Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s recent decision to purchase nearly 70,000 acres of former timberlands for Adirondack Forest Preserve has been criticized as unnecessary spending in a time of economic trouble. A closer looks shows it is actually part of a larger, comprehensive plan to blunt the economic damage from the rapid exit by all of the Adirondack Park’s major timber companies at the close of the 20th century.
This plan provides the means to build a brighter future for the Adirondack Park in the 21st century.
Between 1985 and 2005, Diamond International, Domtar Industries, Lassiter Corp., Champion International, Hancock, International Paper and others placed hundreds of thousands of acres of Adirondack timberland on the market. The companies either folded or fled to the Third World, where land and labor costs are far cheaper.
At the same time, Whitney Industries placed Little Tupper Lake on the market, carved into 43 building lots. Finch Pruyn & Company was the last domino to fall in 2007, selling its vast holdings in 27 Adirondack towns.
Governors Pataki, Spitzer and Paterson took the advice of both environmental and economic development advisers when they carried out a plan to purchase the development rights on most of these lands. The resulting conservation agreements will keep them from being subdivided and sold in thousands of tiny chunks that would never again be devoted to forestry.
Together, the governors saved more than 700,000 acres of commercial timberland for the use of future generations. They also found opportunities for motorized public recreation that is not appropriate on more sensitive public lands and waters. This will help nearby communities that welcome snowmobilers or ATV riders. More than 95,000 acres of Finch lands were conserved this way.
The other half of the state’s plan is to preserve in a natural state a smaller portion of lands that rare wildlife, fragile plant life and breathtaking, natural beauty made better suited to become “forever wild” Adirondack Forest Preserve. Little Tupper Lake was one such place, as were the north-flowing rivers owned by Champion and Lassiter’s boreal wetlands.