Supporters of the plan say it will encourage loggers and landowners to adopt better harvesting practices. At the APA's monthly meeting in Ray Brook, some commissioners spoke passionately in favor of the change.
But others expressed deep skepticism about the plan.
Law enforcement agencies from across the North Country took part in...
The Department of Corrections will close two more prisons this year, bringing to a total of nine the number...
The plan put forward by park staff would apply only to landowners who have sustainable harvesting plans certified by non-profit forestry groups.
They would be eligible to use a streamlined application process to do larger clear-cuts, bigger than 25 acres, with a much shorter review by state regulators and a much shorter public comment period.
At least two APA commissioners expressed deep skepticism about the idea. Dick Booth said that large timber companies and not state regulators bear the blame for the widespread use of poor harvesting practices in the Adirondacks.NCPR's story on concerns that the health of commercial forests in the Adirondack Park is eroding.)
Booth also blasted Park Agency staff for proposing this new clear-cutting policy without holding public hearings and without doing a complete environmental review of the policy's possible impacts.
He described their rationale for that decision as "fictitious."
Booth argued that if state regulations are outdated then the APA should undergo a process to reform its timber harvesting rules.
But other commissioners were clearly more comfortable with the idea of bringing outside non-profit groups into the process of monitoring timber harvests in the park.
They suggested that the new general permit would allow loggers more flexibility to use new harvest strategies that are discouraged by existing regulations.
"We're trying to be pro-active for a change rather than reactive, and I feel like you get slammed both ways," said board member Arthur Lussi.
"This is one time when I think we're trying to do something right and good."
That view was echoed by Frank Mezzano, who chairs the park's regulatory programs committee. He said the APA's staff "feels passionately that this is a good improvement over the status quo. I believe that to be true."
All sides agree that current harvesting practices in the Park are producing inferior forests, with the wrong kinds of trees allowed to regrow. The question is what to do about the problem.
This proposal is sure to come back for a vote in coming months and it's sure to remain controversial. Twelve regional and national environmental groups have lined up in opposition to the general permit concept.