The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation is fighting for federal monies to help pay for the acquisition of Follensby Pond near Tupper Lake.
The Adirondack Nature Conservancy bought Follensby Pond and its surrounding forest—some 14,600 acres, in all—for $16 million in 2008 with the intention of selling it to the state. The property had been on the wish list of preservationists for decades.
Rob Davies, director of DEC’s Division of Lands and Forests, said the property was appraised a few years ago at $20 million, but it will be appraised again before the state purchases it. He hopes the conservancy will sell the property to the state for about what it paid–which he characterized as a bargain.
Still, $16 million is a lot of money in these tight times.
Davies hopes to obtain $6 million to $8 million for Follensby through the U.S. Forest Service’s Forest Legacy Program.
A few years ago, the Forest Service approved $2.5 million for Follensby. The service authorized another $3.5 million in the 2011 federal budget, but Follensby lost out when Congress cut Forest Legacy funding in half earlier this year.
Altogether, the Forest Service planned to spend $100 million on the Forest Legacy Program and had tentatively earmarked funding for thirty-eight conservation projects in thirty-two states and Micronesia. Follensby Pond was ranked thirteenth in priority.
When Congress halved the funding, Davies said, that left enough to pay for only the top eleven projects.
Davies thinks that’s unfair and is lobbying the Forest Service to redistribute the money so that all or most of the thirty-eight projects get some funding. “If we got one and a half million, I’d be happy,” he said.
If he succeeds, DEC will have $4 million in federal monies to help pay for Follensby. That’s still short of the agency’s goal, but Davies intends to apply for more Forest Legacy money in the 2012 fiscal year.
If he fails to obtain any more federal money, DEC would have to spend $13.5 million from the state’s Environmental Protection Fund. Whatever happens, Davies said DEC intends to honor its commitment to purchase Follensby Pond. Without federal funding, however, it will take longer for the state to come up with the money.
DEC also is planning to buy sixty-five thousand acres in the central Adirondacks formerly owned by Finch, Pruyn & Company—lands also purchased by the Nature Conservancy in 2008. Some local politicians have argued against the state acquisitions, saying the state cannot afford them.
Davies said he doesn’t know when the state will acquire the Follensby or Finch properties, but don’t expect an announcement anytime soon.
Photo of Follensby Pond by Carl Heilman II.
Phil Brown is the editor of the Adirondack Explorer newsmagazine.