The New York State Outdoor Guides recently got together for their annual Rendezvous, and I got the opportunity to learn about some new public recreation opportunities in the Adirondacks.
The former Finch Pruyn and Company Adirondack woodlands have been purchased by the Nature Conservancy and Adirondack Land Trust; Director of Communications Connie Prickett attended the Rendezvous to inform the guides of the possibilities that will open up as these lands are on their way to state ownership.
The Adirondack Chapter of the Nature Conservancy has spent more than 40 years purchasing Adirondack lands in need of conserving, while balancing the needs of outdoor enthusiasts, local communities, loggers, critical wildlife, and for the protection of the ecosystem. It is a challenging task. The 161,000 acres in the Finch purchase is a complex project, primarily located in the heart of the Adirondacks. It includes 415 miles of rivers and streams, 90 mountains, 300 lakes and ponds, and parts of the Hudson River watershed. A hundred significant plant species can be found there with 37 of them rare. When the project is completed, it will include Forest Preserve lands along with easement lands in private ownership. In my estimation, it is one of the greatest land purchases ever made - 11 times the size of Mahattan Island.
Those who are Adirondack savvy will recognize the Essex Chain of eight connected lakes, the Boreas River and Pond, OK Slip Falls, and the Blue Ledges, as well as the Hudson and Cedar rivers are part of this vast purchase. You might say we are great Adirondack landowners.
The former Finch lands are found in 27 towns and six counties, with much of it falling within five of those towns. When the estimated five-year project is complete, it will consist of about 97,000 acres in commercial working forest lands, the state public lands and some local community parcels. New snowmobile links and trails will add 70 miles or more to existing trails, with one outstanding successful Indian Lake-Newcomb connection. New access to the high peaks and to the Indian River/Hudson River waterways will be developed. The 1,000-acre swamp near Edinburgh, great moose country, will have boardwalks and viewing platforms built in anticipation of state ownership.
It is difficult to envision the expansive scope of the Finch acquisition. There are small details - such as allowing present lease holders to move onto easement lands?- and there are major details - such as the raising of the $35 million that paid for the property - involved in it. One potential, major side effect to come is a "great eastern hiking route" that will rival the Northville-Placid Trail in popularity and use.
We, who live in New York state, are fortunate that we own acres of forested Adirondack lands; half of our nation's forested lands are now gone. Not only will they be there for our use and future uses, but they are essential to maintaining our lives on earth. Their contribution to the air we breathe and to the water we drink cannot be underestimated; it behooves us all to support the preserving of forest lands, whether here or in the precious rain forests. Thanks to the Adirondack Chapter of the Nature Conservancy, we can look forward to adding some vital forest lands to the NYS Forest Preserve.