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Two properties added to Fort Drum buffer program

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Two more properties have been added to the Army Compatible Use Buffer, in deals closed last week and announced Monday.

The properties announced were a 403.6-acre property in Antwerp, Rossie and Fowler owned by the Wucjik family, and a 150-acre property in Evans Mills owned by Randy Griffith.

A call to a number provided for Frank Wucjik was unsuccessful. Gordon Griffith, who finalized the deal for Mr. Griffith, his father, after his death a few months ago, was not available Monday afternoon.

“It was my father’s wish that his land be preserved perpetually as farmland, which is what originally made him interested in the ACUB program,” Gordon Griffith said in a press release issued in connection to the acquisitions.

The program permanently purchases the development rights for agricultural properties, to prevent encroachment of activity near areas used for training at Fort Drum. The program, a partnership among the Army, the Tug Hill Tomorrow Land Trust and Ducks Unlimited, has dedicated about $5.2 million to buy the development rights of about 3,446 acres, when Monday’s additions are included.

“Both of them are great additions to the properties we already have protected,” said Linda M. Garrett, the land trust’s executive director. She noted the properties are adjacent to other properties that have had their development rights purchased.

“It’s great to be filling in the puzzle pieces of the area out there,” Mrs. Garrett said.

Though the development rights are sold for the land, the properties remain in private ownership and on municipal tax rolls.

She said the development rights for the Wucjik property were acquired for $475,560, while the Griffith property’s development rights cost $231,570.

With the new acquisitions announced Monday, Mrs. Garrett said that five properties were in the process of being appraised, with funding potentially in place should those proceedings move forward.

Franz J. Philippe, who oversees the buffer program on post, said the program was a win-win for the community and for farmers.

The director of plans, analysis and integration for the post’s garrison said the funding for the current fiscal year, at about $2 million, was about four times the amount spent the previous fiscal year.

“What you’re seeing now is the tipping point,” Mr. Philippe said. “It’s the fruition of a lot of work that people have put in since 2009.”

He said it was encouraging to see more landowners expressing interest to the post in becoming a part of the program.

“The momentum is absolutely gaining right now,” Mr. Philippe said. “As more and more landowners get into the program, word gets out.”

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