The New York State Forest Preserve was established in 1895, and nine years later our legislators created the Catskill Park to protect this unique and special area. It was their intention to have it protected in its pristine and wilderness state forever.
The Catskill Park contains the headwaters of some of the cleanest rivers in our State and has a myriad of endangered species and habitats. It is one of only 10 areas in the eastern half of the United States that has wilderness of over 50,000 acres. It provides access to a wilderness experience (hiking, mountaineering, tubing, fishing, camping, snowmobiling, skiing and more) for over 20,000,000 people who live within 100 miles of it and contains numerous campgrounds and over 300 miles of multi-use trails.
The Catskill Park consists of 700,000 acres of land inside a blue line in four counties: Delaware, Greene, Sullivan and Ulster. 41 percent is owned by the state as part of the Forest Preserve and 5% is owned by New York City to protect four of the city’s reservoirs that lie partially within the park and their respective watersheds. The rest is privately owned.
The lands that are state owned are protected from gas drilling by Section 1. of Article XIV of the New York State Constitution which states, “The lands of the state, now owned or hereafter acquired, constituting the forest preserve as now fixed by law, shall be forever kept as wild forest lands. They shall not be leased, sold or exchanged, or be taken by any corporation, public or private, nor shall the timber thereon be sold, removed or destroyed.” This protects them from fracking and other industrial activities, but that protection does not extend to the privately owned lands within the Catskill Park.
The idea behind creating the blue line was that any private land within the blue line could at some point be purchased by the state and become public land. Commercial operations are allowed, such as logging, stores, resorts, etc. but they all must go through a local regulatory process which requires that they not make permanent changes to the land so that the land has the capacity to return to its natural state.