The Adirondack Nature Conservancy has been the 2009 ‘Conservationist of the Year’ at their 25th Annual award ceremony at Woods Inn in Inlet. The award was presented at the Adirondack Council’s annual Forever Wild Day celebration. Adirondack Council Executive Director Brian L. Houseal stresses that while the Adirondack Council is a “vocal, politically active environmental advocacy organization that presses federal, state and local government officials to protect the Adirondack Park’s natural resources. The Conservancy is an international science-based, conservation organization that often buys land to protect it for nature and people.”
The Adirondack Conservancy’s most recent conservation project was the purchase of and protection plan for the 161,000 Finch, Pruyn & Co., lands which included the Northern Hudson River Gorge, Blue Ledges, Boreas Ponds, the Essex Chain of Lakes and OK Slip Falls. Houseal said “They spent $110 million and climbed way out on a financial limb to make this happen. This purchase took vision, to see just how important these lands are to the future of the Park, and it took real guts to take such risk for an opportunity that will not come again in our lifetimes.’
More than 570,000 acres of important Adirondack forests, waters and wildlife habitat have been protected from fragmentation and development through the Adirondack Nature Conservancy’s efforts over the last nearly 40 years. During that same time frame, every one of the Adirondack Park’s industrial papermakers sold off their vast timberlands, including Domtar, International Paper, Diamond International, Champion International, Yorkshire Timber, Lyons Falls Pulp & Paper, and most recently Finch, Pruyn & Co.
“If these lands had been sold to land speculators and developers, the Park’s backcountry would be fragmented beyond recognition,” Houseal said. “Instead, they are still being harvested for timber, under sustainable management plans. The conservation agreements that the Conservancy and others have negotiated with private timberland investors protect these forests from fragmentation and development, while retaining the commercial value of the timberlands and the jobs those lands create.” About 65,000 acres of the Finch lands are slated for addition to the Forest Preserve.
Recent Conservationist of the Year winners include conservation author Bill McKibben (2008), The Wildlife Conservation Society (2007), Congressman Sherwood Boehlert (2006), Lake George Waterkeeper Chris Navitsky (2005), and the Open Space Institute (2004). Past winners include NY Governors Pataki and Cuomo, and NY Times editor John Oakes.
Photo: The hand-carved loon was created by Dr. Robert Poe. L to R: Brian Ruder, Adirondack Council Board Chair, Michael Carr, Executive Director of the Adirondack Nature Conservancy, Meredith Prime, Adirondack Nature Conservancy Board Chair, and Brian Houseal, Adirondack Council Executive Director.