Finch Paper’s future is secure, officials said last week during an interview session with the Adirondack Almanack. In a wide-ranging conversation that touched on Finch’s forestry programs, the market for paper, and the recent State Land purchase, company spokespeople stressed the need to protect forest lands, and the company’s commitment to playing a role in sustainably managing supplies of wood fiber for their plant in Glens Falls.
“I always stress keeping forest land forest land,” Finch Forest Management Manager Leonard Cronin said, adding that development is the biggest threat to forest lands. “Most paper mills have sold their lands and given up managing their forests,” he explained, saying that Finch chose a different approach.
Finch Paper invested in its own management of it fiber supply, Cronin said, and the forest management division has grown since the sale of former Finch & Pruyn Company lands to the Nature Conservancy. Finch Forest Management contracts with a pool of logging companies he said, some of whom they’ve worked with for 20 years, and currently manages 120,000 acres divided between 13 smaller land owners (those with less than 1,200 acres) and seven large landowners.
“Lands are managed for multiple purposes,” Cronin said, including for fiber, saw timber, and wildlife. “Fiber supply agreements provide a known market for low grade wood in a depressed economy,” he said, but stressed that it was only one part of what Finch Forest Management is doing. Erin O’Neil, Family Forest Manager and a wildlife biologist, pointed to several private sporting clubs that the company manages land for to provide wildlife habitat, and a financial return. Finch Forest Management has been certified by the Forest Stewardship Council and the Sustainable Forestry Initiative.
About 15% of Finch Paper’s annual fiber needs came from the former Finch & Pruyn lands, Cronin said. The company’s fiber supply comes from six surrounding states and Canada, according to Cronin, about half from the entire Adirondack region (which includes club lands and other large landowners). “Even before the sale we were already reaching out way beyond to the region,” he said. Beth Povie, Finch Paper’s Director of Communications, confirmed that supply was not a problem for the company and the most important factor in the company’s bottom line is the overall downturn in the economy. She said the company has lost jobs at the plant recently due to “restructuring our processes not reduced volume” as a result of the economic downturn.
Turning to the recent sale of 69,000 acres to the state, the forest mangers were proud of the company’s track record over the years in managing the lands headed to the Forest Preserve. “Because these lands were well cared for, people want to go there,” O’Neill said. Cronin noted that generally, allowing for steep slopes, wetlands, and other sensitive areas such as those along water courses, the company can plan on harvesting about 60% of a forest tract, but on the lands sold to the state that number is considerably less. “Is it perfect? No,” he said, “but there was a lot of thought by the Nature Conservancy about what was going to continue to be logged, and what was going to be protected.”
Correction: The 15% Cronin referred to in our meeting was to Finch, Pruyn & Co. owned lands prior to the 2007 land deal. The story has been corrected to reflect that. About 50% of Finch Paper’s pulpwood comes from the whole Adirondack Park, including large landowners such as clubs, Cronin said.
Photos: Above, Finch Paper’s wood yard at their Glens Falls plant; Below, OK Slip Falls, part of the lands being conveyed to New York State.