Letter to the Editor: Environmental Emergency: Help Protect Two Finger Lakes

I am writing to you as a concerned outdoorsman and student of SUNY

Geneseo, in regards to the fate of the Rochester city land that borders both Hemlock and Canadice Lakes. In the past few months, the city of Rochester, the state of New York, and The Nature Conservancy have been working towards the successful transfer of Hemlock and Canadice Lakes and the surrounding shorelines into state hands. These are the last two

undeveloped lakes in the entire Finger Lakes. The surrounding land, totaling nearly 8000 acres, is home to deer, turkey, grouse, red and grey fox, black bear, and even nesting bald eagles. In addition, one shore of Hemlock Lake contains at least 400 acres of old-growth forest, with some trees believed to be over 400 years old. Old-growth forests in this region are extremely rare, representing approximately .4% of all forest cover in the Northeast.

Once in the hands of the state, the land would be protected for the most part (aside from the selective logging of dying pine plantations), becoming a park or nature preserve managed by the Department of Environmental Conservation. However, the transfer of the land has recently been put in jeopardy by state budget woes. Among other proposals, Governor Paterson has proposed slashing the budget for the Environmental Protection Fund (EPF) by 30%. Part of the EPF's funding includes land acquisition. Therefore, the successful transfer andprotection of Hemlock and Canadice Lakes requires adequate funding for the EPF.

The city of Rochester, who currently owns the land surrounding Hemlock and Canadice Lakes, has assessed the property's development value in the past, including its value to loggers and developers. While a decrease in funding would not automatically mean that the lake shores would fall to development, there is still a sense of urgency to the issue. Talksamong involved parties, which have been going on prior to recent budget issues,are too close to succeeding to allow a potentially short-term budget crisis to jeopardize the long-term health of Hemlock and Canadice lakes.

In addition, the state fiscal year ends the 31st of this month. If the EPF funding is slashed, then Hemlock and Canadice Lakes may have to wait another year - or longer - to be protected.

I have spoken with the Executive Director of the local chapter of The Nature Conservancy (TNC). TNC is the organization serving as the mediator between the city and the state in transfer of the land. He suggested to me some courses of action, which I would like to make known to all Livingston County residents. One course of action is to urge your government representatives to request full funding for the NYS Environmental Protection Fund, since funding for the state's acquisition of Hemlock Lake, Canadice Lake, and the surrounding land "depends upon a fully funded EPF." Possible contacts include Assemblyman Burling and Senator Volker. Governor Paterson, who has proposed cuts to the EPF, should also be added to this list of contacts.

In addition, Governor Paterson will be visiting the SUNY Geneseo campus this Thursday, 3/12, at 11 AM in the Union Ballroom. We have the opportunity to ask him questions about the protection of Hemlock and Canadice Lakes. For information on how to participate in this "college town hall" meeting, follow this link: http://milne-library.blogspot.com/2009/03/do-you-have-question-for-governor.html.

Hemlock and Canadice Lakes are an immense resource to our community and environment. By printing a free permit (available here:http://www.cityofrochester.gov/des/docs/watershedbroch.pdf), anyone is allowed to explore its land and enjoy its unspoiled character. I urge you to express your voice and help protect these lakes and their surrounding shoreline. Remember, the deadline for expressing our opinion about theprotection of these lakes appears to be March 31st.

Both Hemlock and Canadice Lakes are the true definition of unspoiled wildnerness, something that is increasingly rare in the Finger Lakes.

Reducing funding for the Environmental Protection Fund could leave thedoor upon to future development and logging around these lakes, resulting in the loss of something that we could never get back - old-growth forest, undeveloped Finger Lakes, and their associated habitats and ecosystems. Furthermore, financial woes should never compromise the integrity and protection of this state's environmental resources. Please urge government to fund fully the Environmental Protection Fund - not only for the preservation of these last two undeveloped Finger Lakes, but for thegreater environmental health of New York State.