DEP allows agricultural uses of City-owned watershed lands when these uses are compatible with water quality protection. Agricultural uses include tapping maple trees for sap, harvesting hay, and harvesting row crops such as corn, and pasturing livestock. Although much of this land represents former agricultural land that was abandoned, some good “bottom land” has been acquired by the City and these properties can be made available to interested parties who either contact DEP directly or respond to a DEP-issued Request for Proposals (typically issued once per year in the winter or spring).
To determine eligible agricultural properties, DEP staff visit the site and then issue a Request for Proposals through a competitive public bidding process. Interested farmers then submit a proposal that describes how the land will be used for agriculture in a manner that protects water quality. DEP does set minimum requirements such as twenty-five feet buffers along all streams and wetlands, and DEP also encourages the use of agricultural Best Management Practices (BMPs) such as contour tilling, no till methods, the use of cover crops, and use of organic farming methods. Several farmers using City land are certified organic operations.
DEP actively promotes long-term forest management on City-owned watershed lands through regular forest improvement and restoration projects that are available to the public through competitive bidding. In general, DEP implements our watershed forest management plan through forest management projects, often harvesting the forests to promote forest vigor and forest regeneration through a number of silvicultural prescriptions. In some instances, salvage harvests are also conducted where forest blowdowns from weather events have occurred or where thinnings are required in response to insect outbreaks to improve the forest conditions as quickly as possible to meet DEP’s desired forest conditions for water supply protection. The detailed watershed forest management plan describes DEP’s current and desired forest conditions.
When DEP conducts a forest management project on City-owned lands, the project first undergoes a comprehensive internal review process to ensure compliance with the State Environmental Quality Review Act (SEQRA), the New York City Watershed Regulations, and other applicable environmental standards such as town ordinances. The proposed timber sale is then publicly advertised through a competitive bidding process before DEP selects a winning bidder to complete the forestry job based on price, experience, and other necessary qualifications. DEP strives to actively engage watershed loggers and the local forest products industry in at least a half dozen commercial timber sales on approximately 500-1,000 acres of City-owned watershed forest lands each year.