8,451 more acres

The state plans to pay $5.7 million to buy another 8,451 acres of former Finch, Pruyn and Co. timberlands, most of which are in the Adirondack Park.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced Tuesday the third phase of the state’s deal with The Nature Conservancy to eventually add 69,000 acres of former Finch land to the state Forest Preserve. He also announced $875,000 in grants and projects for tourism and recreation-related projects in the Park.

“Protecting these lands and providing grants for site improvements helps ensure that the Forest Preserve remains an unparalleled natural, recreational, and economic asset available to all visitors,” Cuomo said in a press release.

Since Cuomo signed a five-year, $48.6 million agreement with The Nature Conservancy in 2012, the state has added roughly 30,000 acres to the Forest Preserve in two phases. The first phase closed in December 2012, when the state bought the Essex Chain of Lakes tract in Newcomb and Minerva for $12.3 million. In February of last year, the state spent $6.3 million to acquire the OK Slip Falls tract in the town of Indian Lake, the Indian River tract in Indian Lake and Minerva, and several others.

This latest phase includes 14 tracts spread across Fulton, Warren, Essex, Hamilton and Saratoga counties. They contain miles of rivers and streams, ponds, wildlife habitat and trails, and offer opportunities for hiking, wildlife viewing, cross-country skiing and mountain biking, according to the governor’s release:

Blue Ridge Road (Essex County, 77 acres), which can potentially provide enhanced recreational access to the Dix Mountain Wilderness

Hudson River Hyslop (Essex County, 301 acres), near the state-run Harris Lake Campground, can potentially provide improved access to Duck Hole

North River (Essex and Warren Counties, 155 acres), which contains flood plain and upland forests and more than one mile of Hudson River shoreline

Benson Road (Fulton County, 3,820 acres), which borders the Shaker Mountain Wild Forest, connects snowmobile trails in the towns of Mayfield and Bleeker

Township 33 (Hamilton County, 451 acres) contains a section of the popular 120-mile Northville-Placid Trail, as well as an exposed cliff on Sugarloaf Mountain

Good Luck Tract (Hamilton County, 418 acres) can provide access to Stonystep and Big Bad Luck ponds

Buell Valley (Hamilton County, 10 acres) contains Buell Brook and was once the site of the Finch, Pruyn’s river drive pusher dam

Cedar Ridge (Hamilton County, 548 acres) contains two small ponds and is next to the Blue Ridge Wilderness, which hosts a major section of the Northville-Placid Trail

Black Spruce Mountain (Warren County, 191 acres), which is next to the Lake George Wild Forest, features Black Spruce Mountain and a section of Podunk Brook.

This phase of the deal also includes properties just south of the Park’s Blue Line in Saratoga County that have been used for mountain biking, hunting and other recreation: the Daniels Road tract (519 acres), the Penn York tract (241 acres) and the Town Line tract (176 acres). Another 1,248 acres in the town of Edinburg and 154 acres in the town of Greenfield are involved in this phase.

The lands are being purchased with money taken from the state Environmental Protection Fund.

State Department of Environmental Conservation spokesman Peter Constantakes said the state hasn’t closed on most of these new parcels but will soon.

“We’re committed to acquiring these lands, and we continue to work with The Nature Conservancy and hope to close on these parcels by the end of the state fiscal year or soon thereafter,” he said.

The Nature Conservancy bought these lands 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. Some land went to towns for community uses, and the remaining 69,000 acres are going to the state in phases over five years.

Once the state closes on the tracts in this third phase of the deal, only two tracts will be left for it to acquire, the 11,950-acre McIntyre Works tract near Newcomb and the 22,000-acre Boreas Ponds parcel, which borders the High Peaks and Dix Mountain wilderness areas.

Grants

Grants are being offered to local municipalities that will enhance public access to these lands. TNC has set aside $500,000 for projects in the Upper Hudson Recreation Hub including a seasonal shuttle service for hikers, bikers and paddlers, trailhead parking and waterway access on municipal lands and local infrastructure to support recreation. Another $300,000 from the EPF will be allocated to the Adirondack Smart Growth grant program to support projects that foster sustainable development, environmental protection and community livability. TNC is also providing $75,000 to support paddling events, to try and build on the success of the 2013 Adirondack Challenge in Indian Lake. The events will be coordinated through the Adirondack Regional Tourism Council.

Local and state elected officials say they’re pleased this phase of the deal includes funding to help promote tourism and recreation.

“I’ve talked with many local officials about their visions for maximizing the tourism economic development potential on these lands,” said state Sen. Betty Little. “I’m pleased to see grant money being made available for biking, hiking, snowmobiling, paddling and promotion.”

“This investment of funds from TNC assures that the towns have the opportunity to connect the recreational opportunities back to their local economies,” said Bill Farber, chairman of the Hamilton County Board of Supervisors.

Contact Chris Knight at 891-2600 ext. 24 or cknight@adirondackdailyenterprise.com.