Lake Placid — New York state’s purchase of 69,000 acres of Adirondacks land is being hailed as the biggest acquisition in more than a century.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo earlier this month visited Lake Placid (Essex County) to announce the state’s purchase of the huge tract. The $47.4 million acquisition will preserve a significant portion of the Upper Hudson River watershed.
“Today’s agreement will make the Adirondack Park one of the most sought after destinations for paddlers, hikers, hunters, sportspeople and snowmobilers,” Cuomo said in a prepared statement. “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 land is being sold to the state over a five-year period by The Nature Conservancy. The acquisition complements the 2010 purchase of 89,000 acres of conservation easements on Finch, Pruyn & Company timberland property.
The move also provides what state officials call critical links in a snowmobile trail system between communities in the Adirondacks, which will likely provide an economic boost to the region in the winter.
The 69,000 acres of forests includes more than 180 miles of rivers and streams, 175 lakes and ponds and six mountains taller than 2,000 feet. It was formerly owned by the Finch, Pruyn & Co.
Under the agreement, monies from the state’s Environmental Protection Fund will be used for the acquisition over a five-year period, 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. Officials stressed that the state will pay full local property and school taxes on the land.
Areas being acquired include:
- The Essex Chain of Lakes and Hudson River system of 11 lakes and ponds that will offer a seven-mile canoe route. Several of the area’s waters have over the years been stocked with brook trout and landlocked salmon
- The Cedar River, which runs through the southern portion of the Essex Chain parcel, and a stretch of the Indian River.
- OK Slip Falls, generally regarded as one of the most scenic waterfalls in the Adirondacks and part of a 2,800-acre property that will be made available to the public.
- The Boreas ponds, located in the Town of North Hudson and bordering the High Peaks and Dix Mountain Wilderness Areas. That 22,000-acre tract will offer hunting, fishing, trapping, paddling and hiking opportunities.
Conservancy officials said the state will also acquire land further south in Adirondack Park gateway communities, including thousands of acres a few miles north of Saratoga Springs with nearly 20 miles of mountain biking trails.
DEC Commissioner Joe Martens said the 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.”
While the entire 69,000 acres will become of the state’s “Forever Wild” forest preserve, the state – and the Adirondack Park Agency – will develop land use plans as the tracts come into state ownership.
It’s likely that the more remote, interior areas suitable for backcountry travel 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.
Conservation Fund Advisory Board Chairman Jason Kemper said the land acquisition “has the possibility of providing tremendous recreational opportunities to the sporting community. The benefit to the sporting community will be directly related to how much access is provided to these lands and, as such, we will be advocating for as much access to these parcels as possible.”
Public hearings will be held on the individual Unit Management Plans for each parcel.
While the deal will ultimately open thousands of acres to hunters, anglers and others, hunting clubs operating under recreational leases will lose their exclusive rights to the land.
The Nature Conservancy has been working with those clubs under a 10-year phase-out of their leases, a plan that had been stalled due to the state’s delay in purchasing the tracts.
The Nature Conservancy has been working with some clubs in relocating them to conservation easement lands. The general public – including hunters – won’t have access to lands targeted for acquisition until the state
finalizes the deal and the leaseholders no longer have exclusive recreational rights. In some cases that will be as early as next Oct. 1, although the public won’t have access to hunting club cabins that sit on the parcels.
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.