The Nature Conservancy has announced what it calls “a historic land agreement with New York State that supports timber industry jobs, boosts the State’s recreation and tourism economy and, at the same time, preserves 89,000 forested acres concentrated in the geographic heart of the Adirondacks.” The agreement transfers a conservation easement of commercial working forest in the Adirondacks once owned by Finch, Pruyn to New York State.
New York State paid $30 million for the conservation easement, which includes specific recreation rights to the land, with money allocated for this purpose in last year’s Environmental Protection Fund (EPF). Twenty seven local towns where the properties lie have all approved the purchase which secures new public access to lands and waterways, including permanent snowmobile trails. The easement opens key access to the approaches to the Santanoni Range, Allen Mountain and the Hanging Spear Falls. » Continue Reading.
I want to address another of the primary criticisms over my recent commentary on protecting our open forests, from those who claim that more open space damages local communities. “They should just be honest and stop pretending that they care about the people and ‘culture’ of the Adirondacks,” one regular anonymous commenter said, echoing the criticism of others.
Even Brian Mann, who offered an otherwise thoughtful critique, titled his response “A vision of an Adirondack wilderness, with people.” The supposition there is that seeking to expand open space in the Adirondacks means excluding people. Not only is that supposition wrong-headed, it dehumanizes those who support wilderness protection. “They don’t care about people” the argument goes, as if we’re not people ourselves. This kind of argument appeals to the basest nature of some and draws a stark dividing line between “us” and “them.” It does nothing to address the concerns I raised about the development pressures we’re facing. » Continue Reading.
I heard some harsh criticism over my last commentary on protecting our open forests. “There are far too many who are willing to buy into the idea that we have enough, or that what open forests we have should be opened to every purpose under the sun, essentially no restrictions except on houses and highways,” I argued, suggesting that the proposed 409,000 acre Bob Marshall- Oswegatchie Great Wilderness Area was a good idea.
One theme that seemed to emerge from the detractors was the imminent death of Adirondack communities in the face of more wilderness. “The problem is yet down the road and the end is coming shortly I fear,” one wrote. What end? “The end of the communities and the livelihood of the most endangered species in the park; the year-round resident.” Another decried “The end of sustainable communities” and “The end of multi-generational, year-round residents.” » Continue Reading.
The Lake George Land Conservancy has elected to celebrate the memory of John Apperson by naming a society in his honor.
“The John Apperson Society recognizes Apperson’s significant contributions to the preservation of Lake George and honors those who have followed in his footsteps,” said Nancy Williams, the Conservancy’s executive director. » Continue Reading.
People who oppose the state’s acquisition of land in the Adirondacks often complain that the state can’t manage the forest it already owns. So, the thinking goes, why buy more?
That argument always struck me as risible. Forests can manage quite well without our help. They did so for eons before homo sapiens existed.
I assume, then, the critics mean that the state has done a less-than-superb job creating and maintaining recreational facilities on the public Forest Preserve—trails, parking lots, signs, and the like. In this, they have a point. It was driven home to me last weekend when I paddled the little-known Onion River. The Onion is part of a Forest Preserve parcel that also includes Madawaska Flow and Quebec Brook. The parcel was purchased by the state in the Champion International transaction in 1998—the first big conservation-easement deal engineered by Governor George Pataki. In all, the state acquired twenty-nine thousand acres outright and protected another 115,000 acres through easements that permit logging but prohibit development.
To reach Madawaska Flow, the put-in for trips on the Onion River and Quebec Brook, you have to drive for six miles on a dirt road through easement lands. The road begins at a wooden DEC sign on Route 458 west of Meacham Lake.
Complaint No. 1: On the way to the parking area, the road passes three junctions where the way is not obvious. None of them is marked by a sign. I guessed wrong once and eventually ended up on a muddy logging track.
Complaint No. 2: When you arrive at the parking lot, there are no maps, signs, or trail markers to indicate where the portage is. I walked down a gated woods road for 0.4 miles to reach the water, but I’m told there is a shorter portage with a different put-in. The carries should be marked.
Complaint No. 3: There are many places amid the pines that would be ideal for pitching a tent, but I saw no official campsites. In a comment in the trail register, another visitor also complained about the lack of campsites.
In short, more than a decade after the state purchased the Madawaska tract, DEC has failed to provide such basic amenities as signs, trail disks, and campsites.
I’m not going to criticize DEC. We all know how short-staffed and underfunded the department is. And last week the governor announced that the department’s budget will be cut even more.
So the critics are right. DEC lacks the staff to adequately “manage” the forest. I disagree with their conclusion, though, that the state should stop buying land. The primary purpose in preserving the Adirondacks is the protection of wild habitat and natural ecosystems. Recreation, however important, is secondary.
That said, we ought to make the Forest Preserve more user-friendly. In this era of austerity, we cannot expect DEC to do everything. Hikers, paddlers, cross-country skiers, anglers, hunters, and others who use and love the Forest Preserve need to pitch in.
DEC already relies on volunteers recruited through its Adopt-a-Natural-Resource program. Among other things, the volunteers maintain trails and repair lean-tos. But this approach can be greatly expanded with the help of the Internet.
Here’s my idea: DEC, perhaps in conjunction with the Adirondack Mountain Club, should create an interactive website listing Forest Preserve projects that need doing and solicit volunteers to undertake the work. At the same time, the public could submit suggestions for other projects. The aim would be to match volunteers with projects that they are highly motivated to undertake. It might be clearing blowdown on a favorite hiking trail, marking a portage, or snipping brush on a ski trail.
Those who love the Forest Preserve are willing to give generously of their time to make it a better place to visit. Just this week, DEC gave its annual stewardship award to a passionate hiker, Len Grubbs, who has devoted 2,336 hours to trail work over the years. For another example of the dedication of volunteers, check out the story about Lean2Rescue in the September/October issue of the Adirondack Explorer. (The Explorer story is not available online, but the Almanack also covered their award-winning work last year last year.)
The passion is out there. DEC just needs to harness it.
Anybody out there capable of building a few signs to point the way to Madawaska?
Definition: “A conservation easement typically consists of permanently enforceable rights held by a land trust or government agency by which the landowner promises to use property only in ways permitted by the easement. The landowner retains ownership and may convey it like any other property, subject to the easement’s restrictions. Conservation easements have been made possible by enabling legislation in virtually every state” (from Reinventing Conservation Easements: A Critical Examination and Ideas for Reform by Jeff Pidot, Lincoln Institute of Land Policy, 2005).
Society has many expectations for large tracts of forest under conservation easement. The list often includes some form of public recreation on private ownership, sustainably harvested timber and pulp, biological diversity including diverse watchable and huntable wildlife, recreational leases, drivable roads, protected streams, ponds and wetlands, shared taxes, timely enforcement of the rules. If that list is not long enough, some believe that these protected private lands can be managed to help slow or mitigate a changing climate that is likely to continue to warm for centuries, even if Homo sapiens cut emissions dramatically in order to maintain current atmospheric concentrations of carbon dioxide, which we are not.
During a winter 2009 workshop about Adirondack conservation easements, it was reported that there were 737,000 acres under some form of state conservation easement in all of New York State, with 98% occurring in the Adirondack region. An additional 100,000 acres were being negotiated. According to Regional Forester Tom Martin, in DEC Region 5 (two-thirds of the Adirondack Park) there were 365,000 acres under conservation easement with 113 different landowners in 2009. 340,000 of those acres were certified by third-party certification systems such as Forest Stewardship Council (FSC).
During the workshop, Jerry Jenkins of the Wildlife Conservation Society offered his opinion that easements in the Northern Forest have achieved a basic goal to conserve biodiversity. Jenkins’ report Conservation Easements and Biodiversity in the Northern Forest Region (2008 by the Wildlife Conservation Society and Open Space Institute) provides important background and recommendations. As Jenkins stated at the workshop, conservation easements negotiated in the future should also address the issue of carbon emissions, which have global consequences.
If conservation easements are to address climate issues, landowners must be provided with the information and spectrum of management options. Forestry management plans which utilize low grade trees as biomass feedstock are on the “front lines.” To satisfy the Chicago Climate Exchange, forests need to be FSC certified.
Certification provides the standards and incentives to capture this low carbon energy source and the practice of low carbon forestry. Would easement lands qualify for carbon offset markets? Jenkins noted that the dollar value to landowners may not come solely or even primarily from carbon offsets, but from the avoidance cost of replacing fossil fuels as primary heat source in the northeast. As Jerry Jenkins put it, “how much money can we save the local school board by putting in a wood chip boiler in place of the old oil burner? How can those savings be translated into financial benefits for the landowner?”
In September, 2010, the Adirondack Park Agency sponsored a field visit with the Adirondack Park’s largest private landowner and manager of lands under conservation easement, Lyme Timber. Lyme’s land manager Sean Ross led the APA to lands they have harvested north of Tupper Lake. Adirondack Wild’s Dan Plumley and I went along. These foresters manage blocks as large as 15,000 acres. Lyme owns 250,000-acres in the Adirondack Park.
In general, Lyme views the conservation easement positively, as well as the rigorous certification requirements of the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC). Ross made the case that the Adirondack Park’s protected status, including laws and publicly-owned Forest Preserve, were strong incentives to engage in easements and certification. Lyme’s field operations must be audited each year by the FSC or one of its third party certifiers. As Sean told us, FSC certification is an expected cost of doing business these days.
Why is Lyme in this forest land business? Trees are adding diameter and value yearly. This steady return on investment jumps when a large cherry or maple grows into a larger diameter class. Lyme’s markets are wherever they can find them – the Ticonderoga mill, nearby biomass plants, Canada and the world.
If he had the power to do so, what would he change about the conservation easement? Sean Ross said that he might take small parts of a given parcel out of the easement, and put other areas in it. Other than this, he saw no need for change. In answer to other questions, Sean Ross noted that fragmentation of land ownerships across the Northern Forest is making it challenging to manage lands for forestry. Asked if Ross could estimate Lyme’s minimum viable tract size, Ross stated it was around 10,000 acres.
Were there any collaborative efforts to conduct ecosystem-based, wild land planning for wildlife and ecosystem integrity on these lands, such as wildlife corridors? In response, Ross noted that Lyme was able to get a grant through DEC to hire a wildlife biologist that is exploring these issues for their Adirondack lands. He noted collaboration with the Cornell Laboratory of Ornithology and Audubon New York.
Lyme also participated in the 2009 workshop. During that meeting, its representative noted the time pressures to complete contracts, and to assess what’s important to conserve in a conservation easement. On the other hand, biologists at the workshop felt that on large forested tracts several field seasons were required to survey and document rare or unique ecological communities.
The 2009 workshop concluded by identifying the following needs and tasks: • Studies to indicate whether easements in the Adirondacks are truly meeting stated ecological, economic and social objectives. • Studies of how easement lands respond to climate change. • Methods for compensating landowners for achieving easement objectives • Funding for baseline documentation and monitoring programs for both land and aquatic resources. • Completing a conservation easement registry program, already required by law.
Photo: Sean Ross of Lyme Timber addresses questions during APA-sponsored field visit in September. Photo by Dan Plumley, Adirondack Wild.
The Paulist Fathers, the Roman Catholic order founded by the 19th century American transcendentalist Isaac Hecker, celebrated its 140th summer on Lake George in 2008.
More than 200 people boarded the Lac du St. Sacrement for a cruise that took them past St. Mary’s on the Lake, the 76 acre retreat on the east side with thousands of feet of undisturbed shoreline, and down the lake to the Harbor Islands, where the Paulists erected a chapel in 1903.
Now, two years later, the leaders of the order are debating how best to preserve those properties; if, that is, they can be preserved. On Tuesday, September 14, the order’s new president and its officers met in New York to discuss a proposal that would allow St. Mary’s on the Lake to be used as a campus for local colleges’ environmental studies programs during the school year.
In December, a meeting will be held in Washington to discuss other possibilities, such as selling conservation easements to ensure the properties will remain undeveloped, or permitting weddings to be held at St. Mary’s and even at Harbor Islands.
“The Paulists have not decided what to do, but they have to do something,” said Michael Stafford, a Lake George attorney who serves as the order’s local counsel. The Paulists’ new president, Father Michael McGarry, took office in May with a mandate to improve the order’s financial condition, said Father Ken McGuire, the director of St. Mary’s.
In a formal statement upon taking office, Father McGarry said, “We will no doubt have to make some painful choices about curtailing ministries in some areas. The most important thing is that the Paulist mission will not become diluted.”
According to Father McGuire, the tenuous state of the order’s finances should come as no surprise.
“We’ve always been a small community,” said McGuire. “At our largest, we had 276 priests; that was in 1976, when Time magazine said we were more influential than the Jesuits, which had 43,000 priests.”
No more than 127 priests now belong to the order, and of those 127, 53 of them are over the age of 70, said McGuire.
Some of them require care for medical conditions, which increases the order’s annual expenses, said McGuire, a spry, fit 80 year-old himself.
Those ranks have not been replenished by younger priests who will manage the order’s operations , such as the Paulist Press, the nation’s foremost publisher of theological works, or The Catholic World, its magazine.
Recruiting new priests is another priority of his administration, Father McGarry said in his inaugural statement.
“On a theoretical level, it is incomprehensible why men in their 20s, 30s and 40s are not entering the Paulist seminary because our mission is so exciting, so challenging and so fulfilling,” he said. “However, you look at the reality and realize the need to address the practical challenges to men entering the seminary,” McGarry said.
Every Paulist priest but one (who died in 1865) has spent at least part of every summer on Lake George, said Father McGuire, who is completing his 48th summer at the lake.
In the past, priests and seminarians tended to come for an entire summer; these days, they come, for the most part, only in August, when forty to fifty people might be in residence.
The days are unstructured; the priests are given three meals a day and encouraged to occupy their time as they see fit.
Some swim, boat and rock on the porch with a book, as anyone would while vacationing on Lake George. Others retreat to the Harbor Islands for privacy and contemplation.
“We have one priest who brings more books with him than clothes,” said McGuire. Idyllic as it sounds, a vacation on Lake George is not always an easy sell, said McGuire.
“We think of Lake George as a million dollar vacation,” said McGuire. “But some of these modern kids need the cities where it’s daylight 24 hours a day; some can’t swim. A month in the country? My God, you’d think the sky had fallen in!”
Rather than allowing St Mary’s on the Lake to remain vacant in June and July, the Paulists host retreats for priests, nuns and lay people on topics as diverse as religion and quantum physics; peacemaking in the middle east; and dance as a form of meditation.
This past summer, McGuire himself, a cultural anthropologist who spent most of his career teaching at Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles, led a retreat entitled “Spiritual Discovery through Movies.”
Tuition fees range from $200 to $450 per person, depending upon the length of the retreat, and participants stay on the campus.
The oldest building on the grounds dates to 1875. In addition to a chapel, boat house and cottage, the facilities include two large two-story buildings, the Student House and the Priest House, which contain bedrooms, common rooms and kitchens. The Priest House was designed by Isaac Hecker himself and built with materials of his choice.
According to Father McGuire, he was especially partial to the wood of chestnuts, the tree that once flourished on the shores of Lake George.
Hecker’s bedroom is preserved in a condition very similar to, if not the same as, the state in which it was left after he spent his last summer on the lake, in 1888.
Even if underused, the buildings require maintenance and improvements, and some may need to be replaced, said McGuire.
Asked if the Paulists would ever sell the property, McGuire said, “Over several dead bodies, including my own!”
But, he acknowledged, at least one member of the Paulists’ previous administration had advocated selling the property to raise funds for the order.
“We would only sell it if we were to go bankrupt, and that’s a very, very remote possibility,” said McGuire.
Programs and activities that would make selling the property unnecessary, such as using it for an environmental education center or for weddings, must be scrutinized by attorneys to make certain they don’t compromise St. Mary’s status as a not-for-profit organization, McGuire said.
“We’re meeting with committed, serious members of the Lake George community to weigh these and other options,” said McGuire. “We need to think about what we want to accomplish here during the next hundred years.”
Photos of Harbor Islands and St Mary’s on the Lake, Lake George Mirror For more news from Lake George, subscribe to the Lake George Mirror
Michael Foxman invariably exudes confidence in his proposed Adirondack Club and Resort in Tupper Lake, and elicits great loyalty from many in the community who have a legitimate interest in reopening the Big Tupper ski center.
For all that, in my five years of observation he is one poor negotiator. Since the first conference between Mr. Foxman, APA and potential parties to a public hearing in April 2007, he has been unable or unwilling to substantively negotiate two major problems with what he wants to do: the lack of a permanent open space protection component in his proposals and his inability to allay concerns for water quality impacts from sewage, stormwater and steep slope development. He blames “the process” for his inability to make much forward progress. From the beginning in 2005, he proved unable to win the trust of his neighbors, including abutters of Oval Wood Dish who happen to provide much of Tupper Lake’s drinking water. His payment in lieu of taxes scheme raised questions about fairness to taxing districts and residents. He paid for independent economic consultants ordered by the Town, and when he didn’t like their concerns, he temporarily stopped paying them. Despite the great recession, he seems supremely confident in his plan, the market value of the properties, resort markets, sales projections, and, ostensibly, the great tax boon this will be for Tupper Lake some day.
Fourteen months of mediation, the process he favored, resulted in useful exchange, yet few results. Overall, in the forty-two months since the hearing was ordered, he is not even close to a permit, or shown through detailed engineering how to get water onto the mountain and waste water off of it, or how he will pay for miles of infrastructure for a second village in Tupper Lake – for second home owners.
Once he exercises his option to acquire the bulk of the land from Oval Wood Liquidating Trust, Mr. Foxman may re-sell the properties to others. He will only exercise the option with that invaluable APA permit in hand. That permit can only be issued based on review of a lengthy public hearing record. That record will be developed at great expense over many months, and rests upon the ten hearing issues raised by the APA in its Feb 2007 decision to go to hearing, but undoubtedly other issues will be shown to be highly relevant, including energy, and wildlife impacts. The Law Judge in the case has to rule on each additional issue. Weeks of discovery, the process by which the parties to the APA hearing gain access to pertinent documents, are likely. Finally, it seems no hearing can start until the APA finds that Foxman and the LA Group have done the necessary engineering studies and completed detailed drawings of the water, stormwater, sewer, electrical and road systems.
Apparently the applicant has now delivered these to the APA, only to raise other impediments to starting the hearing process, principally his alleged future right to access and build on the Moody Pond Tract over lands owned by The Adirondack Conservancy. Meanwhile, the Franklin County Industrial Development Agency and Legislature must rule on the private bonds to pay for the tens of millions in new infrastructure.
ACR is not the biggest threat in the history of the Park. Horizon Corp would have built 10,000 homes in Colton, Ton-da-lay several thousand just north of Tupper Lake. That was all when the APA was brand new. After lengthy legal action, State objections to water supply and quality issues, and economic downturns, these behemoths were never built. Yet, this is the largest project to go to an APA adjudicatory public hearing, and tests the APA’s interpretation of the Act severely when it comes to the purpose of Resource Management lands, energy issues and fiscal and other burdens and benefits on a local community.
Were Mr. Foxman an experienced, well financed and Park-aware negotiator, had the housing bubble not burst into full recession, were the APA less risk averse, the public hearing called in 2007 might be over and a decision already reached.
My hope: a productive community dialogue on the future of these lands would occur. The housing component of the project would be downsized and largely concentrated around the base of Mt. Morris on good soils and with easier access for village services, with a wide protective buffer around Lake Simond and over 2000 acres of the project area, including Cranberry Pond, permanently protected, publicly accessible open space, a mix of conservation easement and Forest Preserve. Certified forestry, and public recreation would be encouraged, skiing started without the need to sell 38 (or whatever the number is now) great camp lots, posted signs few, and full taxes paid. My vision is hardly the right one, and may be unachievable. I do know that we are at least another year away from the APA’s review of any public hearing record.
Photo: View from Mt. Morris looking towards Tupper Lake.
Funding reductions to New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) resulting from the state’s historic budget shortfall will limit the agency’s ability to maintain roads in the Adirondack Forest Preserve, delay construction of recreational facilities on easement lands, and prevent the hiring of Assistant Forest Rangers this season according to media materials distributed late last week.
“Due to the inability to maintain or patrol roads and nearby recreational facilities, a number of roads will remain temporarily closed to public motor vehicle access,” the DEC announced. “These roads have already been closed for mud season, as they are each year. While gates on these roads will remain closed and locked to prevent access by motor vehicles, the roads and surrounding lands will be open for authorized recreational use by the public.” Each of the roads that will temporarily remain closed has parking available near the gate. The public is asked not to block the gates or the roads, as DEC may need to access the roads for routine maintenance and emergencies. Road maintenance tasks generally include gravel placement to maintain road surfaces, road grading, culvert replacement and removal of road hazards such as leaning or downed trees. Maintenance of campsites along and near these roads also requires a significant effort by DEC staff, including the removal of trash.
The following DEC roads will remain temporarily closed to all public motor vehicle access:
* Moose River Plains Road System (all roads) in the Moose River Plains Wild Forest, the Towns of Inlet, Arietta, Lake Pleasant and Indian Lake, Hamilton County;
* Lily Pond Road in the Lake George Wild Forest, Town of Horicon, Warren County;
* Jabe Pond Road in the Lake George Wild Forest, Town of Hague, Warren County;
* Gay Pond Road in the Hudson River Special Management Area (aka the Hudson River Recreation Area) of the Lake George Wild Forest, Town of Warrensburg, Warren County;
* Buttermilk Road Extension in the Hudson River Special Management Area (aka the Hudson River Recreation Area) of the Lake George Wild Forest, Town of Warrensburg, Warren County;
* Dacy Clearing Road in the Lake George Wild Forest, Town of Fort Ann, Washington County.
The following DEC roads will remain temporarily closed to general public motor vehicle access, but may still be accessed by motor vehicle by people with disabilities holding CP3 permits:
* Scofield Flats Road, in the Hudson River Special Management Area (aka the Hudson River Recreation Area) of the Lake George Wild Forest, Town of Lake Luzerne, Warren County; and
* Pikes Beach Access Road in the Hudson River Special Management Area (aka the Hudson River Recreation Area) of the Lake George Wild Forest, Town of Lake Luzerne, Warren County.
As in the past, the Bear Slides Access Road will be closed to motor vehicle use by the general public but will remain open to people with disabilities holding CP3 permits.
In addition, ongoing parking lot, road, trail, and public facility projects in the following areas will be suspended pending funding becoming available:
* Black Brook Easement Lands in the Town of Black Brook, Clinton County;
* Kushaqua Easement Lands in the Towns of Brighton and Franklin, Franklin County; and
* Altamont Easement Lands in the Town of Tupper Lake, Franklin County.
The Department says it will provide “reasonable accommodation to individuals with disabilities upon request for access to programs on state lands where roads are closed.” For instance, people with disabilities holding a DEC Motorized Access Permit for Persons with Disabilities (CP3 permit) will be allowed to access recreational programs by motor vehicles on two of the roads that will otherwise be closed to the public. Those with disabilities who wish to access recreational programs in the Warrensburg/ Lake George area should contact Tad Norton in the Department’s Warrensburg Office at (518) 623-1209, and those with disabilities who wish to access recreational programs in the Northville/Raquette Lake area should contact Rick Fenton in the Department’s Northville office at (518) 863-4545.
Questions regarding the temporary road closures, should be directed to the regional DEC Division of Lands and Forests at (518) 897-1276 or the Region 5 DEC Office.
Two new land deals were announced this week closing to the public 1,700 acres returned to Finch Pruyn, and protecting 1,400 acres in an Open Space Institute (OSI) conservation easement deal.
In a deal announced late last week, Finch Paper re-acquired from The Nature Conservancy (TNC) a 1,700-acre tract in Indian Lake, Hamilton County that was part of the 161,000 acres TNC purchased in 2007. Finch retained the right to re-acquire the parcel as a condition of the 2007 agreement. The land will not be open to the public.
In a second deal, also announced late last week, the OSI acquired through donation a conservation easement on 1,400 largely wooded acres in the northeast corner of the Adirondack Park from the Johanson family. The parcel includes lands along the shoreline of Butternut Pond and on Pok-O-Moonshine Mountain, a popular destination for rock climbers, hikers and cross-country skiers. » Continue Reading.
Governor David Paterson’s budget would zero-out money for land acquisition and impose an apparent two-year moratorium on state land purchases. Other components of the Environmental Protection Fund would also be reduced (33 percent across the board), but land conservation is the only category proposed for elimination.
This would leave the Adirondack Chapter of the Nature Conservancy extended on many millions of dollars worth of land that the state has agreed to buy for the Forest Preserve. The tracts involved are 65,000 acres of former Finch Pruyn land spread across 27 towns, and 14,600 acres surrounding Follensby Pond, mostly in the town of Harrietstown. State payment on an easement on 92,000 acres of former Finch land is also pending. » Continue Reading.
The Adirondack Chapter of the Nature Conservancy gets a lot of attention when it completes a landscape-scale protection deal like the 161,000-acre Finch Pruyn purchase, or when it buys a place with a hallowed name like Follensby Pond.
But for decades it has also been working among the little farms and forests of the Champlain Valley with a larger picture in mind.
“The goal is to provide safe passage for species—a way for a moose, say, to go from the Adirondacks to Vermont with little risk of being struck by a car, or a salmon to make it far enough upstream to spawn without being blocked by a dry culvert,” Michael Carr, executive director of the Adirondack Chapter of the Nature Conservancy, said in a press release Monday. “Where are the most important habitat linkages and how do we work do we protect them? To date, we’ve raised several hundred thousand dollars in grants for this initiative in the Champlain Valley, which is a critical piece of a larger effort.” » Continue Reading.
The DEC has announced the opening of limited public access for recreation to three parcels of conservation easement land formerly owned by International Paper Company and currently owned by Lyme Timber. The public will be able to access the lands for non-motorized recreation now; motorized access will be allowed in the future. The three parcels are the 17,125-acre Black Brook Tract in the Town of Black Brook, Clinton County; the 7,870-acre Altamont Tract in the Town of Tupper Lake, Franklin County; and the 19,000-acre Kushaqua Tract in the Towns of Brighton and Franklin, Franklin County. The parcels are part of one of New York State’s largest land conservation projects – 256,649 acres of land – which was announced on Earth Day in 2004.
The Black Brook, Altamont and Kushaqua Tracts had a five year waiting period before the properties could be opened to the public, which expired on April 22. The three tracts are open to public access for non-motorized recreation only- on foot, mountain bike, on horse, or canoe/kayak. According to the DEC “The full array of recreation rights purchased will not be available at this time due to lack of resources.” Currently permitted recreational activities include hiking, horseback riding, rock climbing, mountain biking, hunting, fishing, trapping, wildlife viewing and canoeing/kayaking. Camping and campfires are also prohibited until camp sites are designated.
Parking lots, trails, and trailheads, have not been buit and there is no signage yet. Trails for motorized recreation will be developed in the future following a planning process. Access to the property is by adjoining public highways and the DEC has asked that users avoid blocking any gates or obstructing traffic when parking.
These lands are privately owned and actively managed for timber. The landowner also leases private recreation camps. Lessees have the exclusive right to use one acre of land surrounding their camp which are not open to ANY public use or access. The one-acre camp parcels, however, may not block public access to or use of main access roads, trails, streams or ponds.
Visitors to these lands may encounter logging and construction equipment used in forest management and motorized vehicles, including ATVs, belonging to the landowner, their employees or camp lessees. The DEC asks that the public respect the rights of the landowner, camp lessees and their guests when using the property.
I received this week from John Sheehan, Director of Communications for The Adirondack Council, the following interesting history and analysis of the recent Nature Conservancy sale and what it means to the history of logging in the backcountry. I’m reprinting it here in its entirety for the information of Adirondack Almanack readers:
When the ATP Group, a private investment company that handles pension funds for the Danish government, made its first major investment in the United States Monday, its purchase of 92,000 acres of commercial forestlands from The Nature Conservancy brought to an end the era of the industrial ownership of the Adirondack Park’s vast, private backcountry. » Continue Reading.
The Domtar land purchase – now known as Sable Highlands and located in Franklin and Clinton Counties near Lyon Mountain – has been finalized with the protection of 104,000 acres, an area seven times the size of Manhattan. New York State purchased a conservation easement from the Lyme Timber Company on December 24, 2008 and that transaction ended four years of efforts to preserve the acreage once owned by Domtar Industries in the northeastern corner of the Adirondacks. In addition to the continuation of sustainable forestry, the conservation easement also includes access to nearly 30,000 acres that have been off-limits to the public for decades, including Sugarloaf Mountain, the Norton and Plumadore Ranges, and Barnes, Grass, Figure Eight, and Fish Hole Ponds. Combined with the 20,000 acres of new state lands, the public now has access to about 50,000 acres in a part of the park that has had limited opportunities for public recreation in the past. The Sable Highlands includes 220 miles of permanent and seasonal streams, 2,600 acres of wetlands, and 20 lakes and ponds in the St. Lawrence and Lake Champlain drainages. Among the lands protected in the Domtar deal are Lyon Mountain (14,400-acre habitat for Bicknell’s thrush), Ellenburg Mountain (1,700-acre tract of roadless forest that adjoining 7,100 acres of Forest Preserve lands), Whistle Pond / Keniston Meadows (920-acre tract adjoining existing state Forest Preserve), and East Chazy Lake.
In December of 2004, Domtar sold all of its Adirondack holdings in Clinton and Franklin Counties to the Lyme Timber Company and The Nature Conservancy. Working in partnership with Lyme, the Conservancy, and local community leaders, New York State has now fulfilled an agreement to secure the permanent protection of those properties.
A few months ago, the state made an outright purchase of 20,000 acres as new public lands from The Nature Conservancy. The purchases help foster the Adirondack Park’s role as a conservation model for the world and is another important investment in the local forest products industry. Last week, the state purchased a conservation easement to protect 84,000 acres owned by Lyme Timber. This “working forest” easement promotes sustainable forest management and timber harvesting, restricts residential development and subdivision, and creates a balance of public recreational access and continued private recreational leasing on the property.
The recent state expenditures were previously budgeted to the Environmental Protection Fund from money provided primarily from a real estate transfer tax. Private contribution to The Nature Conservancy’s Sable Highlands Campaign since 2004 totaled some $4 million and also helped to offset the overall costs of conservation.
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