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NYSDEC criticized in Buffalo News

Buffalo News

Another voice / Reinstein Woods

                  DEC is ignoring the wishes of nature preserve's donor

                  By RON REINSTEIN II


                  Discussions about balancing the ecosystem in the Reinstein Woods Nature Preserve with public access never would have had to take place if the state had followed the wishes of the family that donated the preserve to the people of Western New York.

                  Reinstein Woods in Cheektowaga is a 292-acre preserve with diverse habitats and wildlife. The Department of Environmental Conservation has started allowing limited, self-guided tours for the public, which is definitely against my great-grandfather's wishes.

                  Now the DEC wants to increase this access, which will compound the problem.

                  When my great-grandfather, Victor, turned the Reinstein Woods over to the DEC, it was with certain provisions so that the woods would flourish for years to come. However, the DEC chose to neglect some of those provisions.

                  Victor was a visionary who accurately predicted the growth of the Town of Cheektowaga, and foresaw the potential problems that would arise for the woods.

                  The DEC claims it has a problem with the woods because of the deer population. If the DEC had listened to Victor or my grandfather, Robert, who helped create this preserve and also offered many suggestions to the DEC, this would not be an issue today.

                  Instead of leaving the woods as it was in 1986, when my family turned it over to the state, the DEC has decided to make it a park for recreational use. My great-grandfather specifically stated that the woods was to be used for "educational purposes" only. This certainly does not mean offering access to anyone interested in tramping through the woods.

                  Another problem is the damage done by deer. The DEC says this has been made worse by the tradition of individuals feeding deer in adjacent Stiglmeier Park. That has helped deer numbers expand and concentrate in this area.

                  It is because of the urbanization of Cheektowaga that deer congregate in one area. This was foreseen by Victor, so why not by the DEC? If the state revoked the law making it illegal to feed deer, the town could set up feeding areas for the wildlife, instead of having the animals feed on the seedlings that replenish the woods.

                  The Reinstein Woods was a gift from my family, given in good faith, to the rest of Western New York to enjoy as we have over the years. It is unfortunate that the agency to which my great-grandfather entrusted his beloved woods has slapped him in the face.

                  What is happening to the Reinstein Woods is a stereotypical theme for this region: Let's not do anything about this now, while we can, and then do nothing but complain when it is gone or beyond repair.

                  When the woods no longer exists, we can all go and congratulate the DEC on a job well done. My family has nothing else to say except "we told you so."

                  Ron Reinstein II is an environmental activist.

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