August 5, 2012

Governor Cuomo Announces Unprecedented Acquisition of 69,000 Acres of the Former Finch Pruyn Lands in the Adirondack Park

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Governor Andrew M. Cuomo today announced the States acquisition of 69,000 acres of the former Finch Pruyn and other Nature Conservancy lands throughout the Adirondacks. This acquisition is the largest single addition to the Adirondack State Forest Preserve in more than a century.


Adding these properties to the Forest Preserve protects the incomparable and breathtaking natural resources of this region and preserves a significant portion of the Upper Hudson River watershed, Governor Cuomo said. Todays agreement will make the Adirondack Park one of the most sought after destinations for paddlers, hikers, hunters, sportspeople and snowmobilers. Opening these lands to public use and enjoyment for the first time in 150 years will provide extraordinary new outdoor recreational opportunities, increase the number of visitors to the North Country and generate additional tourism revenue.


The future of the Adirondack Park depends upon clean water and air, abundant forests, rivers, streams, wetlands, wildlife and spectacular scenery, DEC Commissioner Joe Martens said. Its future is also intertwined with the ability of communities and residents to thrive, and todays agreement provides for the continued vitality of the Park, its communities and residents. DEC will work with North Country communities, sportspeople and environmental groups to pursue a balanced approach to managing these lands.


This acquisition complements the 2010 acquisition of 89,000 acres of conservation easements on former Finch Pruyn lands that protect working forests in communities across the North Country. Together, these lands will also allow for the completion of critical links between local communities in the Adirondack snowmobile trail system, providing four seasons of tourism opportunities, which will benefit local businesses.


In 2007, The Nature Conservancy (TNC) purchased the entire 161,000 acre property from Finch Pruyn. TNC has managed the 65,000-acre non-easement portion of the property and 4,000 acres of other landholdings with the intent to ensure their protection. Under the agreement reached today by the State and The Nature Conservancy, the property will be sold to the State in a phased five-year contract beginning this year. Using funds dedicated for these purposes in the Environmental Protection Fund, the State will pay a total of $49.8 million for the property over five years with $13 million to be paid in this fiscal year. The balance of the funds will be paid in each fiscal year through 2016-17. The State will pay full local property and school taxes on the land.


Environmental, Recreational & Economic Development Opportunities


This agreement will provide abundant opportunities for premier hunting, fishing, hiking, camping, mountain biking and cross-country skiing for a broad array of recreational users in a manner supported by local communities. Public access to these lands will draw visitors to population centers that rely on year-round tourism opportunities.


Paddling opportunities will be opened up on some of the wildest stretches of rivers and pristine ponds and lakes in the eastern United States.


In addition, this agreement will allow for the creation of a snowmobile trail connection between Newcomb and North Hudson, completing an important linkage to snowmobile networks to the west through Long Lake and Indian Lake and to the east through Lake Champlain communities. These new and free snowmobile community connectors are important for the winter economy of the Adirondacks.


The entire 69,000 acres will become part of the forever wild Forest Preserve. As the properties come into state ownership, the State will develop recreational plans and determine classifications of the lands to encourage public access and appropriate use of the properties while also protecting their outstanding natural resource values.


The Adirondack Park Agency will work with DEC to propose land use classifications under the Adirondack Park State Land Master Plan. As properties are acquired by the State, DEC will work with local governments and Park stakeholders to open these lands for public use. It is anticipated that the more remote, interior areas suitable for backcountry activities will be classified as Wilderness while the more accessible areas appropriate for greater levels of public use, including snowmobiling and vehicular access, will be classified as Wild Forest. Public hearings will be held on the draft classifications before they are sent to the Governor for approval. Once the classifications are approved, DEC will develop Unit Management Plans that will improve local economies through increased tourism. A public comment period will be held for each UMP Unit Management Plan.


Also, as part of the overall agreement, several thousand acres of land were sold to communities such as Indian Lake and Newcomb for future economic development opportunities. For example, the Town of Newcomb has purchased parcels of land to complete its golf course and to make way for future economic development along the main travel corridor in the town. Similarly, the Town of Indian Lake also acquired property for future economic development opportunities, including possibly a new community forest.


Features of the Land


The former Finch lands contain some of the most important recreational and environmental assets in the Adirondack Park which will be opened to public use for the first time in more than 150 years. The lands contain an astounding variety of mountains, cliffs, wilderness lakes, ponds, bogs, fens, swamps, alluvial forests, and flat and white-water rivers. The parcels contain extensive habitat for mammals, such as moose, bobcat and black bear, and aquatic habitat for brook trout, landlocked salmon, and small and largemouth bass.


The 69,000-acre lands property includes 180 miles of rivers and streams, 175 lakes and ponds, 465 miles of undeveloped shoreline along rivers, streams, lakes and ponds, six mountains taller than 2,000 feet and countless smaller hills. It also includes 5 percent of the Upper Hudson River watershed. In total, the 161,000-acre former Finch property constitutes 12 percent of the Upper Hudson watershed.


The majority of these lands are concentrated within the central lake and tourist region of the Adirondack Park in the towns of Newcomb, Indian Lake, North Hudson and Minerva. Key parcels slated for acquisition in fee include the Essex Chain of Lakes, which features the Hudson River and, Boreas Ponds, the Macintyre Tract, OK Slip Falls, including part of the Hudson Gorge, and several smaller pieces throughout the southeast portion of the Park.


Opportunities will be provided for the able bodied as well as those requiring universal access.


These unique assets include:


  • The Essex Chain of Lakes and Hudson River: With 11 lakes and ponds interconnected or within portaging distance of each other, the Essex Chain will provide a seven-mile canoe route, and a much anticipated paddling experience within easy reach of the traveling public. A long history of fish stocking that includes brook trout and landlocked salmon will provide outstanding fishing. A 5-mile stretch of the Hudson River runs along the east side of the Essex Chain Parcel, completing an uninterrupted, forever wild stretch of river over 20 miles in length. The river provides a premier opportunity for day rafting, canoeing, kayaking, fishing and overnight river trips. Along with the area including the Cedar River, which runs through the southern portion of the Essex Chain Tract, and a portion of the popular Indian River, a new Wild Rivers Area encompassing the wildest and among the most scenic stretches of the Hudson River will be created. The area continues for nearly 15 miles down the Hudson Gorge, past the OK Slip Falls, one of the most spectacular waterfalls in the Adirondack Park, and part of a 2,800-acre property that will be made available to the public for hiking and other outdoor activities. This magnificent stretch of the Hudson River will become an incredible destination for visitors seeking this unique and limited wild rivers experience, bringing people to the communities of Indian Lake, Blue Mountain Lake, Long Lake, Newcomb and Minerva to seek accommodations and supplies.
  • The Boreas ponds: Located in the Town of North Hudson and bordering the High Peaks and Dix Mountain Wilderness Areas along the northern boundary and accessible to other public recreation areas to the south, this spectacular 22,000-acre property includes as its centerpiece the beautiful Boreas Ponds and provides abundant opportunities for hiking, paddling, hunting, trapping, camping, fishing, cross-country skiing and snowshoeing.
  • The McIntyre Tract: This strategically situated property borders the Southern High Peaks area. Acquiring these lands restores historic access to many popular destinations in the High Peaks, including Santanoni and Panther Mountains, hiking access from Newcomb Lake to Lake Andrew, and access to Mount Allen in the High Peaks Wilderness Area from a parking area and trailhead leading from the neighboring Conservation Easement Lands. It also includes a large portion of the beautiful Opalescent River.
  • Southern Tracts: These four tracts in Northern Saratoga and Fulton counties have been identified by local municipalities as having high recreational value for their communities. The Thousand Acre Swamp Tract in Edinburgh provides habitat for moose and a host of other wildlife, and will provide an important snowmobile connector trail linking the area to the popular Mulleyville snowmobile trail system. Proposed multiple-use trails on the Pennyork Lumber Tract and Daniels Road Tract, both in Greenfield, will help Saratoga County complete the proposed Palmertown Range Trail and connect Moreau Lake State Park with Saratoga State Park. The 3,800-acre Benson Road Tract in Mayfield will provide opportunities for two snowmobile connector trails, fishing access to Stony Creek and a network of non-motorized multiple-use trails.


Completes Acquisition of Former Finch Properties


The agreement reached today by Governor Cuomo is the signature phase of a two-phase project with the State on 161,000 acres of the former Finch lands, which was approved by the 27 Adirondack host communities.


In the first phase, DEC completed an 89,000-acre working forest conservation easement on another portion of the former Finch Pruyn lands, which guaranteed a long-term supply of wood fiber to the Finch paper mill at Glens Falls and kept the majority of the productive timberlands on the property in active forest management, employing local contractors and on local tax rolls. The mill at Glens Falls employs more than 700 people.


The States investment in the future of the Adirondacks includes the creation of the Adirondack Forest Preserve and Park in the 19th century, the promotion of outdoor recreation and the Olympics, and the creation of the Olympic Regional Development Authority in the 20th century to capitalize on the regions Olympic venues and tremendous outdoor recreational assets framed by world renowned scenery. Todays agreement adds another chapter in the outdoor legacy of the Adirondacks, and promises to make the communities of this central part of the Adirondacks a draw for outdoor enthusiasts, including hikers, hunters, snowmobilers and nature lovers.


Bill Ulfelder, Executive Director of The Nature Conservancy in New York, said, The Nature Conservancy is proud to work with New York State under the leadership of Governor Andrew Cuomo and Commissioner Joe Martens and to celebrate such a historic conservation project. Conserving these spectacular lands and waters as part of the publicly owned Forest Preserve will make some of the most beautiful places in the Adirondacks open to the public for the first time in 150 years. New York is doing more than conserving lands and waters, it is investing in the recreation and tourism economy that is so vital to the North Country and its future.


Today's announcement helps to preserve some of the most spectacular natural resources and scenery in the Adirondacks while also promising the people of the Adirondacks that they are going to be able to use these lands and help derive economic benefits from their increased public use, Adirondack Park Agency Chairwoman Leilani Ulrich. The APA is working closely with DEC to ensure access and classifications suggested by Commissioner Martens and his team are ratified by the APA and approved by Governor Cuomo. We recognize that as actions are taken to protect the environment of the Park, efforts also need to focus on improving the communities of the Park. The classifications will reflect opportunities to boost the regional economy.