In 2007, a private equity firm purchased Finch, Pruyn & Co.'s manufacturing assets in Glens Falls. The Nature Conservancy purchased the company's Adirondack forestlands - 161,000 acres in all. The paper mill now operates under the name Finch Paper, and the Conservancy has been steadily implementing a thoughtful conservation plan for the forests.
These forests feature 415 miles of rivers and streams, 300 lakes and ponds, 90 mountain peaks and 16,000 acres of wetlands. In consultation with local community leaders, the Conservancy and New York State Department of Environmental Conservation developed a conservation plan for the forests and waters that balances the needs of loggers, outdoor enthusiasts and others, while also achieving critical wildlife habitat and ecosystem protections.
To date, 94,000 acres have been secured through conservation easements and continue to be managed for sustainable timber harvest and private recreational leasing. Miles of snowmobile connector trails were made permanent, free and open to the public.
Over the next five years, 65,000 acres will be transferred to the publicly owned Forest Preserve, thereby unlocking new recreation and tourism opportunities. Each of Gov. Andrew Cuomo's regional economic development councils that touch the park recognizes our natural areas as assets and tourism as a vital economic sector.
All of the property to be transferred to the state has been closed to the public for more than a century, but will become accessible to local residents and visitors currently shut out of the forest. Some new snowmobile trails will be created. Countless hikers, anglers, hunters and others eagerly await new public-access opportunities to these special places as the state purchases lands from the Conservancy.
Most of the land to be transferred to the state is currently leased for exclusive use by private hunting clubs. Though these clubs will have to relocate to other privately owned forests, the plan allows for a 10-year transition (2008-2018) and ensures members will still have these lands to hunt on.
This balanced conservation project bolsters the forest products and tourism economies, while also protecting clean air, clean water and wildlife habitat. The balance struck in the Fulton County towns of Bleecker and Mayfield reflects the input of town leaders. The same is true for nearby Edinburg in Saratoga County as well as 24 other towns in four counties.
We look forward to working with the state and local communities as this historic project moves forward and the remaining lands become open to all.
Executive director, The Adirondack Chapter of The Nature Conservancy