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News briefs

April 20, 2011

Report lauds Catskills’ foodshed potential

CALLICOON, NY —A new report issued by the Open Space Institute (OSI) in conjunction with the Urban Design Lab of the Earth Institute at Columbia University investigates food production in the Catskills region of New York—a region the report finds has the potential to produce enough healthy, locally grown food to feed millions of people in New York City and beyond. “Ground Up: Cultivating Sustainable Agriculture in the Catskill Region” will be presented at 12 noon on April 23 at the Callicoon Farmers Market.

“The demand for locally produced agricultural products equals more than $866 million per year in the New York metropolitan area,” said Kim Elliman, OSI’s CEO and president. “Existing local production accounts for $147 million in sales each year.”
In 76,000-person Sullivan County, New York, home to only 235 farms in 2003 (there were 3,543 in the county in 1920), surveys indicate that residents value rural landscapes and the agrarian lifestyle, yet there has been no support from the state’s Farmland Protection Program to preserve the county’s farms. The report makes the case that the trend is one worth reversing.

New York Assembly member Aileen Gunther and a representative from Congressman Maurice Hinchey’s office will be in attendance on Saturday for the release of the report.

Damascus passes zoning amendment

DAMASCUS, PA — Without a lot of fanfare, the Damascus Township Board unanimously passed the zoning amendment that would ease the way for gas companies to conduct drilling in over 90% of the township, even in the township’s residential zones.
The only areas where drilling would be restricted are the river district and the five neighborhood development areas, small sections of the township.

The amendment changes the existing ordinance on drilling from a special exception to a conditional use, which removes the Zoning Hearing Board from any role in approving or denying drilling and gives the power of approval to the supervisors.
Objections had been made that, since all the supervisors who voted on the issue have signed leases, the vote constitutes a conflict of interest. “We have clarified this question often in the past,” said Jeff Dexter, chairman of the supervisors, in response to the objection. “Our attorney and PSATS (Pennsylvania State Association of Township Supervisors) say that there is no such conflict of interest.”