The Future of the County’s Natural Resources
by Jeff Cole
That is why the county is attempting to determine the best way to utilize, as well as protect, these resources for generations to come. It sought feedback from the public on how to accomplish these goals during a public forum held July 12 at the Randolph Municipal Building, 72 Main St.
The forum focused on the topic of the environment and natural resources in the county and was the third in a series of six monthly public forums, with the last one scheduled to be held in October. The purpose of the forums is to gather public input for the planning process that will develop the county’s new comprehensive plan and vision of the future.
According to ww2.cattco.org, the county’s original comprehensive plan was adopted in 1978 and was intended to guide the development of the county through the year 2000. However, “a new comprehensive planning update is needed to address the challenges of the 21st century and build upon more recent planning initiatives.”
The plan’s purpose, the website further states, is “to provide a blueprint for the future growth and development of the county in the areas of land use, economic development, agriculture, the environment, transportation, infrastructure and arts and culture.”
The 17 Cattaraugus County citizens who attended the July 12 forum were divided into three groups to discuss and write down their ideas. Gary Abraham, an Allegany resident, told the Times he hopes that the comprehensive plan is able to direct good environmental development and restrict bad development. He noted his concern with the protection of the Ischua Valley watershed from potential pollution from hydrofracking.
“That’s something the city council in Olean has spoken out on and what the county can do, I’m not sure. The county spent a quarter of a billion dollars to stop the Farmersville landfill, which they thought had the risk of a catastrophic spill into that watershed, to protect the land and we ought to do as much for this,” he said.
James Isaacson, senior planner for Cattaraugus County, said the county wanted to get some ideas from the public on how to address some of the environmental issues that the county currently faces, such as alternative energy and natural gas exploration.
“Those are some of the issues we’ve identified. We’d like to get some input from the community on how to address those issues and the comprehensive plan will ultimately come up with strategies that will address those issues,” he said.
Paul Bishop, also a senior planner for the county, echoed Isaacson by saying that the county would “like to identify what residents consider important as far as protecting whatever issues we identify within the resources and natural environment.” With the county now halfway through its public forums, Bishop said the forums have been helpful so far.
“We were hoping to get better participation, but the people we have been getting have been very helpful,” he said.
Ken Miller, who owns 95 acres of land in Machias, said that he and his wife, Jan, were at the public forum “to kind of see what this whole meeting is about” and then go from there.
“We’re all for preserving natural resources,” he said.
In addition to the environment and natural resources, the county has also held public forums on economic development and agriculture. Each forum centers on one topic and light refreshments are served.
The remaining public forum topics and dates are as follows:
Aug. 9 – Transportation and Infrastructure
Sept. 20 – Arts and Culture
Oct. 18 – Land Use
All public forums have scheduled start times of 6 p.m. The locations for the next three forums have not yet been determined.