Posted on August 1st, 2012 4 comments Add a comment >>
Protect the Adirondacks, the Adirondack Mountain Club, the Adirondack Council, and other green groups have started an online petition to encourage the state not to back out of an agreement to purchase sixty-five thousand acres of former Finch, Pruyn lands for the Forest Preserve.
In its petition, the environmentalists contend that “a small but vocal group” is pressuring Governor Andrew Cuomo and the state Department of Environmental Conservation to keep the lands in private ownership.
“This proposal undermines a carefully balanced project that is a sound investment both in the local economy and in the environment and in the ecological integrity of the Adirondack Park,” the petition asserts.
The Adirondack Nature Conservancy bought all 161,000 acres owned by Finch, Pruyn in 2007. It has since sold ninety-two thousand acres to a Danish pension fund, subject to easements that prohibit development and allow some public access.
Many local leaders argue that most of the lands earmarked for the Forest Preserve should follow the easement model, thus allowing forestry to continue and hunting camps to remain.
Members of the Gooley Club have been among the most adamant opponents of deal. The club is located near the Essex Chain of Lakes, which is slated to enter the Preserve. George Earl wrote about the club’s fight in article that appeared in the Adirondack Explorer in 2011. Click here to read that story.
Other natural gems that would become part of the Preserve include the Boreas Ponds, a long stretch of the Hudson River, OK Slip Falls, and Sugarloaf Mountain, a potential rock-climbing venue.
DEC officials have repeatedly said that they have no intention of backing out of the deal.
Other sponsors of the petition include Adirondack Wild, Audubon, and the Sierra Club. They intend to present the petition to governor and DEC later this year.
The petition has been online for a few months, but the council sent out an “action alert” this afternoon, asking people to sign up by Monday, August 6. Scott Lorey, the council’s legislative director, said the drive is winding down. To date, the online petition has gathered more than 4,900 signatures.
Click here to add your name to the petition.
Posted on December 1st, 2011 3 comments Add a comment >>
The Adirondack Council wants the state to purchase or otherwise protect a 2,257-acre parcel near Poke-o-Moonshine Mountain that is on the market for $2,275,000.
Dubbed Burnt Pond Forest, the tract lies just southwest of Poke-o-Moonshine, bordering state Forest Preserve. It is being marketed by LandVest, a real-estate company that deals in timberlands the Northeast.
In an online brochure, LandVest says the property contains six peaks, several trout streams, an eighteen-acre pond, and a trail system. The brochure touts the property’s timber value but also suggests that the pond would be suitable “for the development of a recreational cabin or second home.”
Adirondack Council spokesman John Sheehan said the environmental group would like the state to either purchase the property outright or buy an easement that would forbid development. “We would like to see it protected as forestland with public recreation,” he told the Explorer.
The council first called for the protection of this land in 1990, in one of its “2020 Vision” reports, subtitled “Realizing the Recreational Potential of Adirondack Wild Forests.” Written by the guidebook author Barbara McMartin, the report recommended a variety of land acquisitions to expand the Preserve’s Wild Forest Areas. (A companion report focused on Wilderness Areas.)
McMartin, who died in 2005, recommended that the state purchase 3,660 acres north and west of Poke-o-Moonshine Mountain, a popular hiking and rock-climbing venue. She said Poke-o, which the state owns, “is just one of a cluster of mountains with exposed rock ledges, the nucleus of what could be a splendid hiking and climbing area.”
The Commission on the Adirondacks in the Twenty-First Century also recommended in 1990 that the state acquire land around Poke-o. The commission was headed by George Davis, who also oversaw the publication of the council’s 2020 Vision reports.
Burnt Pond Forest overlaps the tract eyed by McMartin and the commission. A comparison of maps suggests that more than half of Burnt Pond Forest’s acreage was targeted for the Forest Preserve.
Champlain Area Trails (CATS) also wants the state to purchase or protect the land on the market. Chris Maron, the group’s executive director, said the property is ideal for hiking and cross-country skiing. He noted that it would provide an alternative hiking route to the fire tower on Poke-o-Moonshine’s summit.
Dave Spiers, a LandVest broker, said the investment group that owns the property would be willing to sell tract to the state. “They’d be open to anybody who wants to make an offer,” he said.
It appears, though, that Burnt Pond Forest is not on the radar screen of the state Department of Environmental Conservation. Asked if DEC would have any interest in purchasing the property, spokesman David Winchell replied in an e-mail that the department is not familiar with it.
“The owner has not approached us about selling it to the state,” Winchell said, “nor is the parcel listed as a specific priority project in the Open Space Conservation Plan.”
Sheehan, however, noted that the state has expressed interest in protecting land in the Champlain Valley, where Poke-o sits. He said the council will urge DEC’s regional open-space committee to take steps to protect Burnt Pond Forest.
Given the state’s dismal fiscal condition, some Adirondack politicians have called for a moratorium on the acquisition of land for the Forest Preserve. Sheehan, however, said the parcel in question is small enough that the state may be able to afford it. If not, he said, an easement could be acquired for less than half of the purchase price.
Click here to read LandVest’s marketing materials and view photos of the property.
Click here to read my article on Adirondack Almanack about other timberlands marketed by LandVest.
Posted on November 15th, 2011 2 comments Add a comment >>
After hiking, biking, canoeing, and sailing 7,600 miles over 280 days, John Davis says the hard work has just begun.
Davis resigned as the Adirondack Council’s conservation director last year to undertake TrekEast, a muscle-powered journey designed to draw attention to the need to protect wild lands in the eastern United States and Canada.
He began his travels on February 3 in Key Largo, Florida, and finished this past Monday (November 14) on Quebec’s Gaspe Peninsula. In between, he meandered through swamps, fields, and forests, along coastlines, and over mountains. He reached New York State in the summer and traveled through the Catskills, Shawangunks, and Adirondacks.
“While I’ve seen numerous threats to wild nature over the past ten months, I’ve also seen incredible efforts under way to counter those threats,” Davis said after reaching the Atlantic Ocean at Forillon National Park in Quebec.
In an interview with the Explorer, Davis said one lesson from his journey is that the East needs to bring back cougars to restore ecological balance. Without cougars to keep them in check, he said, deer are overbrowsing the woods, consuming wildflowers and saplings. “Our forests are likely to slowly degenerate,” he said.
Davis said conservationists need to focus on four other objectives in the East:
- Protect large tracts of wild land and the wild corridors connecting them.
- Create wildlife crossings over and under roads.
- Protect waterways with wild buffers.
- Encourage private landowners to protect wild lands.
Davis said TrekEast, though arduous, was the adventure of a lifetime. “Now comes the much more important and difficult leg of the trip—maintaining and growing the network of people needed to protect a continental-sized network of connected eastern wild lands,” he said in a news release.
He next plans to go to Washington, D.C., to discuss his journey with the directors of the Wildlands Network, which sponsored TrekEast. After that, he will return to his home near Westport in the Adirondacks.
“I’d be delighted to work at the Adirondack Council again someday, but there are no openings right now,” he said.
Meantime, he is planning his next big adventure: TrekWest in the Rocky Mountains.
Posted on January 13th, 2011 11 comments Add a comment >>
A coalition of environmental groups has issued a list of policy recommendations to Governor Andrew Cuomo and the state legislature. Among them is beefing up the Environmental Protection Fund, the primary mechanism for funding land preservation, water-quality protection, and other green objectives.
The coalition—which includes the Adirondack Council, the Adirondack Mountain Club, and the Nature Conservancy—notes that the EPF has been reduced from $255 million to $134 million since 2008. In addition, the state over the years has diverted about $500 million in EPF monies to the state’s general fund.
In “Green Memos to the Governor and State Legislature,” the environmental groups say the diversion of EPF monies has caused a backlog of projects that have been stalled for want of funding, including some $85 million in land-acquisition and farmland-protection projects.
Alison Jenkins, a fiscal analyst for Environmental Advocates, described the $85 million sum as “a very, very conservative estimate” that doesn’t include many other conservation projects in the works. However, she conceded that the figures were added up before the state announced a few weeks ago that it spent $30 million on easements on eighty-nine thousand acres in the Adirondacks formerly owned by Finch, Pruyn & Co. Thus, the backlog has been reduced by at least $30 million.
But the $85 million figure does not include two pending land deals in the Adirondacks: the purchase of another sixty-five thousand acres once owned by Finch, Pruyn & Co. and of Follensby Pond and surrounding land (in all, about 14,600 acres). In both cases, the state would buy the lands from the Nature Conservancy for inclusion in the public Forest Preserve.
Some people question whether the state should follow through on promises to buy the Finch, Pruyn land. Among other things, they argue that the state cannot afford it now. Click here to read George Earl’s story in the Explorer about a hunting club that wants to modify the deal so the land it leases will not be added to the Forest Preserve. The story generated a lively debate on Adirondack Almanack.
No one disputes that the state has fallen on hard times. It faces a deficit of up to $9.3 billion in the 2011-12 fiscal year. But one reason the state established the EPF back in the early nineties was to ensure that there would be money for land preservation and other environmental projects even in lean times.
The debate should focus on the intrinsic merits of these deals, not on the state’s fiscal bind, which, however severe, is temporary. Besides, the money spent on land preservation is a drop in the bucket. The state budget, including monies received from the federal government, is expected to total $135.3 billion in the coming fiscal year, according to Erik Kriss, a spokesman for the state Division of Budget. (If you subtract the federal contribution, the budget is $79.2 billion.)
Let’s do a little math. The Nature Conservancy paid $110 million for 161,000 acres of Finch, Pruyn land in 2007. That works out to $683 an acre. If the state were to pay the same price for the sixty-five thousand acres in question, that would come to $44 million. And that’s a mere 0.03 percent of the state’s total budget. Even if the state pays a higher price, we’re still talking about a minute fraction of the budget.
If the state goes broke, it won’t be because it spent money on preserving Adirondack forests.
Posted on February 18th, 2010 Add a comment >>
Our March/April issue, which should be mailed in a few weeks, includes a profile of Joe Martens, the president of the Open Space Institute. In the Adirondacks, Joe is best known as the guy who engineered the institute’s purchase of the ten-thousand-acre Tahawus Tract in 2003, but he also has been involved smaller projects in the Park.
Recently, a landowner donated to OSI a conservation easement on 1,400 acres near Poke-o-Moonshine Mountain. As a result, the land is protected forever from development.
The owner, Eric Johanson, starting acquiring the land decades ago when he was just nineteen years old.
“I did not struggle to put this preserve together to develop it,” Johanson said, “but to practice conservation, to hunt and fish, and to leave it intact for future generations as a model of sustainable forestry.”
Unlike the Tahawus Tract acquisition, small projects don’t generate big headlines, but they should be celebrated as well.
Click here to read more about the Johanson deal.