Most of Tug Hill is heavily wooded and is dominated by northern hardwoods. The upland core is dominated by maples, American beech and yellow birch, mixed with spruce-fir and hemlock. Encircling the core forest, there is successional forest made up of hardwood species overtaking abandoned agricultural fields and cutover areas. Much of the state-owned land has been reforested as coniferous plantations. In the state reforestation areas, the forest plantations are mostly white pine, red pine, Austrian pine, jack pine, Scotch pine, Norway spruce, white spruce, and European larch.Historically the region’s forests have support a regional economy in wood products and paper manufacturing. Although elements of that economy have declined in recent years, forestry remains an important element of both the economy and way of life on Tug Hill. Major forest industry employers and/or forest land managers in the region include, Harden Furniture, Cortland Wood Products, Molpus Timberland Management and the Nature Conservancy.
About 117,000 acres of wetlands, nearly 4,000 miles of stream channel, three reservoirs and a virtually unlimited supply of groundwater combine to make water one of Tug Hill’s most abundant and important resources. This supply of water is used for recreation (kayaking, canoeing and world-class fishing), generating electric power, and municipal and industrial water supplies.
With over 700 active dairy farms in the region, and at least 350 non-dairy farm operations, farming is one of the most important factors in Tug Hill’s economy. Tug Hill farms support numerous agriculture-related businesses, such as feed stores, dairy products manufacturers, farm equipment dealers, and veterinary clinics, all creating jobs and tying livelihoods close to the land.
The greatest concentration of farms is along New York State Routes 12 and 26 in the Black River Valley and on the west side of Tug Hill along Interstate 81 and US Route 11 in Jefferson County. Dairy plants in or near the Tug Hill Region include: Kraft, Great Lakes Cheese, and Crowley.The bulk of recreation activities occurring on Tug Hill are low-impact, outdoor pursuits compatible with the relatively undeveloped, rural character of the region. Outdoor recreation opportunities add to the quality of life for Tug Hill residents and are also important to the region’s economy. Traditional pastimes such as hunting, fishing, trapping, and hiking have been enjoyed for generations by Tug Hillers.
The abundant snow on Tug Hill has created a large network of snowmobiling trails, and more recently ATV trail riding has become more popular and widespread. The region’s lake-effect snows also help to maintain snow base for two downhill ski areas, numerous cross-country skiing trail systems, as well as the more specialized sport of sled dog racing. Horseback riding, mountain biking, and bicycle touring are also robust summer recreational pursuits, in addition to camping, canoeing, bird watching, and nature study.