It was a big year for the Adirondack Forest Preserve as the state agreed to buy 69,000 acres of former Finch, Pruyn & Co. timberland from The Nature Conservancy.
The announcement came in August when Gov. Andrew Cuomo joined environmental leaders and elected officials at Lake Placid's Conference Center to sign and announce the deal. The purchase would represent the largest addition to the Forest Preserve in more than a century.
The state plans to purchase the land over a five-year period for a total of $49.8 million, using funds set aside in the Environmental Protection Fund. The first payment of $13 million is expected to be made in this fiscal year, and the final one is scheduled for 2016-17. The state will pay local property and school taxes on the land, as it does for the Forest Preserve in general.
Paddlers enjoy Boreas Ponds in the Central Adirondacks in September during a trip organized by Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s office.
(Enterprise file photo — Mike Lynch)
Rather than one contiguous block of land, these lands consist of many widely dispersed parcels. The bulk of the property is in the central Adirondacks around Newcomb, but some parcels are even outside the Adirondack Park boundary to the southeast.
The majority of these lands are concentrated in the towns of Newcomb, Indian Lake, North Hudson and Minerva. Key parcels include the Essex Chain of Lakes, which features the Hudson River, Boreas Ponds, the Macintyre Tract, OK Slip Falls, including part of the Hudson Gorge, and several smaller pieces throughout the southeast portion of the Park.
The first phase of the purchase was expected to happen by the end of 2012 or early in 2013. State officials have said it will be centered around the 18,294-acre Essex Chain of Lakes tract.
The Conservancy bought these lands in 2007 as part of a 161,000-acre acquisition from Finch, Pruyn & Co. The Conservancy in 2009 sold 92,000 acres to ATP Timberland Invest, a Danish pension fund, and late in 2010, the state purchased conservation easements on 89,000 acres of this land. This February, the town of Newcomb bought 348 acres from the Conservancy for industry, a school dormitory and to expand a golf course. This was one of several deals between the Conservancy and local towns involving the former Finch lands.
When Cuomo made the August announcement, he said the deal strikes a balance between preservation and access. He said the public will have numerous opportunities for hunting, fishing, hiking, camping, mountain biking and other recreational pursuits. The purchase will also pave the way for a better network of snowmobile trails throughout the Adirondack Park, he said.
"(The purchase) understands that we need to conserve, we need to preserve," Cuomo said. "We also need to have a unit that is functional. We also have to have local governments that have revenues that pay annoying things like taxes. We also have occupations that we have to perform; we have people who need jobs. And this also understands that balance."
Although Cuomo lauded the deal, some local officials have fought against the state's purchase of the land since the Conservancy first bought it. Others, such as environmental groups, have praised the state's effort to purchase it.
One of the big debates that lies ahead for these lands is how they will be used. That will be determined in the unit management planning process that is undertaken by the state Adirondack Park Agency and state Department of Environmental Conservation.
Some sportsmen's groups, such as the New York State Conservation Council, have advocated for looser restrictions on the land that would allow some motorized access. Environmental groups have put forth proposals that include more restrictive land restrictions that would limit motorized access.
The UMP process will get into full swing after the purchases are finalized.
Contact Mike Lynch at 518-891-2600 ext. 28 or firstname.lastname@example.org.