State closes on 9,300 more acres of former Finch lands

The state has completed the purchase of another 9,300 acres in the Adirondacks, most of it former Finch, Pruyn and Co. timberlands.

The lands involved in this second phase of the Finch deal, which the governor announced last summer, include the 2,800-acre OK Slip Falls tract in the town of Indian Lake, the 1,500-acre Casey Brook tract in the town of North Hudson, the 940-acre Indian River tract in the towns of Minerva and Indian Lake, and The Saddles, a 2,500-acre parcel in the Washington County town of Whitehall. The deal also includes two smaller tracts in Warren and Washington counties.

The state buying the land from the Adirondack Chapter of The Nature Conservancy, which had bought it from Finch, Pruyn as part of a 161,000-acre deal in 2007. The Conservancy sold more than 90,000 of those acres to a Dutch pension fund for logging, with conservation easements sold to the state. Another 69,000 is going to the state.

The state paid the Conservancy $6.3 million for the latest 9,300 acres and will pay full property taxes on each tract, according to a press release from Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s office.

“There is not a more fitting way to celebrate Earth Week than protecting spectacular property in the Adirondack Park that will create tourism opportunities and bring more visitors to this magnificent place,” Cuomo said in the release. “With these newest acquisitions, we are building upon past state investments in the Adirondacks as we enhance a world-class Park that contains a wealth of private and public lands in one of the most beautiful settings on earth.”

State officials had hinted in recent months that they were close to finalizing the purchase of several of these tracts. One aspect of the deal that hadn’t been reported, however, is that the state is getting $500,000 from The Nature Conservancy to be used for “economic development and community connections” in the towns involved in the Finch deal, including Newcomb, Minerva, North Hudson, Indian Lake and Long Lake.

TNC spokeswoman Connie Prickett said Tuesday that the specifics of how those funds will be doled out and used are still in the works, but “you could sort of envision things like promotion and stewardship of these new lands and public access.

“We’re going to work out the details, but this is one way for the Nature Conservancy to continue with its community outreach and keep the momentum going for communities to benefit from their proximity to these newly protected lands,” she said. “We look forward to working with DEC and local stakeholders to figure out the spending plan for those funds.”

The state has signed a contract to buy 69,000 acres of former Finch lands in phases over five years for $48 million, using money drawn from each year’s state Environmental Protection Fund. The first phase of the deal closed in December, when the state bought the 18,000-acre Essex Chain of Lakes tract in Newcomb and Minerva for $12.3 million.

State Adirondack Park Agency officials said last month that they’re working on a draft classification plan for at least three of the tracts the state has closed on: the Essex Chain, OK Slip Falls and Indian River parcels. The plan will determine the extent of public and recreational access to the lands, most of which have been off limits to the public since before the Civil War.

The state Department of Environmental Conservation has proposed classifying 13,000 acres of the Essex Chain parcel as wild forest, making it part of a new Essex Chain Canoe Recreation Area. Another portion of the Essex Chain tract – a section that runs along the Hudson River – would become part of a new Hudson River Gorge Wilderness that would also include the Indian River and OK Slip parcels, and what is now the Hudson River Gorge Primitive Area.

A public comment period will begin once APA’s draft classification plan is released, likely sometime in the next few months, and public hearings will be held around the state before the agency’s recommendations are sent to the governor for approval.

Once the classifications are approved, DEC will develop unit management plans for the properties, but the public won’t have to wait until then to access some of the former Finch lands.

The APA and DEC are currently working on an interim public access plan that would provide early access to the Hudson and Cedar rivers through the Essex Chain of Lakes and Indian River tracts, according to the governor’s press release. The plan is expected to be released in the next few weeks with public motor vehicle access to begin in late May or early June, depending on road conditions.

Contact Chris Knight at 518-891-2600 ext. 24 or