Comments on Proposed Master Use Plan

Comments from Seneca White Deer, Inc. On The Proposed Seneca Army Depot Master Plan

Seneca White Deer, Inc. (SWD), which is a not-for-profit corporation, strongly objects that such a small and limited area has been proposed as “conservation” in the new Master Plan. The acreage allocated in the master plan is insufficient to sustain a successful natural habitat for the flora and fauna presently living in the 7500 acres of this former military reservation.

In keeping with the SWD proposal for eco-tourism on this land, a reduction in acreage would affect the number of plants and animals exponentially. An allocation of an area of less than 1445 acres out of the original 7500 plus-acre conservation area positions the SWD eco-touring proposal for failure. This is especially true when one considers that several hundred acres in the proposed conservation area are still undergoing hazardous waste remediation and may not be a suitable wildlife habitat at this time. Additionally, it would be virtually impossible to relocate wetland and pond creatures to an area devoid of ponds and wetlands! Still further, fauna large and small cannot be easily captured and relocated in the alternate proposed area. The present natural resources of the Depot evolved under the careful guardianship of the army and federal wildlife management efforts. Many animals exist today on this land because of past military and federal management efforts on the whole of the depot acreage.

One of our key supporters, the New York State Horse Council, would like to assist in the development of riding trails on the Depot. These folks have made it known that they would not be interested in doing so within such a limited area. Horse back riding is an excellent means of conveyance for eco-tourism and can develop into a significant income for an eco-touring operation. The Finger Lakes Railroad is yet another potential vendor for rail tours inside the Depot but this would not happen since there is only a short amount of rail line in the proposed conservation area. No one will want to come to visit or to invest in the depot if the preservation lands are so limited in scope. SWD would like to offer suggestions on how to increase the proposed conservation area in a manner that actually enhances the potential for cooperation and success for a number of stake-holders.

The area labeled as “Green Energy” raises some questions. SWD is not necessarily against wind generation if it is placed in a proper area. We recommend that future consideration of wind generation be placed on the east side of the Depot area where the land has already been impacted by the base warehouses and buildings now used by private industry. The other potential area for wind energy is in the vicinity of the airport where the land is already cleared. The newer GPS System has superseded LORAN for the navigation of shipping. Still further the LORAN tower could be utilized to attain the necessary height for wind generation if so desired. It would also be much closer to the area designated as “ Utility” thus lowering the cost of electric power transmission since the transmission lines would be closer to a north-east grid connection.

Biomass: The proposed plantings require large amounts of water. SWD is concerned that if biomass was to be considered, that the 60-acre pond would be used as a source of water when an alternative (not as water demanding) biomass species could be planted. The 60-acre pond is an extremely valuable habitat and should be protected from exploitation. Recommendation: Expand the Conservation Area into the Green Energy area and if at some later date a compatible green energy source can be found, then consider the development of that source at locations compatible with wildlife and tourism considerations with the overall framework of a conservation area. This could include a cooperative effort to educate about Green Energy within the overall scope of the conservation and eco touring attraction.

Institutional and Training area: This is another area of compatibility with conservation as it encompasses the grasslands of the “Q” area. It also contains buildings, which could be used for eco-touring operations functions as well as a future “Cold War Museum”.

The triple-fencing found in this area is extremely important for guaranteeing tourists a photo opportunity for white deer and ospreys as well as scholarly wildlife research. Additionally, and more importantly, the triple fencing offers a possible quarantine area if Chronic Wasting Disease (mad-cow in deer) ever comes to pass in Seneca County. It is important to keep the Institutional Training Area or “Q” area a part of the Conservation area because it contains buildings that could be used for eco-touring as well as the future Cold War Museum.

Residential/Resort: Most of this proposed area is critical wetland and surface water habitat that should be retained as conservation area. The NYS Department of Environmental Conservation or the Army Corps of Engineers regulate the wetlands. To permit housing structures to encroach near or in these areas would be a complicated and thorny issue. The placement of housing near protected wetlands doesn’t make much sense. This area also holds a tremendous promise for eco touring due to its tremendous value for viewing migrating waterfowl. At some future time it is conceivable that the conservation park could accommodate some place for visitors to stay. Early on, this may include camping and at some future date rental cabins might be accommodated. In any case, private home sites within the conservation area would not be appropriate with the exception of some accommodations for seasonal Conservation park workers most likely in the area of existing buildings. Recommendation: Rezone this area as Conservation Area.

Development Reserve: As the name implies, it is an area in “reserve” which means that it could be many years before and if, any business would be interested in bringing their business to this proposed area. This is another key area for eco touring as it contains several buildings that could be used as part of the eco-touring operation as well as some key habitats. Since we can work with the proposed uses of institutional training as well as the military training area, a potential unknown end user in the so called development reserve could cut the cooperative conservation area in half. This would sabotage the potential of the cooperative conservation venture if a non-cooperative user came in to this area. Recommendation: Rezone this area as Conservation Area. Future potential cooperators would have to align with the overall management scheme of the Conservation area and would be subject to the scrutiny of existing users.

Training Area: SWD understands that possibly, and on occasion, police and the military would use this area for training with no live ammunition. Training would be infrequent and no destruction of habitat would take place. Therefore, this area could also be considered as Conservation land with no eco-touring allowed during training sessions. Recommendation: Re-zone this area as Conservation/Training.

Additionally, SWD should have control of wildlife and habitat management on this parcel when training is not taking place.

Other concerns: The potential to sell off sections of the Depot to private groups who, in turn, could fence off large sections is counter productive to eco-touring and will interfere with wildlife populations. Organizations that own the land can do what they want with it and greatly influence the outcome of a successful eco-touring venture. Seneca County would be fostering an economic and natural disaster with this slice and dice approach.

SWD feels that its proposal of eco-touring can accommodate the majority of the Master Plan by using the principles of environmental management to accommodate other activities where they are appropriate and non-conflicting. This would preserve the unique white deer herd because SWD would oversee wildlife management of the entire property. Other uses such as Institutional Training and Green Energy could potentially have greater access to more land by keeping within the theme of the conservation principle. The beauty of eco-touring is that it can be up and running in 2006 due to the existing infrastructure found within the conservation area, unlike other businesses or possible ideas. In two to three years a final decision can be made on the economic value of eco-touring and it will take at least that amount of time before any of the other ideas could reach fruition. To limit conservation to such a small area as initially proposed would surely doom not only eco touring, but also the future of the white deer herd. We would be more than glad to meet and discuss in detail our recommendations.

Dennis Money
Chairman, Seneca White Deer, Inc