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Army puts off training in Forest Preserve

November 6, 2010
By MIKE LYNCH, Enterprise Outdoors Writer

It appears the Army doesn't have any immediate plans to train on Adirondack Forest Preserve lands after approaching the state Adirondack Park Agency and Department of Environmental Conservation recently.

"It seemed like a good idea at the time, but then when reality struck, it was like a bridge too far," Fort Drum Army base spokeswoman Julie Cupernall said. "(The Army is) not interested in pursuing it anymore at this time. Not to say it's not something that gets revisited down the road; when they are on the ground for more than 10 or 11 months at a time, but that's not the current reality."

The Army's combat aviation brigade of Fort Drum's 10th Mountain Division had considered doing training such as orienteering in the woods, Cupernall said. But she said the timing isn't right currently for the soldiers to pull off this type of training because of other obligations.

DEC spokesman Dave Winchell said his agency wasn't aware the Army had changed its mind and that the involved parties were in the early stages of discussions to develop a "memorandum of agreement" that would allow the Army to use state-owned lands and conservation easement lands, with the owners' permission, for military exercises.

He also said the DEC was working to identify specific state forests, Forest Preserve and conservation easement lands that would meet the Army's training needs. Prior to any training, the DEC would need assurance that potential impacts to natural resources and wildlife are addressed and minimized, he said.

"However, DEC recognizes that a balance is needed, as our country's soldiers must be properly prepared to go off to war," Winchell wrote in an e-mail. "The natural resources of the Adirondacks and the desires of its users can be protected while providing a mountainous area for troops to train for deployment in rugged terrain."

Winchell said military training has occurred on state lands in the past, mostly under temporary revocable permits, and without weapons. In the past year, there has been helicopter training on Whiteface Mountain. Prior to that, the Army has conducted training missions in the Cranberry Lake Wild Forest, Five Ponds Wilderness and in state forests outside the Adirondacks.

Contact Mike Lynch at 891-2600 ext. 28 or mlynch@adirondack

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