Officials with Fort Drum buffer program optimistic about work in 2017

By GORDON BLOCK
GBLOCK@WDT.NET

Officials with the Army Compatible Use Buffer program appear optimistic about the direction of their work entering the new year as they pursue more property to protect military activity.

Linda M. Garrett, executive director of the Tug Hill Tomorrow Land Trust, which runs the program with Fort Drum and Ducks Unlimited, said staff are pursuing a property in Jefferson and one in St. Lawrence County.

“Those will help us keep the program moving forward,” she said.

The buffer program buys permanent development rights on properties in areas near military activity, avoiding the development of structures that might affect military training or come too close to activity.

“They don’t want to have a lot of encroachment so they can continue to do their training,” Mrs. Garrett said.

The deals typically allow property owners to continue a wide range of agricultural activities on their land.

The program has spent about $9.5 million for the development rights to 24 properties, representing about 6,900 acres.

The state budget, passed in April, included $1 million for the program. Mrs. Garrett said that advocates for the program plan on asking the state for $1 million in the state’s new budget.

“The state has been pretty happy with how the project’s been going and what we’ve been able to accomplish,” Mrs. Garrett said.

The program has about 25 property owners on the waiting list for consideration for the program. Army officials are looking more closely at properties along the Route 11 corridor.

The buffer program received $500,000 from the State and Municipal Facilities grant program. In September, the land trust received $246,250 from the Northern Border Regional Commission.

More information about joining the buffer program can be found at http://wdt.me/GTHeMf.