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What is the Forest Preserve?

What is the Forest Preserve?

What and where is the New York State Forest Preserve?

The New York State Forest Preserve is a combination of public and private lands that have special protections in New York State’s Constitution, and are managed by the state’s Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC). You can find the nearly 2 million, 888 thousand acres of Forest Preserve land within the Adirondack and Catskill Parks.

The Adirondack Park was created in 1892, and is the larger of the two parks. At 6 million acres, the Adirondack Park is larger than Yellowstone, the Everglades, the Grand Canyon, and Glacier National Parks combined, making this New York region the largest protected area in the contiguous United States.

2.6 million acres of Forest Preserve land falls within the Adirondack Park.

Further south, the Catskill Park was established in 1904 and protects 700,000 acres. The Catskill Park is not only a recreation destination, but also contains 287,000 acres of Forest Preserve land that provides crucial drinking water to New York City.

New York State Forect Preserve Map
Adirondacks relative size

Why is the Forest Preserve Important?

The New York State Forest Preserve is a globally-significant resource that plays an important role in the lives and well-being of all New Yorkers. The Preserve contains unique wetlands, old growth or “primeval” forest, thousands of lakes, rivers, and streams, and imperiled alpine flora. The ecologically diverse habitats of the Forest Preserve are also home to threatened, vulnerable, and endangered species. And the trees of the forest can play a major role in sequestering carbon, while preventing erosion, flooding, and mitigating temperature fluctuations.

Bald Rondaxe Mountain Fire Town in autumn sunrise with mist
Brendan Wiltse

A Turning Point for Forest Preserve Trails

All of this varied and beautiful terrain provides opportunities for world-class hiking and other outdoor recreation along thousands of miles of trails Forest Preserve. This, in and of itself, is an incredible benefit to the state, both for individuals who have come to enjoy the benefits of nature for their health and wellbeing, as well as for the communities that rely on these visitors to support their local economy.

But many, if not most, Forest Preserve trails depict the vision of late 19th– and early 20th-century hiking guides, who sought to create the most direct routes to summits, without much thought given to environmental considerations. As a result, these trails, which often run along streambeds, through wetlands, and over alpine habitats, experience excessive levels of erosion and other forms of degradation.

With more hikers on the trail than ever before, and with more frequent and severe climate change-related storms, the legacy of the original trailblazers is eroding, leaving behind paths that are unsafe and unsustainable for today’s hikers. So what is the solution?

For our best prevention and mitigation strategies, read on here.

1922 Trailblazers, edited
Avalanche Lake Trail Work

Related

Sustainable Trails and Other Solutions

Solutions to increased visitation to the Forest Preserve and degraded trails are many. Read on to see the steps being taken, and to see what you can do to help make the Forest Preserve safer and more enjoyable for all visitors.

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