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The state Department of Environmental Conservation announced last week that its state forest management programs had won national sustainable certification for the 11th year in a row.

The DEC manages more than three-quarters of a million acres of forests outside of the Catskill and Adirondack parks, and those state forests are used for recreational opportunities as well as logging and forest management.

“Unlike the Forest Preserve, state forests … include Reforestation Areas, Multiple-Use Areas, Unique Areas and State Nature and Historic Preserves. These lands are highly valued for the recreational opportunities they provide and for their contributions to ecosystem health,” the DEC’s page on state forests says. “Thousands of miles of recreational trails are available for hiking, mountain biking, snowmobiling, horse riding, snow shoeing and cross country skiing. These properties are enjoyed by campers, hunters and trappers as well as by orienteering and geocache enthusiasts.

“On some of these lands, timber management is used as a tool to enhance biodiversity and to create habitat features that might be lacking in the landscape. Other portions are managed to protect and enhance rare, threatened or endangered species.”

State forests are different than state lands within the Adirondacks and Catskills, where Forest Preserve is protected as “forever wild” and logging operations are prohibited.

This is the 11th consecutive year that DEC has earned national certification under the Sustainable Forestry Initiative and Forest Stewardship Council forest management standards. The certifications come after independent auditors assess DEC’s management techniques, which are meant to protect water quality, increase recreational use, stimulate local economies and maintain forest health. Some parts of the state forest operations are audited every year, and the whole system is assessed every five years to maintain certification.

“More than 780,000 acres have been set aside as State Forests throughout New York,” the DEC says. “Forest certification means that the millions of dollars of forest products harvested annually from these acres are eligible to carry the FSC and SFI labels, which are in increasing demand in the marketplace. Along with growing some of the best timber in New York, DEC foresters continue their long tradition of managing State Forests to benefit everyone in a variety of ways.”

Although the forests exist outside of the Blue Line, there are 29 state forests in Region 5 which encompasses Clinton, Essex, Franklin, Fulton, Hamilton, Saratoga, Warren and Washington counties.

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