Easement Lands Open for Public Recreation
DEC Region 2
New York City Region
DEC Region 5
Eastern Adirondacks/Lake Champlain Region
Adirondack Mountain Reserve Conservation Easement Tract
Cedarlands Conservation Easement Tract
Chain of Lakes Conservation Easement Tract
Corinth Conservation Easement Tract
Edinberg Conservation Easement Tract
Hall Hill Road Conservation Easement Tract
Hilderbrant Road Conservation Easement Tract
Kushaqua Conservation Easement Tract
Lake Desolation Conservation Easement Tract
Paul Smiths College Conservation Easement Tract
Perkins Clearing Conservation Easement Tract
Sable Highlands Conservation Easement Tract
Santa Clara Conservation Easement Tract
Speculator Tree Farm Conservation Easement Tract
Township 19 Conservation Easement Tract
Township 20 Conservation Easement Tract
Township 33 Conservation Easement Tract
Veile Pond Road Conservation Easement Tract
DEC Region 6
Western Adirondacks/Upper Mohawk Valley/Eastern Lake Ontario Region
Beers Lot Conservation Easement Tract
Big Tupper Conservation Easement Tract
Conifer-Emporium Conservation Easement Tract
Cranberry Forest Conservation Easement Tract
Croghan Conservation Easement Tract
Dead Creek Conservation Easement Tract
East Branch Fish Creek North Conservation Easement Tract
East Branch Fish Creek South Conservation Easement Tract
Five Mile Conservation Easement Tract
Flatrock Mountain Conservation Easement Tract
Goldmine Conservation Easement Tracts
Grass River Conservation Easement Tract
Hollywood Mountain Conservation Easement Tract
Hungry Bay Conservation Easement Tract
Kildare Conservation Easement Tract
Long Pond Conservation Easement Tract
Massawepie Conservation Easement Tract
Oswegatchie Conservation Easement Tract
Peaked Hill Conservation Easement Tract
Pine Hill Conservation Easement Tract
Preston Lot Conservation Easement Tract
Seveys Conservation Easement Tract
South Colton Conservation Easement Tract
Stark Conservation Easement Tract
Sucker Lake Conservation Easement Tract
Three Lakes Conservation Easement Tract
Tooley Pond Conservation Easement Tract