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.
“This is a great day for all New Yorkers – it’s about finding a healthy balance between nature and people,” Bill Ulfelder, state director of The Nature Conservancy in New York told the press. “This historic agreement will secure public access to lands, lakes and waterways, many for the first time, creating new recreational opportunities for the public and, at the same time, supporting the economy of the Adirondack region and the entire state. This agreement protects some of the region’s largest intact and biologically diverse lands from commercial and private land development.”
The land is owned by ATP Timberland Invest, a company which hopes to keep the forest products industry – an industry that supports more than 50,000 jobs and injects $9 billion into the state’s economy every year, according to the Nature Conservancy — both competitive and viable. A related “fiber supply agreement” tied to these lands is expected to help maintain the century-old link between the property and local manufacturing jobs at the Finch Paper mill, in Glens Falls, which employs more than 750 workers.
The agreement is also designed to protect outdoor traditions such as hunting, fishing, snowmobiling, skiing, hiking, and paddling which are important parts of Adirondack culture. According to New York State Snowmobilers’ Association (NYSSA) executive director Dave Perkins, snowmobiling generates $800 million in spending per year in New York State. “If you look at a statewide map of the trail system, there’s a hole in Essex County, which means we’ve been missing out on a share of that money as a result, Perkins said. “The trails we can now use because of this conservation easement are helping to fill that gap in a big way.”
“This easement is a step toward making Newcomb a central hub for snowmobiling and winter recreation. It’s pretty great to get some real economic benefit from it,” said Newcomb Town Supervisor George Canon, who also noted that the trails from Newcomb to Long Lake and to Indian Lake will be open this season and links to the east are in the works.
“Indian Lake has been paying to lease snowmobile trails on an annual basis,” said Indian Lake Supervisor Barry Hutchens. “Now, with the uncertainty associated with year-to-year leasing erased, we see these trails as permanent and valuable assets that can help our struggling winter economy and our town budget appropriations.”
The Conservancy purchased 161,000 acres of the Finch forestland in the Adirondacks for $110 million in 2007. The overall conservation plan for the future of the property was developed by the Conservancy and New York State after consultation with local government officials and other stakeholders.
The final agreement is hoped to offer a balances of economic development, recreational needs, and ecological protections. Key elements of the plan call for more than 90,000 acres to be protected through a working forest conservation easement, 65,000 acres to be transferred over the coming years to New York as new public lands, and 1,100 acres to be set aside for community purposes in Newcomb, Long Lake and Indian Lake.
For additional information about The Nature Conservancy and the conservation plan for the former Finch lands, please visit www.nature.org/newyork.