Press-Republican

August 12, 2012

Nature Conservancy, New York strike a deal

By Dan Ladd, Adirondack Hunting & Fishing Report
Press-Republican

---- — It’s been a little more than five years since The Nature Conservancy purchased 161,000 acres in the Adirondacks from Finch, Pruyn & Company of Glens Falls.

Now the state of New York has confirmed their promise to purchase 69,000 acres to eventually be added to the Adirondack Forest Preserve.

Most of the other 94,000 acres have been sold to timber companies with the state purchasing conservation easements. According to a press release issued by the The Nature Conservancy, the state will pay incrementally $47,396,413, for one chunk at a time from the Environmental Protection Fund.

Up first is the Essex Chain and OK Slip tracts in Newcomb and Indian Lake. “The Essex Chain of Lakes will be in the first wave and that smaller tract that has the Hudson and Indian River confluence,” said Connie Prickett, who is the director of communications for the Adirondack Chapter of The Nature Conservancy. “That will be sometime in 2012. As for the other stuff: it will depend from year to year.”

The deal comes just in time for The Nature Conservancy to move into the next stages of their 10-year phase-out plan initiated in 2008. Many of these lands are currently under recreational leases with hunting clubs who, beginning at that time, had exclusive hunting and fishing rights through 2013 and rights to their accommodations through 2018.

Some of these rights have been extended because purchase by the state had not happened. It should be noted that neither the public nor members of The Nature Conservancy will be able to access these lands until they are both purchased by the state and the leaseholders no longer hold exclusive recreational rights. This is the case with the Gooley Club on the Essex Chain of Lakes.

“For the Essex chain of lakes, when the state purchases that property this year the leaseholders on that tract will have one year of exclusive use left that will bring it to the end of September in 2013,” Prickett said. “The public will have use Oct. 1 next year but they will not be able to access the cabins. For other tracts, some things have been changed slightly because of time. We were in a position to extend some additional years.”

Prickett says that an immediate impact once the first sale is complete is the opportunity to paddle a previously inaccessible stretch of the Hudson River, just south of Newcomb.

“Of course that depends on water levels,” she said. “But that long, long stretch of the Hudson, if you were to paddle that today you would have to be proficient enough to commit to going through the Hudson River Gorge. When the state acquires the Indian River and Hudson River confluence tract there will be an opportunity for take-out on that property and they (paddlers) will not have to run the gorge.”

Local economies are expected to be the big winners thanks to other added recreational opportunities like mountain biking, hunting, fishing and snowmobiling. Prickett said that snowmobile trails already created on easement lands connecting Newcomb and Indian Lake have proved beneficial and she expects newly created trails will connect Newcomb, North Hudson and Minerva. As for fishing, current fisheries management by the Gooley Club are considered excellent and it is hoped that the state will continue those efforts on the Essex Chain of Lakes and other waters, including the scenic Boreas Ponds tract.

There are losers in this deal, and they are the hunting clubs, which will have to forego their traditional stomping grounds. From the start, The Nature Conservancy has done their best to relocate clubs to easement lands. Also, unknown is how these lands will be classified once under state ownership. A Wild Forest classification leans more toward vehicle access, mountain biking and snowmobiling, while a Wilderness classification favors mostly foot traffic.

For those local economies to thrive, the new users of these lands will have to contribute what the current clubs no longer will be. It seems the more variable the usage, the more of it there will be.

As this deal moves forward, the relationship between usage and classification will be a big topic of discussion.

Dan Ladd is the author of “Deer Hunting in the Adirondacks,” outdoors editor for the Glens Falls Chronicle, columnist for Outdoors Magazine and contributor to New York Outdoor News. Contact him at www.adkhunter.com.