Connie Prickett is Director of Communications, for the The Nature Conservancy’s Adirondack Chapter & Adirondack Land Trust in Keene. I sent her five questions about the impending sale of more then 90,000 of the 161,000 acres of Finch Pruyn lands the Conservancy recently purchased; here are her responses.
AA: Does this sale mean that all 90,500 acres will be logged off?
CP: The lands are being offered for sale subject to a conservation easement that specifies the land will be managed on a sustainable basis for forest products; restricts both private and commercial development; and will provide for some public access in the future. The objective is to keep these lands as commercial working forests. The property is currently managed under two “green” certifications: Forest Stewardship Council and Sustainable Forestry Initiative. Maximum annual harvest levels are determined by things like soil, slope, species composition, and growing conditions. There is a fiber supply agreement in place that requires pulp wood from this property to go to the Finch Paper mill in Glens Falls, New York.
AA: What will happen to those lands located in areas zoned hamlet?
CP: There is very little property in hamlets. The Nature Conservancy is offering some of the hamlet parcels for sale to municipalities. Newcomb, for instance, is interested in converting a house on the former Finch lands into a dormitory for foreign exchange students, and Indian Lake is interested in establishing a new ball field.
AA: Will the Nature Conservancy make a profit off these land sales?
CP: No. TNC will use money from the sale(s) to pay off some of the $110 million we borrowed to purchase all 161,000 acres. At the end of the day, we anticipate that it will cost the Conservancy $35 million in private funds to complete this massive and historic conservation project. We’ve been hard at work raising that money to underwrite the conservation gains in the transaction.
AA: When will unique areas like OK-Slip Falls be open to the public?
CP: We get this question alot and the answer is we don’t know. More than 80% of the former Finch property is leased for recreational purposes, including OK-Slip Falls. Our primary goal is to preserve ecologically-important lands and waters. While those efforts often result in wonderful public recreational opportunities, we are not equipped to manage for public access. We ask the public to be patient as we work through the details of our protection plan.
AA: What about hunting, trapping, and fishing on the new sale lands and the remaining areas?
CP: Much of the property being offered for sale is currently leased on an annual basis by hunt clubs and families for recreational purposes. The reported uses by the leaseholders include hunting, trapping, fishing, hiking, and bird watching. This fall the Conservancy is offering current leaseholders an opportunity to renew for three years instead of the typical one-year term. The conservation easement will permit leasing to continue at the option of the new woodlands owner(s). As for lands that will eventually be sold to the state, hunting, trapping, and fishing are among the many permitted uses of Forest Preserve.
AA: Will there be thru-hiking easements on private parcels that include traditional trails?
CP: The DEC will be developing a public recreation plan for the conservation easement lands.