NEWFIELD, N.Y. — The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation has opened up its draft plan for managing the Newfield State Forest to public comment.

The DEC’s ten year plan for the forest pairs it with Cliffside State Forest, which is spread across Tompkins and Schuyler counties. Together, the two cover over 2,500 acres of land.

The highlight of the plan is to emphasize forest management practices for carbon sequestration — to capture carbon from the atmosphere by promoting forest growth. The primary technique the DEC provides in their plan for how they will do this is targeted forest thinning, to free up more sunlight and nutrients for other trees. This is intended to enhance the growth rates and take advantage of the “teenage” years of a tree’s life, when they absorb the most CO2. This will happen in tandem with strategic timber harvesting, which is how the DEC makes some money off the forests they manage.

The Newfield State Forest isn’t the most visited of the state forests in Tompkins County. It doesn’t feature any designated trails for hiking, cross country skiing, or mountain biking — some of the popular recreational activities outdoor enthusiasts seek out at the likes of Hammond Hill, Shindagin Hollow, or Danby state forests. 

There are also no official campsites to speak of at Newfield, and the DEC intends to keep it this way. These activities are allowed, but further accommodating them isn’t the focus of the management plan. Though, the DEC is planning to formally establish a 1.4 mile long snowmobile trail with a local club, as well as a short trail that would offer some better access to the forest for visitors with mobility impairments and rely on a motorized vehicle. 

The lands feature some iconic southern tier terrain: steep hill sides cut by streams, flowing into creeks; forests characterized by a mix of hardwoods and coniferous trees. Black bears, deer, turkeys, foxes, and a host of other mammals call the forest home. The DEC listed that there are almost 120 known bird species breeding in the forests, or in the surrounding vicinity.

The Newfield and Cliffside State forests also feature notable spots for fishing brown trout, and good opportunities for hunting and trapping which is benefited by the decreased foot traffic that the two forests see.

DEC Regional Director Mathew Marko released the following statement on the intention of the management plan: “In addition to exemplifying sustainably managed working forests, these State lands provide year-round public access opportunities for visitors of all abilities, enhance critical fish and wildlife habitat in the greater Ithaca area, and conserve steep gorges to protect water quality in New York’s magnificent Southern Tier.”

The DEC is accepting comments on the plan until June 5. 

Jimmy Jordan

Jimmy Jordan is a general assignment reporter for the Ithaca Voice. Questions? Story tips? Contact him at jjordan@ithacavoice.com Connect with him on Twitter @jmmy_jrdn