AN ACT in relation to the creation of a Tug Hill reserve, to provide for the protection and beneficial use of productive forest, farm and recreation lands as working lands.
Approved and effective July 17, 1992
The People of the State of New York, represented in Senate and Assembly, do enact as follows:
Section 1. Declaration of findings and purpose. The legislature finds that the Tug Hill region, as defined by law, provides water, wildlife, forest, farm and recreational resources of nationwide, statewide and regional significance. Protection of these resources through coordinated, local action will provide the most enduring and cost-effective method of retaining the rural and remote character of this land, and of retaining the independent way of life of its people and their economy.
The legislature further finds that resources particularly important to the character of Tug Hill include its major river corridors; its gorges (locally known as "gulfs"); its core forest and headwaters area; aquifers; habitats of endangered, rare and threatened plant and animal species; habitat important to protected animal species, such as deer winter yards; and state- and locally-designated historic sites. These resources are among those that should have highest priority for protection through local reserve plans and local land use controls.
The legislature further finds that Tug Hill's national and statewide significance is related to its inclusion in the U.S. Forest Service's Northern Forest Lands area, and its proximity to the Adirondack Park and the Adirondack Champlain International Biosphere Reserve. Its regional and statewide significance is related to its natural values as well as the economic contribution of its pure waters, its timber, and its hunting, fishing and other recreational opportunities.
The legislature further finds that, lying between Lake Ontario, the Black River and Oneida Lake, the region's approximately 2,000 square miles encompass towns and villages scattered in a vast acreage of forest and farm land. The core of the region encompasses more than 800 square miles of remote forest land and the headwaters of several major rivers, with much of the area inaccessible by public road. These resources are crucial to the region's natural environment, its economy, and its very way of life. These resources supply water for residents of the Tug Hill region, as well as communities outside the region. Its pure waters and vast forest lands are essential to thousands of jobs in forest, agricultural and other industries in and near the region. These resources also support opportunities for hunting, fishing, and recreation that are integral to the region's economy and way of life.
The legislature further finds that the region's national and statewide significance is also related to its history of municipal cooperation, as evidence by creation of formally incorporated intermunicipal agreements for resource protection that date back to 1974. This tradition is especially strong in the core of the region where towns have administered a multi-town resource management plan, similar rural development codes, and a cooperative zoning board of appeals since the mid-1970's, and now are joined in a council of government of 19 towns and villages, which are preparing a local reserve plan.
This track record demonstrates the capability of Tug Hill region towns and villages to work together for resource protection and appropriate economic development.
The legislature further finds that retaining the rural character of the Tug Hill region will require the cooperation of individuals and public and private organizations, and close consultation between state agencies, boards, commissions, authorities and local governments.
It is the purpose of this act to establish a system of protection for the Tug Hill region through programs administered by local councils of governments, and to ensure that in proposing development or in the review of proposed development the actions of governmental agencies, boards, commissions and authorities are consistent with protection of the region.
Section 2. Definitions:
1. "Core forest area" shall mean areas which are a part of the large, contiguous, central portion of Tug Hill characterized by forest cover, few public roads, headwater areas of major rivers or streams, concentrations of wetlands, and identified for their significance in an inventory of special areas prepared by or for a council of government in the preparation of a local reserve plan and map.
2. "Council of governments" shall mean a group of representatives of Tug Hill municipalities working together under article 5-G of the general municipal law to administer a local reserve plan.
3. "Deer winter yards" shall mean those areas in the Tug Hill region identified by the New York state department of environmental conservation as mild winter and harsh winter deer wintering areas.
4. "Gulf" shall mean a gorge in the Tug Hill region identified for its scenic, geologic, habitat or recreational value in an inventory prepared by or for a council of government in the preparation of a local reserve plan and map.
5. "Important habitat areas" shall mean Tug Hill region plant and animal sites identified by the New York Natural Heritage Program; and similar sites identified in an inventory prepared by or for a council of government in the preparation of a local reserve plan and map.
6. "Important headwaters and groundwater area" shall mean an area encompassing the headwaters and headwater wetlands of a major river or stream, or an area overlying an aquifer or significant groundwater resource, as identified in an inventory of special areas prepared by or for a council of governments in the preparation of a local reserve plan and map.
7. "Important historic and scenic areas" shall mean a vista, scenic stretch of road, or historic site identified for its significance to the character of a community, as identified in an inventory of special areas prepared by or for a council of governments in the preparation of a local reserve plan or map.
8. "Large, contiguous forest area" shall mean an area of at least 500 acres of private forest land in the Tug Hill region identified for its significance in providing timber, habitat, hunting, fishing, or other recreational value in and inventory of special areas prepared by or for a council of governments in the preparation of a local reserve plan and map.
9. "Local reserve" shall mean an area of Tug Hill forest, farm and recreational land, and wildlife habitat, associated water resources, documented as having at least statewide significance in a plan administered by a council of government and approved by all participating municipalities.
10. "Local reserve plan" shall mean a multi-town plan prepared by a council of governments, setting goals, compatible and incompatible land uses, criteria for designation of special areas, and development review procedures. The local reserve plan shall serve as a guide to member municipalities in the adoption of local plans, land use controls and programs to help meet the goals of a local reserve plan. A local reserve plan shall take effect upon approval of all participating municipalities.
11. "Major river or stream corridors" shall mean a Tug Hill region river identified for its significant water supply, recreational, habitat or scenic value in an inventory of special areas prepared by or for a council of governments in the preparation of a local reserve plan and map.
12. "Special areas" shall mean those particular areas in a local reserve which are identified by municipalities as vital to protecting natural resources and character of the landscape. Tug Hill resources to be considered for special area designation in a local reserve plan include, but are not limited to, gulfs; important habitat areas; large, contiguous and core forest areas; major river and stream corridors; important headwater and groundwater areas; and historic and scenic areas.
Section 3. Council of governments.
1. A council of governments shall identify a local reserve within, or comprised of, its member municipalities.
2. The council shall assist member municipalities in the identification of special areas and in the review of development proposed in special areas, and review of development that could have reserve wide impacts.
Section 4. Local protection special area program. Special areas identified by municipalities may be protected through local land use codes adopted by individual municipalities, based on guidelines suggested by the council of governments. Special areas may be designated critical environmental areas by the municipality under provisions of the environmental conservation law. Participating municipalities shall take at least one of these two actions to designate a special area.
Section 5. Consistent government actions. Actions of governmental agencies, boards, commissions, and authorities in proposing development or in the review of proposed development shall be consistent with maintaining the rural character of Tug Hill and the intent of this act. When a governmental agency, board, commission or authority proposes development or reviews proposed development which directly affects locally-designated Tug Hill special area resources, and which could change the basic nature of Tug Hill in a municipality that has adopted a local reserve plan, such agencies, boards, commissions and authorities, shall consult with the affected municipality or municipalities on consistency with the local reserve plan.
Section 6. This act shall take effect immediately.