NEW YORK - A private landowner has donated a 1,400-acre conservation easement in northeastern Essex County to the Open Space Conservancy, the land acquisition affiliate of the Open Space Institute.
The parcel, a largely wooded tract owned by the Johanason family, buffers the western shore of Butternut Pond and includes a mile-long stretch that is visible from the Northway. It includes lands of Pokamoonshine Mountain and can be seen from the historic fire tower on the summit, a popular destination for rock climbers, hikers and cross-country skiers. It is bisected by several brooks, most of which feed into Auger Lake, which in turn empties into the Ausable River and eventually into Lake Champlain.
Eric Johanson began traveling to the Adirondacks with his parents in the late 1940s. He purchased a 175-acre tract in the area when he was 19, then acquired other adjoining parcels over time to create a sanctuary he called Baldface Mountain Preserve.
Johanson's ancestors came from Sweden and were landowners and farmers, so forestry and land ownership are a family tradition, he said.
"I did not struggle to put this preserve together to develop it, but to practice conservation, to hunt and fish, and to leave it intact for future generations as a model of sustainable forestry," Johanson said.
The conservation easement restricts all commercial and residential development on the property, and restricts forestry practices to those that are environmentally responsible and sustainable. The family retains ownership of the land and may pass it on or even sell the land, although the terms of the easement must be adhered to by future owners.
"The acquisition of this conservation easement represents a next step toward OSI's long-held goal of protecting signature Adirondack landscapes," said Joe Martens, OSI's president. "This forest has been sustainably managed for decades, and is emblematic of the matchless beauty of the region."
In the past 15 years, OSI has protected Adirondack landscapes such as the 2,000-acre Last Chance Ranch, south of Lake Placid and the 10,000-acre-plus Tahawus tract at the southern entrance to the High Peaks, which which includes the historic village of Adirondac, and other important natural areas.
In 2007, OSI also participated, as a conservation lender, in the The Nature Conservancy's celebrated Finch, Pruyn acquisition, a single transaction that protected nearly 250 square miles of forestland, streams, lakes and mountains just south of the High Peaks region. OSI has protected more than 100,000 acres in New York and assisted in the protection of an additional 1.7 million acres in eight states through its Northern Forest Protection Fund and Conservation Finance Program.