Yellow Barn State Forest (Tompkins) The majority of the lands that cover Yellow Barn State Forest were once used for farming and pasture. However, the land could not support intensive agriculture. Farming came to an end during the Great Depression when many of Upstate New York’s hilltop farms became economically unproductive. Originally part of township number 23 of the military tract, the Yellow Barn State Forest lands were added to the State Forest System from 1956 to 2002. The most significant acquisition took place in January of 1956 when about 1,242 acres of federal lands were added to the State Forest. Chiefly former farms, the federal lands were acquired as part of President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s New Deal under what was then called the federal sub marginal land purchase program. In total, 12 farms were acquired under the sub marginal land purchase program, with an average farm size of about 104 acres. The lands that comprise the Yellow Barn State Forest were once part of a rural farming community. In addition to the village of Dryden, a hamlet called California was settled at the intersection of Yellow Barn and Midline roads. The hamlet appears on a 1860 map. It was supposed to have received this name, commented Iva Cornelius Van Pelt (1904-2001) “from a group of pioneers whose original goal had been that far-western state (the 1849 California Gold Rush) but who so liked the hollow that they decided to remain here instead” (Gutchess, n.d.). The 1866 Atlas of Tompkins County indicates that A. Hard, J.W.D., W. Carpenter, J. Hammond, A.D. Card, D.B. Card, D.A. Chatfield, T. Robinson, O. Smith, A. Simon Est., J.H.N., B. Simons, P.M. Overbaugh, L. Griffin, T. Johnson and J. Vanorder owned land within the Yellow Barn State Forest. During the Great Depression, President Roosevelt pushed forth his “New Deal” legislation in an effort to combat the rising unemployment epidemic caused by the Depression. This legislation offered many opportunities to Americans throughout the country, and it help start the process of reforestation in New York State. At the state level, the State Reforestation Law of 1929 and the Hewitt Amendment of 1931 were enacted. These laws were created to help stabilize the school tax base and authorized the then New York State Conservation Department to establish State Forests by gift or purchase. State Reforestation Areas, consisting of areas no less than 500 acres of contiguous land, were to be forever devoted to “reforestation and the establishment and maintenance of forests for watershed protection, the production of timber and other forest products, and for recreation and other kindred purposes” (Article 9, Title 5 and 7, Environmental Conservation Law). The New Deal, State Reforestation Law and Hewitt Amendment paved the way for the establishment of the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) in 1933. The CCC enabled young men to be employed in various road building and forestry programs. Camp S-125 planted between 400,000 and 600,000 Scotch pine, European larch, Norway spruce, red pine, white pine, jack pine, red oak and Austrian pine seedlings in Yellow Barn State Forest.
West Osceola State Forest (Oswego) As with the majority of other state forests, the land that now encompasses West Osceola State Forest was originally purchased for reforestation by the State of New York during the 1930s. Prior to this, the landscape was comprised of a diverse matrix of crop lands, open fields, forest, meadows and homesteads. Unfortunately, the upland soils of the Tug Hill Plateau are characteristically rocky, highly acidic, and steep. Combined with intense winters common to the region, the fact that many farmers abandoned their properties in pursuit better lands in the midWest is understandable. The State Reforestation Law of 1929 and the Hewitt Amendment of 1931 provided legislation which authorized the Department of Conservation to acquire land, by gift or purchase, for reforestation areas. These State Forests, consisting of no less than 500 acres of contiguous land, were to be “forever devoted to reforestation and the establishment and maintenance thereon of forests for watershed protection, the production of timber and other forest products, and kindred purposes” (Article 9, Title 5, Environmental Conservation Law). West Osceola State Forest was purchased during the 1930’s under this program and has been intensely managed to promote forest health, timber production, wildlife habitat, and recreational opportunities. Through the efforts of the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC), who planted thousands of softwood tree seedlings on the newly acquired state lands, the landscape in West Osceola State Forest has been restored to thick woodland; it provides a myriad of economic, ecological and recreational services to hundreds of people each year.
Turkey Hill State Forest (Tioga) Most of the land encompassing what is today known as Turkey Hill State Forest was purchased during the 1930s. Prior to this point, the land had been cleared of the natural vegetation and used for agriculture by early European settlers and Revolutionary War Veterans. However, soils common in the area have major limitations for intensive crop production, including a seasonally high water table, low fertility, moderate to high acidity, and erodibility on steep slopes. Early farmers quickly learned that the combination of long, harsh winters and thin, fine textured upland soils would not support intensive agriculture. As such, many of the farmlands were abandoned as farmers sought more fertile land in the Midwest. Fortunately, the State Reforestation Law of 1929 and the Hewitt Amendment of 1931 set forth the legislation that authorized the Conservation Department (predecessor to the Department of Environmental Conservation) to acquire land, by gift or purchase, for reforestation areas. These state forests, consisting of no less than 500 acres of contiguous land outside the Adirondack and Catskill Parks, were to be “forever devoted to reforestation and the establishment and maintenance thereon.” Management is defined as including watershed protection, the production of timber and other forest products, recreation and kindred purposes. (Article 9, Titles 5 and 7, Environmental Conservation Law)