After 16 years on the job, Mike Carr says the time is right for him to step down as the executive director of the Adirondack chapter of the Nature Conservancy and to work full time for its affiliate, the Adirondack Land Trust.
Carr was instrumental in negotiating the deal to acquire 161,000 acres of Finch, Pruyn timberland for $110 million in 2007. Over the ensuing years, it sold 65,000 acres to the state. Most of the rest were protected with conservation easements.
The state purchased the last Finch, Pruyn parcel – the 20,758-acre Boreas Ponds Tract – in April. Over the next few years, the Nature Conservancy will oversee the removal of hunting camps on the Finch lands, but its work on the blockbuster deal is largely done.
“It feels like the right time,” Carr said when asked why he chose to change jobs now.
The Adirondack Land Trust is a separate entity, but it shares staff with the Adirondack chapter of the Nature Conservancy. Also, the board of directors is the same. In his current job, Carr already serves as the land trust’s executive director, but he will assume that role full time on November 15.
Founded in 1984, the Adirondack Land Trust concentrates on preserving rural landscapes and has been most active in the Champlain Valley. It has conserved nearly 22,000 acres, including the summit of Coon Mountain, which offers views of Lake Champlain.
Carr said he wants to help the land trust step up its conservation efforts. “We’re going to move very quickly on some conservation opportunities that have been on a low simmer,” he said, adding that an announcement will be made soon.
It’s uncertain whether Carr will be replaced at the Nature Conservancy. At the outset, Bill Ulfelder, the executive director of the state chapter, “will work closely with Adirondack chapter staff to ensure the continued success of our ongoing conservation programs,” said Connie Prickett, the regional chapter’s spokeswoman.
It’s also uncertain whether the relationship between the Adirondack chapter and the land trust will remain the same. “Over the next month or so that will become more clear,” Carr said, adding that the organizations are putting together a transition plan.
Asked if the state chapter of the conservancy will absorb the Adirondack chapter, Carr replied, “I don’t think we’re all clear about that.”
During his tenure, Carr put together several other big conservation deals. In 2000, the Adirondack chapter bought 26,400 acres from International Paper, including several lakes. Much of this land was later sold to the state.
In 2005, the chapter bought 104,000 acres in the northeastern Adirondacks from Domtar Industries. About 20,000 acres, including Lyon Mountain, were sold to the state.
And in 2008, the conservancy purchased the 14,600-acre Follensby Park (including Follensby Pond), a property long coveted by preservationists. The conservancy still owns the property. Now that the Finch, Pruyn deal is done, the organization is turning its attention to Follensby.
Carr said the conservancy originally planned to sell all of Follensby Park to the state, but the organization is looking at all its options. Asked what those might be, he replied: “It’s too early to say. We’re not ready to talk about it.”
Afterward, Prickett elaborated on the conservancy’s position: “Like we did with the Finch lands, and consistent with our mission and science-based approach to our initiatives, we are studying Follensby so tht we can work with New York State to make the best decisions about how to preserve the property’s conservation values. In addition to research of the lake trout and cisco fish communities, we also have botanists doing inventories.”
The Finch, Pruyn deal stands as Carr’s biggest accomplishment. The sixty-five thousand acres added to the Forest Preserve include such jewels as the Essex Chain Lakes, OK Slip Falls, stretches of the Hudson and Opalescent rivers, and Boreas Ponds. The state also purchased conservation easements on another 90,000 acres. Some of the easements lands are open to public recreation.Carr gave much of the credit for the Finch, Pruyn deal to his staff. “It was nine years in a full-court press by an amazing staff,” he said. “It took everything we had to cross the finish line for Boreas.”
Two weeks ago, the Adirondack chapter took the unusual step of offering a land-classification proposal for the Boreas Ponds Tract. The tract’s classification will determine, among other things, how much motorized use is allowed. The Adirondack Park Agency, however, did not include the conservancy’s proposal among the four options that will be presented to the public at hearings in November and December.
“We’re hoping it still gets serious consideration,” Carr replied when asked if he was disappointed by the APA’s action. The important thing, he said, is that Boreas Ponds be protected for future generations.
“This is an opportunity that will not come back to us,” he said. The Nature Conservancy’s proposal was more protective than any of the APA’s alternatives.
Photo of Mike Carr provided by Adirondack chapter of the Nature Conservancy.