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Testimony Of Senator Bonacic On The Dep's


Trout Hunter

September 8, 2004

My name is John Bonacic. I am the State Senator for all of parts of
Delaware, Orange, Sullivan and Ulster Counties. I represent more of the New York City
Watershed than any other elected office holder.

The people of the Catskills this year celebrate our 100th anniversary
as part of the State's forever wild forest preserve.

We have enjoyed generally good relationship with the New York State
Department of Environmental Conservation. That relationship is built on decades of
communication, representation when critical decisions are not only contemplated, but when
they are actually made, and a historic understanding that the people of the Catskills have
always been the best environmentalists and protectors of the land and water.

We have virtually none of that with the City of New York. From a
police presence which has overstepped it statutory, and, I submit, Constitutional bounds, to the
regular inability of DEP staff "up here" to make decisions. Even when decisions are made, they are
often reversed or modified by department staff in the City.

Let me give some examples:

Last year, I had an understanding with the DEP that they would review
only water quality issues with respect to the proposed Crossroads project in Middletown and

I then read, with great interest, the DEP's report, which condemned
the project, for, among other reasons, the fact that it might cause 158 new housing units to be
built in the Towns of Andes, Middletown, Shandaken, and Olive.

158 new homes in an area of what I am told is 400 square miles. I
guess that is supposed to be considered bad. Imagine if we had 800,000 housing units on just 23
square miles. What would the City of New York DEP do about that. What would they call that???
Don't worry, I can answer it. It's called Manhattan.

I have nothing against the City. I grew up in the City. But I have
everything against unelected people trying to hold back progress and economic vitality in my
Senate District.

As a further example of the DEP’s water quality study, they argued
that the Crossroads project would cause commercial development along Route 28 and that traffic
would increase.

Since I have been Senator, Belleayre has doubled its attendance.
Will the City next be saying we should close that. As for the new businesses that might open,
last time I checked, in a democracy, people can open their own enterprises.

The City also urged that 25,000 potential timeshare buyers would need
to come to Belleayre, and, . . . It just gets worse, the report says new investors could enter the
market and would most likely develop commercial projects . . . I hope so. It might even, the
City warned, cause higher wages to have to be paid in this region.

So when the DEP then starts writing recreational use regs, after
doing all they can to complain about the prospect of new businesses and higher wagers, I tend to
look closely at these Regulations.


I started out mentioning the Region's generally positive relationship
with the DEC when it comes to recreational issues.

The DEP would do well to look at State law and DEC regulations in modeling their land use regulations. I currently am sponsoring legislation which requires DEP recreational regulations be similar to DEC regulations for land which is similar.

The DEP has not done that and as a result, if these regulations continue to stand, I will
seek to pass that legislation, which will force the modification or the regulations, or revoke the
ability of the DEP to purchase more land in the watershed. If DEP cannot be a good partner
voluntarily, then I will try to force them to be a good partner through legislation.


The proposed regulations fail to address in any significant fashion
the issue of hunting.

The DEP, by promulgating these regulations, is reserving its ability to
make a parcel by parcel decision on what type of hunting will be allowed.

By failing to define "hunting", the DEP, I believe, will continue its
arbitrary and capricious limitations without good explanation, thereby harming tourism
and the local economy and damaging the partnership the City claims it values.

The DEP has historically limited hunting on a parcel by parcel basis
to white tailed deer.

These limitations are wildly beyond what was anticipated in the DEP's land
acquisition permit, which supports traditional recreational uses - including hunting of a
variety of animals.

These last few years in particular, the bear problem has grown in the
Catskills, with a member of my staff even having several bear wander casually onto his porch
in recent years.

We have recently seen an incident where a bear went into someone's house.

By not defining hunting to include hunting for all animals which may
be legally hunted pursuant to State law, the DEP is closing down one of the most significant
recreational uses of land and, I submit, violating the DEC land acquisition permit, which
recognizes historic recreational uses as being appropriate. If hunting in the Catskills is not
a historic recreational use, I don't know what is. If hunting bear is not appropriate to the DEP,
then I suggest whoever is in charge down in the City step out of their Manhattan townhouse and
spend a few nights in a home with bears in the front yard.


While some may argue that forcing law abiding citizens to obtain
access permits helps with security, I believe that argument is flawed.

The Catskills and Adirondacks allow unfettered access without a State
permit. The DEP should scrap in its entirety the access permit system. It is unreasonably

Just as people who argue that taking away the right to bear arms will
but down on gun violence, access permits will not increase security. Nobody intent on
committing a crime is going to let the lack of a pistol permit dissuade them and no terrorist who
is going to attempt to threaten the water supply is going to let an access permit requirement
dissuade them.

While the access permit requirement will not dissuade terrorism, it
will dissuade tourism. People from all over come to the Catskills. As the DEP acquires more of
our most pristine land, the inability to access it without a permit will discourage people from
recreating in the Catskills.

In the event the DEP continues to maintain the access permit requirement, I suggest that
persons under the age of 14 be authorized to obtain access permits so they can fish on their own,
as many young people like to do. I also fail to understand the logic of prohibiting trapping.


It appears that only row boats are allowed in DEP waterways. While I
do not harshly criticize this requirement, it seems to me that many people canoe and
kayak. Absent some logical reason to the contrary, I would think canoeing and kayaking would
be as appropriate as row boating.


The DEP also indicates that no commercial activities are allowable
absent express permission, but no means is provided to obtain such permission. There
should be a method to obtain such permission.


The entire question of whether access permits are needed at all should be re-examined. If the people of this region are expected to make a living, in large part, on eco-tourism, then one of the largest public land owners in the region should make their land open to the public.

Moreover, the DEC has done a good job of ensuring public access to
its land. The DEP would be well served to call DEC staff and start working closer with them
when it comes to recreational access issues.

I appreciate the opportunity to comment this evening and will be
monitoring the anticipated revisions to these regulations carefully.