Wednesday, February 26, 2014

130,659 Acres of Adirondack Forest Sold

100_1126Rayonier Forest Resources has sold 130,659 acres of forest located almost entirely in the Adirondack Park for $57.5 million to a client of the timberland investment management organization Molpus Woodlands Group. The land is located in St. Lawrence, Clinton, Franklin and Lewis Counties.

The land has traditionally been used for logging and some of the purchase is under New York State conservation easement which allows for fishing, private camp leases, and motorized recreation. Some of the state’s easement provides public access to a 200 feet corridor along more than 26 miles of the Grasse River’s north and middle branches, along with access to about 16 miles of Grasse River tributaries and local roads and snowmobile trails.

fcommMuch of the land has been owned by a series of timber management companies, including Emporium Lumber, Draper Lumber, Hancock Timber Resources Group, GMO Renewable Resources, Rayonier Forest Resources and Molpus. It is mostly northern hardwoods and has been certified under the Sustainable Forestry Initiative (SFI), which has been criticized as a green-washing project. SFI is not acceptable for the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) program of the U.S. Green Building Council and is the target of an ongoing campaign in favor of Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) certification. SFI has been accused of deceptive marketing and using its non-profit status to benefit the private corporations, members of the American Forest and Paper Association, which established SFI in 1994.

Molpus is a Jackson, Mississippi company with an office in Saranac lake. The Watertown Daily Times (WDT) has reported that the land in St. Lawrence County (in the towns of Piercefield, Clare, Pierrepont and Colton) was sold to MWF Adirondacks Limited Liability Corporation for $47.3 million but because there is no mortgage, local municipalities will not see any income from mortgage taxes. According to Piercefield Supervisor Neil W. Pickering, who said he spoke with the sellers, Rayonier intends to focus its holdings in more productive southern and western forests.

Photos: Above, a log yard in Tupper Lake; and below, Adirondack forest communities (courtesy the Adirondack Ecological Center).

John Warren

John Warren

John Warren founded Adirondack Almanack in 2005 and oversees the day-to-day operations of the site in addition to editing The New York History Blog.

He has worked in media for 30 years as a print journalist, a documentary television producer, and now in new media. He's on the staff of the New York State Writers Institute and is the author of two books of regional history.

John's weekly Adirondack Outdoors Conditions Report airs across the Adirondack North Country Region on the North Country Public Radio network.

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14 Responses

  1. George says:

    Why take almost half the article to criticize the Sustainable Forestry Initiative when it doesn’t pertain to the primary thrust of the subject? I guess it represents a perfect example of biased, advocacy journalism. Then throw in the negativism that the local municipalities will see no income from mortgage taxes, a concern I have never heard cited before. No mention of the logging jobs preserved and local wood processing jobs saved due to this remaining productive forest land rather then becoming part of the Forest Preserve

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    • John Warren John Warren says:

      The critical issue here for our local economy is whether or not this acreage is being harvested sustainably.

      There is no evidence for your job claims. This land has been logged for a century. If anything, the jobs are decreasing, maybe staying the same.

      Hot debate. What do you think? Thumb up 11 Thumb down 14

  2. George says:

    The fact that this acreage has been harvested as you said for a century proves the sustainable timber stocking. A company wanting to insure a return on its investment would not buy a tract if it felt the timber inventory was nonexistent. Of course have it had been turned into Forest Preserve, you would be advocating how many jobs that creates for the local economy without evidence.

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    • John Warren John Warren says:

      Your basic premise is false. Sustainability does not mean that there simply continues to be trees to harvest. The quality of that timber matters, as do a number of other factors such as water quality for native brookies, protection of vernal pools, and more. And of course, you point to the company who bought the land for your evidence, but ignore the company that sold it.

      It’s well understood by most loggers, mill operators, and foresters here in the Adirondacks – and I’ve spoken to many of them, some while standing on this land and in the mills and log yards where this timber ends-up – that this commercial forest is relatively low grade.

      Your final statement has no basis in fact and is simply an expression of your political beliefs and what you would like to believe that I think.

      Hot debate. What do you think? Thumb up 8 Thumb down 14

      • william Deuel,Jr says:

        John,

        There is also a whole lot of soft or pulp wood rather than trees cut for logs. I am sure that is what they are calling relatively low grade. Your point regarding the brook trout is valid as they need the shade and cooler water being a char. That being said on the flip side if logged the right way many other critters benefit.

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      • TiSentinel65 says:

        I am going to give you some insight into why this land is still valuable. A company called ReEnergy just opened a biomass plant in May of 2013 to supply Fort Drum with a “green” energy supply. The military is conscious of better uses for fossils fuels, mainly to power mechanized infantry and aircraft. This plant puts out almost sixty megawatts by burning biomass. Given the land is in close proximity to Fort Drum, it is a given that these lands will be supplying this plant with feedstock for their boilers. The laws of supply and demand in the current wood and fiber markets are dictating higher prices for pulp wood and wood chips. Throw in a cold winter and it exacerbates the problem. Just ask Finch and IP how much more they are paying for fiber and they will all give the main reason being this biomass plant. This land has value like any commodity. Much of the high grade saw logs may be gone, but in time they will grow back, depending on how it is managed. Also, ReEnergy’s plant is SFI certified.

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        • John Warren John Warren says:

          When I spoke with Finch executives and foresters they made it clear that larger market forces were the driver of their fiber prices (the overall economy, and Asian supplies and demand), not local changes in fiber supply, which are minor. They only get 50% of their fiber supply from the Adirondacks.

          It would appear that one new wood boiler does not have the effect on prices you claim, according to the actual people who are buying that fiber. If you are going to make arguments to the contrary, how about providing your source?

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          • TiSentinel65 says:

            I actually work at the other fully integrated mill in the park. I speak on a daily basis to the managers, the ones that have to manage the supply, who cite the opening of ReEnergy’s Black River plant as a reason for higher fiber prices. When you have competition for your main commodity, which is fiber, it drives the price higher. When loggers can get more money for delivering chips to a closer source, that is where they will go. A paper mills’ biggest cost is fiber. A logger makes more money by being able to deliver more loads per gallon of fuel. In order to attract more deliveries of chips and logs the mills have to raise prices. I didn’t feel that I added contrary info. I maintain that the land is still valued for fiber.

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            • TiSentinel65 says:

              The Finch people must have meant local John. I am quite sure they don’t purchase logs or chips from Asia.

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          • Paul says:

            It looks like we are mostly still producing logs for lumber. It looks like we export about 25% of what we cut. It looks like timber prices still suck pretty much.

            http://www.dec.ny.gov/docs/lands_forests_pdf/spr2014winter.pdf

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  3. Paul says:

    “Why take almost half the article to criticize the Sustainable Forestry Initiative when it doesn’t pertain to the primary thrust of the subject?”

    Can’t the “thrust” of the article be whatever the writer wants it to be? Also, it seems like this is all factual (I assume it is) and somewhat interesting.

    John,

    I agree that this land is probably low grade. That is why I am surprised that it sold for as much as it did (also given the other encumbrances to the deed).

    If they were to switch the land to FSC, given what they have now, could they even cut much and really have any income?

    At some point it seems like these easements will be to the point where you can’t find a buyer. But I guess they are not there yet?

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  4. Paul says:

    Also, given the speed at which we can now cut and the slow pace at which Adirondacks timber grows I don’t know if there is still a viable model for industrial timber-lands in the Adirondacks. I personally think the land is much better suited for smaller private woodlot management where there isn’t as much of a ROI required by the owners.

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  5. Charlie s says:

    “this commercial forest is relatively low grade.”

    Why is that? Is it because it is second or third growth and that the nutrients of that soil after the initial mow-down in the 1800’s had been severely diminished? This is my understanding of what happens to the soil after the trees that nurtured it are harvested.More of a reason why we should just stop destroying what’s left.

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    • Paul says:

      I don’t think that is probably accurate. These forests were very high grade for many years after the early logging of the 19th century. It took them time to recover from that logging (as well as fires) but they did. It is only recently (over the last 20 or 30 years as they have changed hands so many times) that they have been cut too much. But yes we should stop over-cutting them and use this renewable resource in a much smarter way.

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