Earth Day Land Conservation Deal Makes New York History

ALBANY, New York, April 23, 2004 (ENS) - The largest land conservation agreement in New York State history - an agreement between the state and the International Paper Company to preserve 255,000 acres within the Adirondack Park - was announced Thursday to mark Earth Day. The lands to be protected encompass nine counties and 34 towns within the park.

Governor George Pataki said the state will purchase working forest conservation easements on more than 255,236 acres and will purchase an additional 2,000 acres outright. Logging will continue, but it will be done in a sustainable manner. Cost of the deal, which allows the state to govern development on the properties, is about $25 million.

“More than 100 years ago, the people of New York State had the foresight to create the Adirondack Park to ensure the preservation of these environmentally significant lands for our benefit and that of future generations,” Governor Pataki said. "As we celebrate Earth Day, we are proud to build on that legacy by announcing the largest land conservation agreement in state history.


New York Governor George Pataki says the agreement with International Paper will conserve Adirondack land for public recreation. (Photo courtesy Office of the Governor)
These conservation easements bring the total open space preserved in New York state since Governor Pataki took office in January 1995 to a total of 780,000 acres – an amount of land roughly equivalent to the size of the state of Rhode Island, the governor said proudly.

The properties - 21 separate tracts - represent nearly all of International Paper’s Adirondack Park holdings, covering about nine percent of the park’s privately owned forest land. They include productive forest land, miles of rivers and stream corridors and more than 250 miles of existing or potential hiking and snowmobile trails.

Tom Jorling, vice president of environmental affairs for International Paper, said, “As a steward of more than 19 million acres of forest land worldwide, International Paper is deeply committed to well managed forests and environmental protection. We put that commitment into action daily and the easement provides a great opportunity to promote and demonstrate the compatibility of environmental, recreational and economic interests."

The agreement is one of the largest ever brokered within the Northern Forest region of New York, Vermont, New Hampshire and Maine.

It was facilitated by The Conservation Fund, a nonprofit conservation organization based in Arlington, Virginia. Conservation Fund President Larry Selzer said, “We believe this partnership represents a new brand of conservation and model for the nation, bringing together public, private and nonprofit organizations to balance economic and environmental objectives."

The deal doubles the amount of working forest easements the state holds within the park to 513,000 acres. The easement will restrict subdivision and further development on the property. The state will pay its proportionate share of local taxes on the easements it holds within the park.

The arrangement provides public recreation rights and requires sustainable forestry operations that protect water quality and wildlife habitat to ensure the long term maintenance of the forest resource.

Also as part of the agreement, the state will acquire full public recreation rights on 84,232 acres and partial public rights, including the ability to maintain and build hiking and snowmobile trails, on 171,004 acres.

International Paper will retain ownership of these lands and work cooperatively with the state as it develops public recreational plans guiding public use of these lands in the future.

“Our vision for the Adirondack Park includes sustainable forestry, vibrant tourism and protection of the natural resources upon which we all depend for our well being,” said State Department of Environmental Conservation Commissioner Erin Crotty. “This conservation agreement achieves all these goals on a truly historic scale.”


Canoeing the Jessup River, one of the areas conserved under the agreement announced on Earth Day 2004. (Photo courtesy Adirondack Paddle 'n Pole)
The agreement was structured to preserve the rights of various private recreation club organizations that currently lease large portions of the property for hunting, fishing and other outdoor recreational activities, while expanding public recreational opportunities.

It allows for the development of a net total of 40 additional lease camp buildings on the property and will require the removal of certain camps located in environmentally sensitive locations near water bodies. Under the agreement, all new camps must be located at least 300 feet from water bodies and wetlands and include no more than 500 square feet of interior space.

New York Congressman Sherwood Boehlert applauded Governor Pataki for "enlightened leadership in protecting the land and resources of beautiful Upstate New York."

"Opening these lands for public access will provide sportsmen with more opportunities to hunt and fish," Boehlert said, "and the new trails that will be created will increase options for families who want to hike, bike or snowmobile in Upstate New York.”

New York conservation organizations were ecstatic. David Gibson, executive director of the Association for the Protection of the Adirondacks said, “The conservation of these Adirondack lands by the state, International Paper and its partners will become one of the most important stories of Adirondack 21st Century history.

These lands cover just about every corner of the Adirondacks, said Gibson. "These lands include both banks of great and scenic Adirondack rivers like the Jessup, the Independence and the West Branch St. Regis, as well as Adirondack lakes that are the jewels of the North Country."

David Miller, executive director of Audubon New York, said, “We know that maintaining a mosaic of different forest harvest and management practices can contribute to a greater diversity of bird and other wildlife species. These purchases will also forstall future development pressures over an extensive region.”

Adirondack Council Executive Director Brian Houseal said, “With this easement and fee purchase, Governor Pataki has solidified his role as the modern architect of the Adirondack Park. The Governor, International Paper and The Conservation Fund should all be commended for this historic agreement."