DEC seeks public input about decades-old plan

Cross-country skiers make their way along the Cranberry Lake 50 trail near Peavine Swamp in the Cranberry Lake Wild Forest. (Enterprise photo — Morgan Ryan)

The state Department of Environmental Conservation is seeking public input before it updates the management plan for more than 40,000 acres in St. Lawrence County.

The DEC has only made two changes to the Cranberry Lake Wild Forest unit management plan (UMP) since it was first approved in 1985. Now, the DEC is asking for the public to speak up on what they would like to see happen with the 25,000 acres of state land, as well as an additional 19,000 acres of conservation easement lands.

DEC will take written comments until May 4, and will also host a public session where verbal comments can be made on March 21 at the SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry campus in Wanakena.

The 25,500-acre wild forest is split into three large parcels, all of which are managed under the UMP. The state is also looking for comments on the privately-owned Conifer – Emporium Conservation Easement, which contains 19,200 acres. Conservation easements are private lands that owners agree to work but also allow some public access.

Cranberry Lake itself is quite large, covering 11 square miles, with 55 miles of shoreline — 40 of which is owned by the state. The area also serves as an entrance way to the Five Ponds Wilderness Area, which borders the wild forest to the south, and despite being relatively remote, the area has a history going back centuries.

“The lands comprising this unit were obtained between 1881 and 1977 in seven separate transactions,” the 1985 UMP says. “Due to the varied ownership of these tracts, this forest is very divergent — both biologically and physically.

“The Inlet Road, which forms the western boundary of this parcel, follows the course of the Old Albany Road, which was begun in 1811. This road ran from Sir William Johnson’s residence near the Mohawk Valley, where it connected with other roads from Albany, to the Village of Russell, where it connected with the Russell Turnpike. It generally followed the course of an old Indian trail.”

The UMP goes on to describe the various lands that make up the wild forest, most of which were owned by logging companies, particularly a company called the Rich Lumber Company. The UMP details how little of the wood harvested went to waste, with trees being used not just for lumber and pulp, but also for shoes, barrels and even whips.

“Throughout the Rich Lumber Company lands there were about twelve logging camps, which were built and run by individual logging contractors,” the UMP says. “They supplied the raw material for several independently-owned industries in the hamlet of Wanakena, which was built and owned by the company. The compatibility of these industries with the total wood resource is noteworthy as it explains how the company met its extensive financial commitments and indicates the impact of the forest on the nation’s economy.

“The main sawmill sawed primarily red spruce, white pine and hemlock and had two band saw head rigs. The longer carriage was capable of sawing 48-toot logs and seldom were logs less than 20 feet long sawn. Production capacity was about 75,000 board feet per day. Associated with the sawmill was a chip mill, which salvaged 1” x 2” lumber tor plaster lath from the slabs and edgings then rossed off the bark and chipped the rest for sale to a pulp mill. Another mill made turnings tor the butt ends of buggy whips from beech. A heading mill used all hardwood species to produce barrel heads, while the shoe last factory used only hard maple and the veneer mill used only high-grade yellow birch.”

One of the signature features of the CLWF is the Cranberry Lake 50 hiking trail that roughly follows the shoreline of the lake. One of only two updates to the original UMP rerouted the trail to move hikers and skiers off of state Route 3, where before hikers had to navigate more than 4 miles along the road.

For more information on the CLWF UMP, go to To see what recreational opportunities exist in the CLWF, visit

Written comments can be sent to Aaron Graves, Forest Preserve Forester or Peter D’Luhosch, Conservation Easement Specialist, NYS DEC, 6739 US Highway 11, Potsdam, NY, 13676. Comments can also be sent to