Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Commentary:
New State Lands Strengthen Ecology, Economics

Governor Andrew Cuomo’s recent commitment to acquire 69,000 acres of the former Finch Pruyn lands for the publicly-owned NYS Forest Preserve over the next several years completes a 161,000-acre conservation project of national and global importance.

Conservation of the paper company’s lands was a topic fifty years ago this summer when Paul Schaefer had an interesting conversation with then Finch Pruyn Company President Lyman Beeman. Both were members of the Joint Legislative Committee on Natural Resources then studying Adirondack forests.

According to a story Paul told us, they walked into a forest tract owned by Finch Pruyn in 1962 and held a debate about the appearance and future of the forest. Paul saw all kinds of opportunities by allowing that forest to develop the craggy characteristics of an older, unmanaged woods available for hunting large, trophy white-tailed bucks, or for fishing remote backcountry streams and ponds, or for satisfying a basic human quest to find recreation, solitude, peace and tranquility in a wilderness setting.

From his vantage point, Mr. Beeman urged Paul to consider the aesthetic beauty of a managed, selectively-logged woodlot, with well-spaced trees, lots of new saplings, foresters at work and paper machines humming in the Finch Pruyn mill at Glens Falls.

Paul’s respectful debate with the company continued off and on for another 25 years. In the mid-1990s, Paul sent lengthy letters and enclosures to Finch Pruyn’s President, arguing that it was in the company’s interest to donate some of its most scenic landscapes, such as OK Slip Falls, to the NYS Forest Preserve.

A decade later, economic conditions within a global pulp and paper industry had altered in ways that our founder could not have envisioned. In 2007, Finch Pruyn’s woods went up for sale and The Nature Conservancy purchased all 161,000-acres of some of the finest, best managed, mixed-hardwood forest in all of North America. The Adirondack Nature Conservancy’s Mike Carr began a lengthy process of careful assessment of the land while paying taxes on it, leasing it, logging it lightly, and having the kind of candid conversation with local governments that Schaefer and Beeman would have admired. The project received support from all the affected towns thanks to Mike Carr’s rigorous local consultation.

The result was a carefully negotiated arrangement by which nearly 100,000-acres of the most productive forests would be sold to allow continued forest harvest with a state-held conservation easement that prohibited intensive development, consummated in late 2010. Affected towns reserved several thousands of acres for their particular local recreational and economic development needs. Due to their ecological, hydrological and public recreational attributes which far outweighed the timber potential, the remaining 65,000+-acres were reserved for future Forest Preserve ownership.

Simultaneous to Governor Cuomo’s announcement, Fred Monroe of the Adirondack Local Government Review Board and his allies re-started a stale misinformation campaign, claiming that Forest Preserve acquisition would be costly, kill jobs, threaten to end tax payments, and even close local schools. None of this is true. Forest Preserve adds job opportunities in wilderness tourism, recreation and guiding. The Governor is not about to end or cap state tax payments. Some small rural schools are closing for many other reasons unrelated to Forest Preserve ownership. The Nature Conservancy raised $35 million of private money to make the deal work and to cover their costs of owning the land since 2007.

As a Finch Forest Manager said this week to the Almanack’s John Warren, a lot of study and thought was put into which lands were put under conservation easement and available for commercial harvesting, and which land should go into the Forest Preserve. We conclude that Fred Monroe is speaking less for the forest industry and more for lease club members who have enjoyed exclusive access to and use of these lands, but who will no longer once the state acquires the land, and use reservations expire later in this decade.

We believe the Forest Preserve additions will enhance ecological integrity at the very heart of the Adirondack Park. Their long-term conservation increases the chance that many migratory birds, as well as the marten and the moose can be sustained in the face of climate change. They add eco-tourism values at the core of the Park where industrial decline has been a sore point for many years.

The Essex Chain of Lakes, Upper Hudson Stillwater and the Boreas Ponds will add diversity to the surprisingly limited number of existing wild canoe or kayak waters. If carefully managed from both a recreational and ecological standpoint, the lands in their entirety will open opportunities for tourism including guiding, fishing, hunting, camping, skiing and snowmobiling, and support ecological research, education, arts and healing. Newcomb’s local and international students and other schools will have chances to interact with a variety of programs that take advantage of these landscapes. New state-private partnerships can be envisioned with the Adirondack Interpretive Center, Adirondack Ecological Center, Adirondack Architectural Heritage, among others.

The waterways re-establish routes that harken back to the Mohawk peoples, and the early days of hunters, trappers and explorers. People from all over the world will benefit from these new lands and opportunities that have a deep connection to our cultural past, while their dollars will be spent in local communities.

At a cost of less than $700 per acre, the project is a well-balanced acquisition benefiting the Park’s environment, human communities and needed economic enhancement, and was recognized as such not just by the Governor, but also by local Assemblywoman Teresa Sayward.

In conclusion, the Governor and his DEC Commissioner seized an opportunity this summer to add something very new and exciting to the central Adirondacks – an unparalleled arc of public wild lands and waters to explore at the very center of the Park, a historically well-managed landscape of interconnected wild lands and waterways available nowhere else in the northeast but the Adirondack Park. The entire Finch conservation project enhances the global reach of the Adirondack Park as a leading and working conservation model and success story.

Photo: OK Slip Falls, part of the new state land purchase.


Dan Plumley and Dave Gibson are partners with Adirondack Wild: Friends of the Forest Preserve.

Adirondack Wild hopes to build on a rich legacy to apply ecological and philosophical thinking to critical advocacy and educational work designed to safeguard and extend Adirondack wild lands, and to educate each new generation about the benefits of wild lands and the important role they play in people's lives.





51 Responses

  1. Mick says:

    Your BELIEFS differ from the facts. First, I grew up across the street from the Beemans, and exposure to Finch Pruyn lands at a young age is what inspired my education and career in forest products and activism in environmental conservation.

    Finch Pruyn’s Board of Directors were adamantly opposed to State Ownership of their land. Finch did not sell to TNC; it sold to Atlas Holdings, through Blue Wolf Capital, to make a “straw sale” to what was then an “anonymous buyer” who turned out to be TNC. Finch would not have sold willingly to the state.

    Fred Monroe’s group should be opposed to the fee purchase. It is a grotesque and vulgar waste of the taxpayer’s dollars, and will cause economic hardship and a severe reduction in environmental stewardship. Here are the facts:

    As private forestland, the land has a positive economic benefit in the region valued as follows:

    $102.00 per acre per year in recreational value. This equates to over $7 million per year. This is the economic contribution of the private clubs, who are some of the most important small businesses in the region

    $375.00 per acre per year from forest products. This equates to nearly $26 million per year in economic benefit.

    THIS IS LOST ECONOMIC OPPORTUNITY COST FOR THE REGION.

    The continuing and permanent costs of the fee acquisition include ongoing property tax payments of around $26.00 per acre, or $1.8 million of taxpayer dollars EVERY year.

    Management by DEC? Do they have the funding to adequately manage and protect the resource? No way!

    Stewardship: Public versus private stewardship? Are you kidding me? Public stewardship has a dismal record in the Adirondacks.

    Environmentally beneficial? No way. The forests trap at least 300% more CO2 when they are harvested regularly.

    Forest protection under state ownership? None. It’s illegal.

    Fish and wildlife management? It will never happen. In fact, “disturbed” forests are preferred habitat for a well known endangered specie. THE STATE WILL ELIMINATE PREFERRED HABITAT!

    Someone needs to sue the state to stop this nonsense. It’s a ludicrous use of taxpayer dollars and is nothing more than a well camouflaged scheme to transfer wealth.

    Logic, reason, and rationality prevail against your socialist “beliefs”.

    [A ONE-WORD PERSONAL ATTACK WAS REDACTED HERE FROM THIS COMMENT – Ed.]

    • Pete Nelson Pete Nelson says:

      Mick:

      Sadly environmental leaders and Republicans Teddy Roosevelt and Gifford Pinchot are not here to resoundingly trounce your insinuation that this whole brouhaha is due to the socialist beliefs of presumably left-wing wacko greenies. Furthermore, I enjoy knowing a little environmental history and I’m pretty sure that not only would Pinchot endorse public stewardship of lands but he would also happily champion a point I will now make: the laudable evolution of forest stewardship by private timber companies is due more than anything else to the fact that public stewardship and science led the way. You being a forester I presume you hold Pinchot in sufficiently high regard.

      I find your numbers unconvincing on several fronts. I will guess that John Warren and others will dissect them in greater detail but I will offer a few points.

      First the economic argument is incomplete. The $33 million yearly loss – if we accept your numbers at face value – must be compared to the long-term yearly gains. That is lacking so far. Not only that but these are tangible, specific numbers and the intangible economics are even more important.

      Second, the tax argument is flawed. The State will pay property taxes on the land. This benefits local government and local communities, as it should, and just as it does if private entities pay property taxes. The usual response from your side is that the taxpayer is making these payments so it really is a loss (or in one incredibly specious argument, a double-count). Yes, taxpayers indirectly pay these property taxes Exactly! That’s the point. The taxpayers of the entire state are paying an almost insignificant yearly price per person for this land purchase, local communities get the benefit, the people of the state get access to an incredible resource, everyone wins. If you wanted to prevail with this tax argument you would have to do so at a State level, engaging all the people of New York. You know that’s a losing proposition. The people of New York want to protect the Adirondacks.

      My third point is related to the second one. I find your position to be blindingly local. But the issue isn’t even merely statewide as is the case with the tax question. It’s global, as Gibson and Plumley rightly point out. 69,000 acres is roughly 1% of the land in the park and a decimal fraction of a percent of forestland in the United States. Its value as forestland on that scale is nothing in comparison to its value as an intrinsic and central part of one of the greatest and most important wilderness areas in the world. Even the executives and foresters at Finch understand that, and have said so publicly.

      Fourth, the question of what is better for the environment is a no-brainer. Every ecologist would agree that balance is important, as is the case with this deal. Most forests in the United States are working forests in some way, shape or form. There are certainly ecological benefits to working forests. But there are absolutely irreplaceable benefits to protected forests. It’s a fool’s errand to choose one over the other. The idea of ecological integrity is a growing area of scientific study and understanding. There are few places left that can meet those criteria, but the Adirondack Park is one of them.

      Finally, to refer to people with whom you disagree on an important issue as “imbeciles” throws every claim you have made to the wind like chaff. As a result I am inclined have as much faith in your biased litany of statistics as I do in the Easter Bunny. Given that the economic arguments ought to continue and there is a possibility that you have something useful to contribute, that is unfortunate.

      • Mick says:

        Working forests like the Colorado forests? You mean the ones where millions of acres were killed by insects then burnt?

        Here are the statistics on the economic importance of the forests. Let’s hear you refute the facts. Keep in mind that the report points out that the figures are derived from mostly privately owned forests. http://www.dec.ny.gov/docs/lands_forests_pdf/economic.pdf

        You really think that a couple dozen Kevlar kayakers will contribute to the economy, compared to thousands of outdoorsmen and women and children who will be displaced.

        Ridiculous.

    • Snowshoe steve says:

      Mick I respect your opinions, they are well stated in both facts and opinions. I just find your beliefs so right wing, radical, and far beyond the main stream. Common ground is important and compromise is key to all negotiations but you have to know you are as far right as the “greenies” are left.

      • Mick says:

        Steve,

        With all due respect, for the last four years, I have advocated for easement purchases all along, so the public could have access, the clubs would remain intact, and sustainable forestry operations could continue. I even outlined a plan for easement terms that would allow the state to share in carbon market revenues. This is right wing, radical, and outside the mainstream?

        It’s time to take a hard stand on the irresponsible use of our tax dollars.

    • Peter H says:

      It seems to me that one user group is being intentionally displaced in favor of another user group.

      The current user group uses vehicles and outboard motors, is multi-generational, and prefers a semblance of convenience and comfort, and appreciates the safety and security of their clubs. I think it’s proven that they do, in fact, sustain significant economic and environmental stewardship in the area.

      It looks like an intentional elimination of the middle class private recreation group.

      The sad fact of the matter is, if the deal were structured differently, all user groups could benefit.

  2. Mick says:

    One other thing: I’d love to see your idea of the expected user groups and projected economic benefit from them. I have it in my mind’s eye who they will be, but I’d love to hear your expectations.

    • Snowshoe steve says:

      Mick, Finch was a great steward of the land yes. They sold it! I don’t understand your fundamental disdain for “Forest Preserve”.

      While I agree some “timberlands” purchased in fee or as easement by the state do not get enough tourism use to boost local economies, these landscapes are so spectacular they most certainly will. Imagine the Marcy Dam-Flowed land corridor was kept in timber production instead of being opened up to the public for hiking and camping? I don’t know what the value is to the local economy as Forest Preserve as you have calculated for it while in private hands but I can say this…The value per acre of Forest Preserve to me is…PRICELESS!

  3. JATF says:

    The deal was fair and balanced. A win win for both the communities, the environment and the economy.

    100,000 acres stays in production and will feed the mill in Glens Falls with pulp wood for the next twenty years.

    Economic opportunity is not lost but will be enhanced with the opening of new wild lands to hike, waters to paddle and fish.

    The forest products industry has not been viable in the Adirondacks for the last three decades. It is called globalization. Even when they do harvest in the northeast everything gets shipped to Canada, processed and shipped back. You cannot sustain a regional economy by creating 5-10 jobs, an idea the local politicians still cannot grasp.

    Yes, environmental spending is such a waste for NY at a slim $134 million for the Environmental Protection Fund from a budget of over $130 BILLION. Talk about poor management!

    Yes such socialism! Stop sharing all that clean air and water and open space.

  4. Mick says:

    JATF, if you knew what you were talking about, you’d know that the terms of the fiber supply contract have already been met. TNC logged the land hard, and supplied all the tonnage.

    The fair and balanced statement is enviro babble. If the deal were fair and balanced, then all of the local towns would not have adopted resolutions opposing it. If it were fair and balanced, then the land would remain in sustainable production, the public would have access, and the clubs would remain intact, and the taxpayers wouldn’t be on the hook. If it were fair and balanced, the state would be able to participate in revenues generated from the carbon market through an easement purchase, bringing even more environmental benefit from the land.

    If you knew anything about the forest products industry in the region, you’d know that there are over 200 forest products companies within 50 miles from the Blueline, and if you read today’s paper, you’d know how important the biomass markets are becoming in the economy.

  5. JATF says:

    Yes all those town passed resolutions against state fee purchase… but not a single one of the 27 towns vetoed the original agreement back in 2007 in which EPF $$$ would be used for the fee purchase… a power that each town held in their back pockets!!!!

    Yet…. lets turn around 3..4…5 years later and pass resolutions against it…

    The epitome of hypocrisy… and we elect them… WHAT!

    Biomass is more than just cutting down mature forests… it comes from construction waste, storm debris, wood chippings, cow shit, municipal solid waste, hemp, willow..etc.etc..

    The paper also said it was going to rain yesterday… but it never did… don’t believe everything you read

    “If you don’t read the newspaper, you’re uninformed. If you read the newspaper, you’re mis-informed.” Mark Twain

  6. Mick says:

    The last time the towns vetoed a land acquisition that was going to use EPF money, the state circumvented the veto by using general funds. In this case, the towns knew that would probably happen again, and reluctantly accepted the deal based on false promises.

    I was in attendance at a TNC meeting where ONLY EASEMENTS were discussed, and TNC never mentioned anything about a fee title deal.

  7. Dan Plumley Dan Plumley says:

    Mick: (and by copy other commenters, as well)

    As a professionally trained forester, who also had the pleasure of knowing Lyman Beeman with over 25 years in the field here in the Adirondacks, I was party to the discussions between Paul Schaefer and Finch Pruyn in the 1980’s and stand by every word in our piece.

    As for your bombastic response and illiterate name calling, I stand with Mr. Nelson. You serve only to self-refute any value in your comments.

    Recreational value is but one of the multitude of socio-economic and ecological service values that the Finch Pruyn wild lands will provide current and future generations of New Yorkers. Those values and their benefits were supported by every township whose lands fall under this historic and ground-breaking conservation deal. On the deal, they never wavered.

    Top grade foresters who do not need to subvert to childlike name-calling know that already the TNC Finch Pruyn deal maintains some 92,000 acres in active forestry that preserves foresters, loggers ands timber industry jobs in the area and supports the Finch mill in Glens Falls.

    Wild forests in the slow growing Adirondacks store carbon, sustain richer biodiversity and provide critical wildlife habitat connectivity is different ways than timbered lands. And the value-added recreational, small-business, hunting, fishing, backcountry skiing, mountain biking, birding, camping, snowmobiling and boating opportunities made possible through the TNC Finch deal will come to rival other regions of the park on their own relative basis. We must strive to enhance their wildness and their intrinsic value over time for those Finch lands and waters that will go into the Forest Preserve; and TNC has proven its commitment to long term certified forest stewardship for the conservation easement lands.

    Hunters, sportsmen, women and children — enjoying the opportunities made possible through the Finch legacy of stewardship and leasing will also be even more empowered to see new lands that they could not utilize with other citizens as the TNC Finch agreement moves forward. Management clarity and caution to protect the resource and prevent impacts is the DEC and TNC’s commitment and all of our stakeholder groups will have an equitable seat at the table in unit management planning.

    For more on wild land values and critical planning for Finch and other lands, see: http://www.adirondackwild.org.

    Foremost, in my response to you Mick, the multi-party, cross-stakeholder public process of the NY State Open Space Plan that includes the Region 5 and Region 6 committees encompassing the Adirondack Park worked diligently in the run-up to the TNC Finch Lands deal. That group, including LGRB as a member and all towns supported the long-term protection, use of conservation easement and fee title wild land protection for the Finch lands. Tens of thousands more land went into conservation easements and sustaining good forestry.

    The public process worked for a win-win for all New Yorkers — our park towns, our state conservation heritage and the park. But there remains much work to do together — without name calling and ribald “fact” throwing — especially when TNC and DEC used top professional foresters, biologists and other expertise to develop — with copious stakeholder and leaseholder involvement. Just read the view this week by Finch Pruyn’s own forester in this very column; he has the real facts and long-term perspective that you fail to have.

    And on the matter of “socialism” that you brought up – I can’t imagine where your head is there; but I am sure you stand for private property rights as stridently as I do. Will you stand up for the rights of a private landowner — in this case TNC Finch Pruyn – to exercise their own rights to the future stewardship decisions and sale of their lands? Or are you part of a small self-styled “social” group who feels you should alone be able tell private landowners TNC Finch Pruyn what to do with their lands and subvert 7 years of diverse public, transparent stakeholder process to was unanimously supported regionally and statewide in public hearings? What form of socialism might that conform to? Just a question.

    Sincerely,

    Dan Plumley, Partner
    Adirondack Wild

    • Mick says:

      Dan, the Open Space Plan never included these lands until they were acquired by TNC. I find that suspicious to tailor a plan to an NGO’s efforts. I consider it a conflict of self-interest.

      Region 5 easement acquisition guidelines do not even support easement purchases on this land, and the SLMP certainly clearly states that productive forestland should not be purchased in fee title.

      Do you really believe that men, women, and children will be able to access these lands like they can now? Why don’t you describe for everyone reading, what you think the user group will look like? You side step that question.

      Why don’t you address the straw purchase issue? Were you involved with the deal?

      Finally, if you consider my ending remark of “ridiculous” as name calling, then that’s fine with me. I do indeed consider your position on the matter as imbecile, since you won’t adequately address any of the logical issues I’ve raised, and supported with verifiable information.

  8. TiSentinel65 says:

    Mick you will never get a straight answer from these groups. This is all part strategy. Read the Lake George Mirror or other publications and you can see how these people wax about how great stewards of the land they are. How they are fighting to protect the land, How the water is polluted, etc. etc. I always find it ironic that the biggest mouths against development have some of the biggest developed lots on the lake. If you read a list of some of these groups you will find they are well connected, they communicate well with each other, they plot strategy with each other and do not give a rats ass about what local sentiment is. Their connections to money and political power is extensive and they expect to be paid back for political support. Most of these people are not from here. They don’t work here, and they wan’t people out of here. When Brian Houseal of The Adirondack Council stated his greatest pride was the fact that the Council was one of the biggest advocates for a land where few people lived, He was not kidding. The lie that the land is under threat from development is as old as dirt. On a acre to acre comparison, more land has been added to forest preserve than ever has been developed. I have nothing against their vision for wilderness. I have everything against the closed door deals and back door negotiations that have done nothing but silence the voice of the people that bear the burden of the missteps of these groups.

    • Dan Plumley says:

      Mick, TiSentinel65:

      Thanks for your comments. Due to the repeated use of your name calling Mick, I’ll respond off this site.

      Mick and TiSentinel65: in both of your comments, it is clear you did not read or consider carefully our submission, comments and replies – instead repeating old red herring saws about “outsiders,”and “local sentiment” – cherry picking language from the State Land Master Plan (SLMP), and refusing to admit the benefits to both current and future users and all New Yorkers with the TNC Finch lands deal — as so well accentuated by Finch and expert foresters and so many others.

      Public stakeholder supported, Finch industry landowner supported, town by town supported straight through to the finish, scientifically and forest-value supported and the boon to responsible hunting, fishing and sportsmen and women — supported and far, far more.

      I encourage you to consider the potential of the heart of the Adirondack Park that is now transitioning from decades of decaying, lost industry to one of great hope both human, community and wild with the protection of both sustainable forestry and sporting leased lands and conservation easements (primarily and superb, critical natural, scenic, ecological and water wealth additions to the Forest Preserve. Our piece and our replies address very specifically the audience – all New Yorkers and all Adirondackers, men, women, children, sportsman of all types .

      Good timber does not grow well on Boreas Ponds, Essex Chain of Lakes, above 2500 feet in elevation typically, nor Adirondack on the dirth of wetlands, boreal lands and rugged, remote summits of the Finch lands deal for Forest Preserve that was professionally assessed, designed and supported. But good young men and women do. And good wildlife. And good sporting and dreaming.

      A jaundiced view and derogatory statement does not pass for valuable comment, and I would be delighted to meet you — sans your name calling – any time to discuss further.

      Best regards,

      Dan Plumley
      Keene

  9. Paul says:

    New State Lands Strengthen the Economy? What are the real costs and what are the expected returns?

    “The Nature Conservancy raised $35 million of private money to make the deal work and to cover their costs of owning the land since 2007.”

    It sounds like the TNC has been dealing with some pretty hefty holding costs. I assume they have been paying taxes under 480A (far less than we as the new owners will be paying). The TNC has continued to lease the land giving them revenue to offset the tax payments. They have been logging the land again which offsets the holding costs. We as the new owners can take advantage of none of the above. We also have to pay other costs related to managing the new FP land. So I think this deal has been fairly balanced. But what are the real costs going forward and what kind of economic “strengthening” do we predict?

  10. Paul says:

    Seriously Dave how can you write a piece on how the deal will strengthen the economy without at least giving some of the specific details? If you impress upon the critics what the real economic advantages are you might silence some of this? I know it would have an impression on me if I could see some of the specifics. So far just a lot of argument over principals.

    ” It’s global, as Gibson and Plumley rightly point out. 69,000 acres is roughly 1% of the land in the park and a decimal fraction of a percent of forestland in the United States”

    Pete this is true but if you read Barbara McMartin’s book “The Privately held Adirondacks” I think you will see that this once private parcel is one of a very few of this magnitude in the Adirondacks. You will also see in there that she felt that private ownership and stewardship by private clubs has played a very important role in the preservation of the Adirondack forests. Your land is a good example of this dynamic on a smaller scale.

    • Pete Nelson Pete Nelson says:

      Paul:

      I am aware that this is one of the very few private parcels of this magnitude – in fact the only one. Nothing else is close. Indeed that is why the stakes, issues and passions are so high. I also support a balance in the park. Obviously I’m not opposed to private land holdings in the Adirondacks. I agree with the advantages and potential of private stewardship and in fact want to be an exemplar of private stewardship on my own land. You and I have no disagreements here.

      With that said I trust the process, the scientific and ecological work that was done and the decisions on how to split the land more than some people do, apparently.

      I also continue to stand by the other points I made, which I have not seen answered or refuted.

    • Bill Ingersoll Bill Ingersoll says:

      Be careful how you throw Barbara McMartin’s name around. Yes, she did recognize the value of private land in the park, but she was also an ardent supporter of the Forest Preserve, and her real love was old growth timber, which she found aplenty on state land. Her ideal state employee was someone “who has the Forest Preserve in their blood,” as she put it to me once.

      And make no mistake: if she were still alive, she’d be filling my email inbox with notes of what she learned at the last FPAC meeting about this pending purchase, with suggestions of where I should go hiking when the land becomes open to the public.

      In fact, she clearly anticipated this purchase in “Discover the Central Adirondacks,” 1995 edition. From page 11:

      “…but even here the pattern of ownership deprives the public of some of the most wonderful parts of the region. OK Slip Falls and OK Slip Pond, the confluence of the Indian and the Hudson, …the Essex Chain Lakes, and Salmon Pond are all privately owned. Some of these will undoubtedly remain in private hands, but current state efforts to acquire the most fragile and most beautiful among them are certain to be realized in the near future. These additions to the Forest Preserve are so desirable, particularly in the Hudson River Gorge Primitive Area, that this guide mentions possible accesses,should the purchases be made.”

      • Paul says:

        Bill, I am not throwing anything around. I was just referring to the fact that in that particular book (I can provide the quotes if you like) that she specIfically talks about the advantages of these kinds of private parcels and the stewardship that was associated with it. Will this land be better off ecologically than it is now under new public stewardship? We are going to find out.

        • Bill Ingersoll Bill Ingersoll says:

          You were implying that Barbara McMartin would’ve opposed this purchase. Provide all the quotes you want, but it doesn’t change the fact she would’ve been overjoyed that these new lands were being added to the preserve, and in her own words she was even somewhat resentful that they had been closed to the public in the first place.

          One of her best traits as an author and historian was that she captured thoughts and viewpoints that she didn’t always agree with. And while recognized the value of private lands and accepted the reality that large portions of the Adirondacks would remain private, it was the recreational value of public lands that made the Adirondack Park a park worth living in and working in.

          I had the pleasure of hiking with her 4 times, and there were few things she loved more than exploring new places.

          • Paul says:

            Bill, I am not implying anything. I was simply using that reference (which is very well written and researched) as one that described very succinctly the value of private stewardship and club stewardship specifically. Yes, many folks are resentful of the fact that they cannot recreate on some lands that are being protected under private stewards. In fact if you look at many of these debates it seems clear to me that access trumps protection in the minds of many people.

  11. Dan Plumley says:

    Paul:

    Excellent questions and very purposely stated. Thank you very much. A number of critical studies over the years nationally and in-region on the true value of wild lands to communities, business and the state – economically and in ecological service values have been undertaken. See Hank Kinosian’s report on our website, “Dialogue for the Wild” featured author section at: http://www.adirondackwild.org. This is just a start. Ecosystem service values added to recreational value and spin-off small business and appropriately sited development adds very significant value economically to our towns in the park. A good study to Google is the recent study on the economic value of the Northern Forest Canoe Trail. Other studies by OSI, the Wilderness Society, various universities nationwide, etc. can offer per acre values — often well above timber value alone for unique landscapes without the costs associated with infrastructure, roads, etc. It is a balancing act and has to be recognized in line with the private landowner’s interest. The earlier detractor’s of course refused to address my question about the rights of private land owners – in this case – TNC – to make its own decisions – economically and land-wise – as to their lands future. While it is important to consider assessing long term economic values and added or intrinsic ecological service values and spin-off benefits (business, jobs, etc.) this is not incumbent on the decisions of any landowner. We stand for the freedom of our country — and where landowners wish to promote the freedom of the wild and all its diverse values, we support them. How can you place a value, economically, on the freedom of the truly unique and distinct experience and the unparalleled blessings we gain from so many of our unique experiences in the wild? This is a big discussion – we’re moving it forward at http://www.adirondackwild.org.

    Best and thank you again,

    Dan

    • Paul says:

      “How can you place a value, economically, on the freedom of the truly unique and distinct experience and the unparalleled blessings we gain from so many of our unique experiences in the wild?”

      It is a difficult thing to do. But this is exactly what you and Adirondack Wild are trying to do when you make the economic argument over and over with respect to these land purchases. It would at least be a start to answer the pretty straight forward question of – what are the long term holding costs related to this purchase.

    • Mick says:

      Are you going to describe the values? I have.

    • Paul says:

      Dave, Thanks I have downloaded this paper and will take at it more carefully when I have time. I will be at the beach next week enjoying some of that existential value, what better reading! This is assuming that I am not in the middle of hurricane Issac!

      But looking at it quickly it looks more like a paper that is trying to back up a preconceived idea rather than a detailed analysis. But I will read it through.

      One economic benefit that it describes that is significant is the increase in value of adjacent private land. Some land that I own (and Pete owns) is greatly enhanced in value due to its proximity to Forest Preserve lands. But I am not sure that this has much impact on the surrounding local economy.

      The Lake Placid/Tupper Lake comparison is an interesting one. I would argue that Lake Placid is doing well not only because of its proximity to Forest Preserve but mainly due to the fact that it is a pretty heavily developed resort area. Developers in Tupper Lake are making some attempts to do similar things and it has come up against pretty strong opposition.

    • Paul says:

      Okay a few back of the napkin calculations. I tried to be generous and calculate all the possible economic impacts based on the paper. I used the total amounts for each catagory and divided it by 2.7 million (number of acres of FP land) to get a per acre benefit:

      Hiking: $3.44/acre
      Hunting: $3.46/acre
      Fishing: $46.53/acre (this is probably too much but..)
      Consumer Surplus economic benefits: $3.84/acre
      The non-use values: $43.84/acre

      Total: $101.11/acre. This land is 69,000 acres so a total of:

      $6,976,590 based on the reference.

      Now what are the yearly holding costs that I was asking about do we know this?

      • Mick says:

        I guess if you include boat purchases and use on Lake George and Lake Champlain, day passes at national parks, bass fishing tournaments, concessions, etc., then your figure might be accurate. My figures describe a much different user group; exemplary stewards of the land.

        • Paul says:

          Mick, These are not my figures, or my users. In fact I don’t see much support in the paper for some of the “non-use” values. But I was trying to be fair and throw in everything that they looked at. Since I came up with a similar number to the DEC figure for private land it is hard for anyone to make the conclusion that there is MORE economic benefit from putting this land in the public trust. The preservation argument is a more solid argument. You are right that the past stewards have been excellent. Folks like Dave can argue that what if the next owners are not good stewards. My point is that if an economic argument is made it should be supported and it should include an analysis of not only the revenue but the costs. Again I will ask what are the expected holding costs for NYS for this land? As a start what is the new assessment and tax payment that will be required? How does it work on the easement parcels? With development rights stripped from the deed that land has a lower value? Who sucks up that loss in tax revenue? The state or the towns?

          • Mick says:

            Paul, on the fee purchase land, the average tax rate for forestland is $26.00 per acre, but I don’t know the exact figure. I’m estimating 65,000 acres x 26.00 /ac. = $1.69 million per year. Then you have to figure in DEC management expenses, and I don’t think there is any budget to manage this land, hence my argument that stewardship will be drastically reduced.

            On the Easement lands, the state paid $319.00/acre for the easements. Since this land value averages around $700.00 / acre, will the state pay 45% of the 26.00/ac normal rate? I don’t know. Will the TIMO pay none, some, or all of the tax? I don’t know.

  12. Mick says:

    It’s a very dangerous experiment in socioeconomics and natural resource management. Suppose we discover 5 or 10 years from now that it was a wrong decision. Suppose the towns really needed the economic support from the clubs and the new “tourism” revenue doesn’t work out? Suppose there is an infestation of an invasive species? Then what? The damage will have been done, and there will be no reparations.

    Easements would have been better for everyone.

    Ti, I think you are correct.

  13. Hope says:

    Google the 2012 Outdoor Recreation Economic Report. You will be enlightened.

    • Paul says:

      That is interesting. The “participants” they describe also include folks like the hunting club members and their guests. The question here is will there be more or less participation with the new deal. In some other areas where clubs have been evicted you see far less “participation” now than you did before. One good example is the Madawaska Flow area. This is a beautiful waterway and it is basically deserted since the clubs in that area were evicted. (this is even before the gate was locked on the road that the state “forgot” to get an easement on!). These lands may be different.

  14. Peter H says:

    I think the socialist comment is accurate. You are promoting and promulgating STATE ownership of land, with the costs being borne by the taxpayer. You have probably rationalized this as being “the greater good for society” and justified it by thinking that it only costs each taxpayer $7.00 per year.

    You fail to address the logic issues.

    It is indeed socialism.

    • Pete Nelson Pete Nelson says:

      Dear Peter H:

      This is perilously close to getting off topic, but this nonsense over socialism is an example of the kind of pointless political labeling that has nothing to do with the issue at hand but makes people on the right feel like they get to wave the flag better than those scheming elitist commies on the left. That doesn’t help flavor the debate, so here goes a little education for you.

      Public ownership of land is not socialism and has nothing whatsoever to do with socialism. You, my friend, own the White House, the US Capitol and the Capitol Building in Albany among many other kinds of land. Forms of society that preclude public ownership of land include dictatorships and fiefdoms. Presumably you don’t think that we live in either one of those.

      Socialism is an economic system where people control the means of production. So that would be “Let’s take over Finch Pruyn, run it and distribute the revenue,” not “let’s buy their land on the free market.”

      A Representative Republic is a political system whereby the people control the means to decide what is in the general welfare, what are individual rights and what kinds laws and mores will guide our society. That includes public ownership of land for a variety of reasons from the lowest and most pragmatic uses to the highest and mightiest ideals. That is how and why the Adirondack Park exists today.

      Capitalism is our economic system, not socialism. Amazingly it is how this land got where it is now, in the hands of The Nature Conservancy.

      If you don’t like this deal, vote Cuomo out. But if you fail in that effort it will be the will of the people that prevailed over your own self interest. That, my friend, requires you to blame democracy, not socialism.

      • Mick says:

        So how do you justify Cuomo’s actions considering all of the towns and villages have adopted resolutions opposing the fee purpose? Yes, I know you’ll argue that they all agreed to it initially, but they have had time to analyze it in detail, and now oppose it. The government is subverting the will of the people.

        • Paul says:

          Mick, You are from the Adirondacks, I am sure you understand that a deal is a deal. When you make a hand shake deal in the woods that is it, there is no turning back. I don’t support these purchases but the towns had a chance to weigh in and they did, and a deal was made accordingly. Passing a resolution now opposing it is ridiculous. If they got information later that soured the deal, tough luck, buyer and seller beware.

        • Paul says:

          Also, The TNC has staff working side by side with the DEC in Albany. If local governments were caught off guard in some way they should have known better. They screwed up and hopefully they won’t make that same kind of mistake next time, and there will be a next time.

    • julius parleaius says:

      So?

  15. Peter H says:

    Hope, what part of that economic report are you referring to? From what I see, the vast majority of the economic benefit is derived from recreation that entails access and usage that will be eliminated by Wilderness classification.

    The NYS DEC report indicates that over $100.00 per acre per year is generated from recreation on PRIVATE LAND.

    • Paul says:

      That is interesting. That is basically the same figure I got for public land using the paper that Dave referred me to. One big difference is that on public land the holding costs are paid by the taxpayer, not by a private owner.

  16. David Gibson Dave Gibson says:

    Mick and all – if we can try to avoid the self-righteous, and instantly self-gratifying labeling of others – and I am prone to that as well – there are valid, important forest stories and perspectives in all these responses.
    P Schaefer and L Beeman, Muir and Pinchot went at their generations’ debate with vigor, but not 24:7.
    Mick, I appreciate learning where you grew up and knowing the Beemans as your neighbors, gaining your inspiration and forest awareness from Finch Pruyn, and your historically correct statements that Finch Pruyn was adamantly opposed to selling to the state, the 2007 straw sale, as you characterize it, being to Atlas Holdings through a capital group, and then to the Conservancy.

  17. TiSentinel65 says:

    Dan while I can respect your arguements and I will not deny some of the benefits of this deal, I find some of the statements that the environmental groups used to push it a little speculative. While the deal does open up more land to recreation, the devil will be in the details on how it is managed and to what groups liking. If you are going to use economic revitalisation as the lynchpin for the selling point of this deal and other deals TNC and the like have pushed. You are going to have to accept the fact that compromises will have to be made by all stakeholders. Tourism economies only thrive when tourists actually show up. In this regard TNC is going to have to soften up its stance on road closures and blocking access. It is going to have to actually attract more people to come here, to spend their money and to come back. The towns are going to have to be able to expand or this whole thing will be more of the same story the people who live here have heard for the last fourty years. Since the trigger has been pulled on this bullet, I hope what you say is true. I hope action will lead to some prosperity for the people that have lived here and want to continue to live here. I am still suspect of the motives of TNC and the like. Although I am true blue Adirondack, Missourians say it best, “Show Me.” If this cake rises I’ll be tickled pink.

  18. Mick says:

    Ti,

    Show me hasn’t worked yet, so why will it work now. Tourism statistics on Forest Preserve land are dismal. The vast majority of users are residents who live within a 50 mile radius. Based on this fact, we can project that the “tourists” will come primarily from Indian Lake, Tupper Lake, Minerva, and Newcomb. Couple that fact with the anticipated user group of “wilderness” classified lands, then you can extrapolate the anticipated “tourism” economic benefit. That said, the Wilderness user group is going to be lightweight kayak users. So please tell me how many of them live in Newcomb and Minerva.

  19. TiSentinel65 says:

    I always try to take note of where people are actually from when I sign in the register at any trail. It does seem many people do not come from very far. I climbed Crane Mt. the other day. I saw many names from Warren, Essex, and Saratoga counties, and a few from neighboring states. Some people’s residency could not be determined because of the fact that they do not sign in when hiking in a group. Only the leader with the size of the group in people entered. I am not going to be sour grapes over this deal. I doubt you will either Mick. Since we bought it, we may as well offer input on how it should be used. The state seems to have plenty of money to throw around. I just wish they would throw some Ticonderoga’s way. The land litteraly ” between the two waters” has to drill wells because of some screwed up law that says our water from Lake George and Goosneck Pond isn’t up to snuff. The cost is going to be in the millions. Between buying more land and wells I wonder to myself. These things are fine and dandy, however, will I or my children after me able to afford the taxes?

  20. Peter H says:

    Before this article falls off the front page, I’d like to point out what I think a casual observer would see, if they just happened along into this discussion: On one side, there is logic and reason, supported by facts and statistics. On the other side, there is verbose, evasive, and unintelligible blather.

    Visit my petition to ask Governor Cuomo to improve the plan:

    http://tinyurl.com/7tvu84d

  21. Hope says:

    I’m not taking sides here just passing along information that is pertinent to both sides. The deal is done now time to move forward and plan the usage. No one will come without extensive and widespread marketing plan. The communities in this area now have an opportunity to work on their marketing strategy. The report I referenced shows that there is money out there for all types of outdoor recreation but people have to know what you have. These communities can become Base Camps, if you will, for the activities that will benefit the area. Time to stop crying over spilt milk and get to work,

  22. Peter H says:

    Hope, it’s only $50,000,000.00 of spilled milk in the first year, then around $30,000,000.00 for every year thereafter.

  23. William Deuel,Jr says:

    As someone who is a member of one of the clubs in Newcomb for the last 15 years I have watched this deal with great interest. I have been a hunting and fishing guide as well , using the state land in Newcomb, Minerva and Long Lake. Mick has many good points regarding the politics of how this deal was handled, with the land going through so many hands before getting to the taxpayer, the numbers and such I will leave to others, time will tell anyway. What I do have a problem with is how this land will be classified, I can see it coming as wilderness and that would be a mistake. The camps should have been allowed to stay, the land opened to the public and properly logged. For full disclosure my club will remain intact as it was sold to ATP. In regards to wildlife. Proper logging is their best friend, a mature over grown forest is what we call dead woods with little cover and food , which leads to problems for many of the woodland critters. The waterways should be left alone to preserve the remaining Brook Trout waters. A little more common sense would have gone a long way and many more people would have approved of this deal.