Hand Hollow State Forest MapNew York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) Commissioner Joe Martens yesterday officially opened New York State’s newest state forest, the 518-acre Hand Hollow State Forest in the town of New Lebanon, Columbia County, as part of New York State’s celebration of Earth Day. The announcement is in honor of Earth Week, April 19-25, which Governor Cuomo proclaimed as a weeklong celebration of New York’s commitment and accomplishments to protecting our environment, conserving open space, increasing access to the state’s vast and magnificent natural resources, implementing clean energy initiatives and preparing for the effects of climate change.

“This new state forest will provide outstanding recreational opportunities as well provide sustainable timber management that supports local jobs,” Martens said. “Our thanks go out to Columbia Land Conservancy and Little Pine LLC for their considerable efforts to make this new state forest a reality.”

“The Hand Hollow State Forest, with more than 500 acres of beautiful wooded land and a secluded lake, is a magnificent addition to the growing inventory of publicly accessible open lands in Columbia County,” said Columbia Land Conservancy Executive Director Peter R. Paden. “We are proud to have played a part in its creation and very grateful to the hard-working folks at DEC and to Little Pine LLC, without which this wonderful project could not have come to fruition.”

The Hand Hollow state forest is managed for multiple uses, including recreation, timber production, watershed protection and wildlife habitat. Hand Hollow meets the requirements for state forest designation of more than 500 acres of forested area that allows for a wide variety of recreational uses. Recreational opportunities include hiking, biking, picnicking, horseback riding, camping, snowmobiling, cross-country skiing, hunting, fishing, trapping, wildlife observation and photography.

The property was purchased in December 2014, from Little Pine LLC and the Columbia Land Conservancy for about $2 million using the state’s Environmental Protection Fund.

The state forest contains woodlands, some open brush land and a small lake on the southern portion of the property. The lake shore is shared with the Columbia Land Conservancy, which owns adjoining property. Boaters and anglers can access the lake via a half-mile foot path. Only non-motorized boats are allowed on the lake. In addition, Hollow Brook crosses a portion of the property and provides excellent fishing opportunities with its wild Brown and Brook Trout. Additional multiple-use trails and a new parking area are currently in development.

New York’s state forest system was created in the 1920s to conserve forest resources, protect wildlife habitat and water quality, and provide for public outdoor recreational opportunities. Over the years, state forests have been created in nearly every county in the state. Since 2011, DEC has expanded 16 existing state forests by about 8,045 acres and created six new state forests. New York’s state forests now encompass more than 789,000 acres.

New York’s multiple use state forest system is “dual certified” under the Forest Stewardship Council and the Sustainable Forestry Initiative. These third-party certification programs require DEC to manage forest resources sustainably to ensure the protection of water, air and wildlife habitat.

“For the staff at DEC, every day is Earth Day and this beautiful new state forest is a reminder of the tangible benefits that public/private partnerships can deliver,” Martens added.