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NYS DEC Policy on Setting Caches in Public Lands


LakeGeoBen
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First, let me thank you for inquiring about the permissibility of geocaching on state lands. We appreciate your taking the time to make this inquiry before setting caches.

 

The DEC does not allow the placement of physical geocaches on Forest Preserve lands, but does allow it on State Forests and Wildlife Management Areas under a permit from the Department. DEC Forest Rangers have been instructed to remove geocaches that they find on state lands that are not covered by a valid permit. In case you are not familiar with our state land classifications, Forest Preserve lands are those state lands within the Adirondack and Catskill Parks, while State Forests are DEC lands outside the parks. To confuse the matter just a little bit more, you should be aware that State Parks are not managed by DEC, but are under the jurisdiction of the Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation (OPRHP). I do not know whether or not OPRHP allows geocaching.

 

Living in Queensbury near the blue line, I would advise you to check with our Warrensburg office if there is a parcel of state land on which you'd like to place a cache. The number there is 623-1200. I'd recommend you speak with Mike Curley. If there are other areas of the state in which you are interested in setting caches, please contact the Regional DEC Forestry office for that area. Contact information for our offices can be found online at

 

http://www.dec.state.ny.us/website/about/abtrull3.html.

 

Virtual geocaches, by virtue of the fact that they do not involve leaving personal property on state lands for extended periods of time, are not prohibited. However, we do encourage people to take into account the impacts that could result from increased numbers of people visiting the area. For instance, we would discourage geocachers from posting a virtual geocache that directed people to an area where

sensitive or endangered plants are known to grow, since the increased visitation to the area could have significant negative effects on those plants.

 

Thank you again for your inquiry. I hope that you enjoy the time you spend on your New York State forest lands.

 

Regards,

 

Rob Messenger

Supervising Forester

NYSDEC - Bureau of Forest Preserve Mgmt.

625 Broadway

Albany, NY 12233-4254

 

Just one point of clarification. DEC may allow the placement of geocaches on State Forests depending upon the ecological sensitivity of the land that is desired to be used for this activity.

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B) I'm going to have to look into this, see if I can turn up more info on the permit deal. Hopefully people here can spread the word to other cachers who don't read the forums, so we don't have too many caches placed that can't be approved. B) Edited by NJ Admin
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The permit system has been in place long before geocaching for things like camping, trapping, recreation etc. (where you bring in private property into public lands). I'm not sure what the process is, but I am attempting to set a cache legally within the blueline on public lands perhaps because I feel a strong need to bang my head against a wall.

 

When talking with the forester in Warrensburg, he directed me to maps on the website. For me, on the southern edge of the Adirondack Park, there is one state forest in Warren County (Lake Luzerne) and 5 in Saratoga County. He pointed me to them to scout a suitable location and then come back for the permit. I found the maps here --> http://www.dec.state.ny.us/website/map/recmaps.html

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Well.....here we go... B)

 

I was hoping an organized caching group, such as NYGO, would be able to get a plan together and open this possible can of worms before a lone cacher did it... B)

 

Oh well..... your intentions are good, I guess.... I hope NY turns out to be as reasonable as PA, and not as bad as other states I have heard of on the issue...

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It was just a matter of time before someone came along and stuck a fly in our ointment B) .

 

BTW, there are several caches in the Catskill Forest Preserve. As I understand it, one was placed with permission and the others have been left alone by the rangers because there are so few visitors they don't see them as an issue. I'm sure however, if they started popping up all over, like they are in Harriman and other state parks, the rangers will change their tune.

Edited by briansnat
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I'm sure however, if they started popping up there like in Harriman the rangers will take action.

Thats why it will be 'interesting' to see what the NYS Park service writes back. What happens if you need a permit? What happens if they ban it outright? It affects 100's of caches. Does GC.com archive/disable all caches that are hidden on NYS Park land without a permit? The only reason I pose that question is because an Admin already stated that they would take the permit system into consideration before approving a cache.

 

Then again why do I care... I live in NJ. B) but I'm sure its only a matter of time before someone writes to the NJ State Park Service... B)

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What happens if you need a permit? What happens if they ban it outright? It affects 100's of caches. Does GC.com archive/disable all caches that are hidden on NYS Park land without a permit? The only reason I pose that question is because an Admin already stated that they would take the permit system into consideration before approving a cache.

For the record, when it comes to this, we are reactive, not proactive. No. we will not go back and archive previously placed caches. because the assumption is they were placed legally at the time they were listed. If a land manager contacts us and asks us to remove a specific cache listing, we will.

New cache placements will be checked for proper permits and permissions in affected areas.

With the recent ban on caches in National Wildlife Refuges, I did take the time to email many cache owners and inform them of the new ban. Mainly this was because the letter Groundspeak received threatened to prosecute the cache owners on some pretty serious charges.

I took this upon myself, since many geocachers don't read the forums, and I wanted the affected cache owners to be advised that there was a remote possibility of legal trouble. Some caches were archived, some wern't, but it was the cache owner's choice.

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Thats why it will be 'interesting' to see what the NYS Park service writes back. What happens if you need a permit? What happens if they ban it outright? It affects 100's of caches. Does GC.com archive/disable all caches that are hidden on NYS Park land without a permit?

 

As I understand it, most of the NY state parks know about geocaching and its handled on a park by park basis. Some park managers actively remove caches, while others ignore, or even encourage the sport. Last I heard there was no state-wide policy. I'm sure Jonboy will weigh in soon. He is pretty familiar with the situation in NY.

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Two observations:

 

1. Please don't fault LakeGeoBen for initiating contact with this land manager. From the response received, it's quite obvious that NYDEC had heard of geocaching prior to receiving this inquiry. I don't know the details but I'd be surprised if the whole policy was developed as a result of LakeGeoBen's cache. If he asked about a traditional cache, why would the response address virtual caches? All that LakeGeoBen did was to do what the cache listing guidelines strongly recommend: to obtain permission for a cache placement. If NYGO had wanted to make the contact, then they should have done so.

 

2. Look at the past year's worth of experience with the state parks and forests here in Pennsylvania. Like NJAdmin said, there was no effort made by the Geocaching.com listing service to do anything about caches which were placed prior to the adoption of the permit policy. It's up to each cache owner. I've seen literally dozens of geocaches receive permits retroactively due to the efforts of responsible geocachers. Many others continue to exist without any evidence on the cache page regarding compliance with permit requirements. When a request is received from a park or forest manager to deal with an unapproved cache, I contact the cache owner and assist them in working through the process. I've done this on about a half dozen occasions. When owners are not responsive, there have been instances when the land manager has removed an unauthorized geocache, but this is a small minority of the total caches. Oftentimes, we are able to arrange a cache adoption with an active geocacher who is willing to do the paperwork for the permit.

 

I've also found that the overwhelming majority of DCNR land managers have been receptive to geocaching, and I'm not aware of any case where a permit for a cache has been refused outright. Sometimes the ranger will ask the cache owner to move the cache to a better location. There was one placed in an active rattlesnake nesting area, for example, and several others deemed to be too close to the edges of cliffs.

 

When a new cache is submitted and the map shows it as being located in a state park or state forest, I do look for the cache page to mention that a permit has been obtained. We even have a graphic that gets placed on all DCNR-approved caches to help spread the word about the policy. Here is a recent example. When the permit is not mentioned, I write back to the owner to let them know about the DCNR's policy. 80% of them say "gee, sorry, I didn't know about that" and then they go obtain a permit and write back to me a few weeks later to activate their cache. 10% say "forget it, not worth the hassle" which is everyone's loss. The remaining 10% send me flame letters complaining about how Geocaching.com has too many rules and I must enjoy the power trip that I get from denying a cache submission. I could do without that last 10%.

 

Hopefully your experience in New York will go as well or better than our experience in Pennsylvania. I will help out in any way possible to make sure that happens. You are in good hands with NJAdmin, who took care of Pennsylvania approvals for a short time before I came on board.

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I arranged a CITO event in Harriman state park last year. I spoke to the fellow in charge of the area. He knew about Geocaching and didn't seem to really care about it (I sent him links to the website and the CITO event page). He acted as if it was no worse than Hiking. I dread making the call to him now. I'm sure he'll have to change his postion now. I hope he's the same person that has final word on caching in Harriman state park. He was nice. I don't know about his supervisors.

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Wheere are the maps? Unlike Lakegeoben, I'd rather not bang my head against the wall :unsure:

 

How does anyone know where the different lands are and that includes the approvers? For example, the Adirondacks is a mixture of public and private land and from the post above includes different kinds of public lands - forests and parks. Ditto for theCatskills I believe.

 

alan

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Well.....here we go... :rolleyes:

 

I was hoping an organized caching group, such as NYGO, would be able to get a plan together and open this possible can of worms before a lone cacher did it...  :(

 

Oh well..... your intentions are good, I guess.... I hope NY turns out to be as reasonable as PA, and not as bad as other states I have heard of on the issue...

Yes I have to say my experience in PA was that it is quite easy to get the paperwork approved. .. and from experiences in NY on different, but similar issues, I believe you NYers are in for a ride..

Edited by edscott
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No worries lads, I found a senior government member who clearly knows the secret geocaching hand gesture.

 

a5fd68dc-625e-4e44-8396-9186b7025a57.jpg

 

I'm with Harrald/Mxyz - I think involving a beauracracy to request their "policy" ends up being a no (or a yes with restrictions). By definition, govermnent administrators are.......well, administrative.

 

"The answer is No." "Why?" "Because you asked"

 

Better to let sleeping dogs lie (but of course, this one's already stirring). Even if a simple permit process is enacted - I won't bother filing paperwork. I enjoy the scouting, planning, placing, maintaining, etc... but paperwork will make it a chore (more like doing taxes). Easier just to stop hiding caches.

Edited by HartClimbs
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Wheere are the maps?  Unlike Lakegeoben, I'd rather not bang my head against the wall :lol:

 

How does anyone know where the different lands are and that includes the approvers?  For example, the Adirondacks is a mixture of public and private land and from the post above includes different kinds of public lands - forests and parks.  Ditto for theCatskills I believe.

 

alan

I checked this out with DEC Region 3 office which covers the majority of Catskill Park. Interestingly, they did not seem to have their own maps but directed me the hiking maps from the New York New Jersy Trail Conference NYNJTC which has a set of 5 maps covering the area. (I already had these maps but never thought of it.)

 

In looking at Map 41 which cover the Northeast Catskills, you'll see the Blue Line that the official mentions in the first post (he apparently was talking about the Adirondack Blue line but I assume the Catskill Blue is the same thing). On the maps it's labelled Catskill Park Boundary.

 

Within this boundary are three colored areas:

 

1. Light Green labelled as NYS Forest Preserve. Examples of areas colored Hunter Mountain Wild Forest (but not including the ski areas), Kaaterskill, Blackhead Range Wild Forest, Phonecia-Phobias Wild Forest, etc.

 

2. Dark Green labelled as NYS Wilderness. Examples include West Kill Wilderness Area and Indian Head Wilderness Area.

 

3. The rest are white with the typical brown contours lines where most of the roads and towns and I presume private areas are located.

 

So here's the questions:

 

1. What areas are included in the No Caching edict? Does it include area 3 which is in the Blue Line boundary but not in either of the park descriptions?

 

2. Can you hide a cache in any of the 3 areas with or without a permit.

 

3. And if so, how are the approvers going to manage this without these detailed maps?

 

Before I follow up with calls to the District Ofice, I wanted to get your feedback so I can tread softly with my inquiries.

 

TKs

 

Alan

 

edit=spelling and grammar

Edited by Alan2
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To answer

 

The DEC does not allow the placement of physical geocaches on Forest Preserve lands (Forest Preserve lands are those state lands within the Adirondack and Catskill Parks), but does allow it on State Forests (State Forests are DEC lands outside the parks) and Wildlife Management Areas under a permit from the Department.

 

State Parks are not managed by DEC, but are under the jurisdiction of the Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation (OPRHP). I do not know whether or not OPRHP allows geocaching.

 

To me it sounds like geocaching is forbidden in both forest preserve (see bold above) and wilderness areas within Catskill and Adirondack Park areas. I don't know whether there is an entity similar to the Adirondack Park Agency for the Catskills, but it seems like the DEC policy with regard to both areas is due to an edict of the Adirondack Park Agency from 1972. DEC says it is not in a position to interpret, but only enforce it.

 

I have a query to OPRHP, but have so far heard nothing back.

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Thanks for your response but your answer leaves questions. Maybe my question wasn't clear. The NYNJTC maps show 2 areas within the Park Boundary Blue Line. Area 1 is Forest Preserve but there are also areas call Forest Wilderness, Area 2. Are Area 2 Wilderness excluded as well?

 

What about the third area? Although it's within the Blue Line boundary, it is neither a Preserve nor a Wilderness. What statutes apply there, if any?

 

Tks

 

Alan

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OOps, I meant State Forests....

 

I have a virtual very near the parking area for a NY state forest. Check yesterday's log for this cache.

 

This was a great find for us. Just after we located the marker we see a Forest Ranger pull up and start walking toward us.

 

He had noticed our car with Connecticut plates, but moreso - the Geocaching.com sticker in the back window. He caches himself a bit and really wanted to meet us. We had a great time chatting.

 

He told us that caches CAN be placed on DEC State Forest land now in the state of NY. He's really hoping that many people realize this now and start placing many caches to bring people to these great areas.

 

He described the reversal of the ruling as:

Caches are NOT PRIVATE property and

Caches are NOT PERMANENT

 

Seriously....his name is Joseph Hess a Forest Ranger. Gave us his card. He has worked with younger kids helping them to get into caching. So go New Yorkers - Go and plant more caches.

 

Jestjuggle (Mike & Barb)

 

 

Anybody hear anything about this? If this is true, its great news for geocaching in the region!

Edited by briansnat
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I think it is important to understand the difference in the NY state land categories between Wild Forest and Wilderness Areas. Wilderness Areas comprise about half of the Catskills and those areas will almost certainly remained closed to caches, at least physical caches. If you look at the NY/NJ TC Catskill Map Set, you will see the Wild Forest Land in light green and the Wilderness Areas in darker green. Although the State Land Use Master Plan for the Catskills is still under review, current proposals call for all land over 3,000 feet to be treated as Wilderness Areas. This is an effort to try and thwart the creation of lift served Mt Biking runs at Hunter and Belleayre and the proposal has created a storm of controversy, as it would ban mountain bikes from all the peaks as well as all trails not designated as multi-use trails. I would expect to see the DEC back off to some degree, but the whole question is in flux right now, so I would tread carefully until this issue is settled. This may take a long time, as the proposed Belleayre development has muddied the waters and ensured a long process of litigation and political struggle.

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There are actually a couple of caches in the Slide Mtn Wilderness. It seems the rangers didn't bother with them because they realize they received very few visits and really aren't a problem. there is one on Cornell and one in the valley below Cornell.

 

If the other news about NY State Forests is true, that's good news.

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That would be tremendously good news for Long Island. We have thousands of acres of NYS DEC property here. We are obviously somewhat limited on land being an Island. A no cache policy for DEC lands would be pretty devastating here, effecting a lot of caches already placed "pre-ban".

 

Here's a link for contact info:

DEC Regional Offices

 

It looks like that would be region 4 if anyone wants to try and contact them to verify. I have been trying to contact my region but they don't seem to return phone call.

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The DEC does not allow the placement of physical geocaches on Forest Preserve lands, but does allow it on State Forests and Wildlife Management Areas under a permit from the Department.

 

There is also NYS DEC Conservation areas. Anyone know if there is a policy regarding those areas? As far as I can see there isn't.

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This is the only official word I have to go on regarding cache approvals on DEC lands

First, let me thank you for inquiring about the permissibility of geocaching on state lands. We appreciate your taking the time to make this inquiry before setting caches.

 

The DEC does not allow the placement of physical geocaches on Forest Preserve lands, but does allow it on State Forests and Wildlife Management Areas under a permit from the Department. DEC Forest Rangers have been instructed to remove geocaches that they find on state lands that are not covered by a valid permit. In case you are not familiar with our state land classifications, Forest Preserve lands are those state lands within the Adirondack and Catskill Parks, while State Forests are DEC lands outside the parks. To confuse the matter just a little bit more, you should be aware that State Parks are not managed by DEC, but are under the jurisdiction of the Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation (OPRHP). I do not know whether or not OPRHP allows geocaching.

 

Living in Queensbury near the blue line, I would advise you to check with our Warrensburg office if there is a parcel of state land on which you'd like to place a cache. The number there is 623-1200. I'd recommend you speak with Mike Curley. If there are other areas of the state in which you are interested in setting caches, please contact the Regional DEC Forestry office for that area. Contact information for our offices can be found online at

 

http://www.dec.state.ny.us/website/about/abtrull3.html.

 

Virtual geocaches, by virtue of the fact that they do not involve leaving personal property on state lands for extended periods of time, are not prohibited. However, we do encourage people to take into account the impacts that could result from increased numbers of people visiting the area. For instance, we would discourage geocachers from posting a virtual geocache that directed people to an area where

sensitive or endangered plants are known to grow, since the increased visitation to the area could have significant negative effects on those plants.

 

Thank you again for your inquiry. I hope that you enjoy the time you spend on your New York State forest lands.

 

Regards,

 

Rob Messenger

Supervising Forester

NYSDEC - Bureau of Forest Preserve Mgmt.

625 Broadway

Albany, NY 12233-4254

 

Just one point of clarification. DEC may allow the placement of geocaches on State Forests depending upon the ecological sensitivity of the land that is desired to be used for this activity.

 

I will repeat the most critical part of this:"The DEC does not allow the placement of physical geocaches on Forest Preserve lands, but does allow it on State Forests and Wildlife Management Areas under a permit from the Department. DEC Forest Rangers have been instructed to remove geocaches that they find on state lands that are not covered by a valid permit. In case you are not familiar with our state land classifications, Forest Preserve lands are those state lands within the Adirondack and Catskill Parks, while State Forests are DEC lands outside the parks. "

That does not say only only wilderness areas are banned, it says Forest Preserve lands, which covers all of Adirondack and Catskills park preserves. It also says all other DEC lands require a permit. Not some DEC lands, and not others.

What this DEC permit entails, I do not know, nor have I been able to get an answer to two emails sent to Rob Messenger. I'll be following them up with certified mail this week. What I do know if that the NYSDEC has been actively removing caches from lands they manage for almost 2 years. They have removed them from conservation areas as well as forests and preserves. They have even removed them from areas where they only jointly manage with other agencies like towns and TNC.

 

There are now at least 4 New York based geocaching groups, and as far as I know, none have made any attempt to address the DEC situation.

As the primary reviewer of caches in NY, I'm charged with ensuring caches listed on this site comply with various laws, as well as our own cache placement guidelines. My main concern is the DEC clarify their regulations so I can follow them, not try and get them changed.

If geocachers find the DEC regulations overly restrictive or unfair, they should be working with the local geocaching organizations to get the DEC to change them.

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Let me see if I get this right. There are:

  • State Forest Preserves -- Do not allow geocaching.
  • State Forests -- Do allow geocaching with a permit, but the permit process is unknown at this time.
  • State Wildlife Management Areas -- Do allow geocaching with a permit, but the process is unknown at this time.
  • State Parks -- I have no idea what the policy is. If someone knows, please fill me in!

I really want to understand these snarly land management issues here in NY.

 

There are now at least 4 New York based geocaching groups, and as far as I know, none have made any attempt to address the DEC situation.

 

I know of NYGO and LIGO, and am very interested to find out what the other two are!

 

I just started working in NYGO's Public Relations Committee on land management issues. We've been busy the last month or so getting organized and creating some documentation.

 

I've recently met with the Director of the Town of Victor Department of Parks and Recreation. Things went really well. We're scheduled to have a follow-up meeting in May.

 

NJAdmin, once we here in NYGO get organized and going on the subject of land management I'd love to have an e-mail exchange or online chat to learn from your experiences dealing with the various parts of NY!

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Ferreter5: I would gladly help any way I can.

 

Briansnat: There has been no change that I'm aware of. Like I said, I've yet to get any reply from Albany, though.

I've asked the logger of your cache to forward me the ranger's contact info so I can follow up on that.

 

If there has a change of heart, I would hope my letters had some small part in that.

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I have made several attempts via phone messages and emails to contact the DEC for my region and have not received any response. The one time I did talk to a human that person had never heard of geocaching. It amazes me that they can have a policy that says you need a permit, yet there seems to be no way of obtaining such a permit. I will continue to try and contact the DEC and will gladly work with them to establish permit process... if they ever get back to me. :D

 

JMB - most of the DEC lands on LI are Conservation Areas (not wilderness or forest).

The only requirement for them are that each person have the DEC permit for access.

 

I've been informed that the DEC have removed caches in Conservation areas as well. Although I have not seen that here on Long Island. So I take that to mean that there is a policy somewhere that includes conservation areas too. It seems that the DEC has a no policy policy for policies. That is to say that, they have policies they just don't let anyone know about them. There's nothing on the website and forget about calling them. So other than this forum there's no way for anyone to verify that any such policy actually exists. I agree as a community we need to continue to work on this matter.

BTW, the 4 NY groups:

NYGO

NYCMAGG

Northeast Geocaching Group

LIGO, Long Island Geocaching Organization, which is nothing more that a one page website right now.

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Just to note, NYCMAGG is nothing more then a social group, however, if we need to appear to be an official organization of some kind, i am sure we can, for emergency purposes, become official and then, when the problem is solved, go back to eating steak. let us know what i can do. maybe we need a meeting of the commission, the heads of all four families and start to press the issue.

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Hey, thanks for the info on what geocaching groups exsist in NY!

 

Here in NYGO we've been busy creating two info packages: one for geocachers to help them when working with land managers, and one containing educational information that can be given to land managers to explain geocaching.

 

I think this year will see a lot of activity in this area... well... at least we'll get organized and get started making contacts. I'd love to get ahold of someone in the state parks who we can work with. I have a lead to run down and see where it ends up.

 

Keep up the good work, and we definitely need to keep in contact with each other. You can always post to the NYGO website forums (www.ny-geocaching.org) or send e-mail to publicrelations@ny-geocaching.org (this goes to OurWoods and myself).

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Just to note, NYCMAGG is nothing more then a social group, however, if we need to appear to be an official organization of some kind, i am sure we can, for emergency purposes, become official and then, when the problem is solved, go back to eating steak. let us know what i can do. maybe we need a meeting of the commission, the heads of all four families and start to press the issue.

I agree. Have you consigliere call my consigliere and set up a meeting. We'll get the other two capos and maybe Don Jeremy too.

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The 50 Hikes series of books (esp 50 Hikes in Central New York and 50 Hikes in the Adirondacks) states that you can camp on DEC State Forest land, 150 ft from trails and water. I'm guessing you could cross-reference this info on the state gov websites... i'm just too lazy right now.

 

imho, if you can camp there... why not cache there? Seems like way less of an impact to me. moving all kinds of sticks and smushing what lies below you -- and that's if you're really considerate to nature... which not all campers are (leaving garbage, leveling ground, breaking branches, etc).

 

I'd hope our state gov't realizes that geocaching promotes economy (when I go geocaching, I buy gas, I buy food, I buy fluids, I buy cache goods, anything to provision my trip), and at least from my point of view... Going to, experiencing, and enjoying to the fullest our state land makes the taxpayers want to preserve it further, and spend more tax money on it (theoretically speaking; i don't want to pay more taxes for anything! lol, although I'd rather they'd spend more money on parks and less on 'other things').

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