Mike Carr discusses latest phase in Finch, Pruyn deal

The Nature Conservancy has reached the midpoint in its five-year, $48.6 million deal with the state to add 69,000 acres of former Finch, Pruyn and Co. timberlands to the state Forest Preserve.

Last week, Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced the third phase of the agreement. The state is paying the Conservancy $5.7 million for more than a dozen tracts totaling 8,451 acres, spread out over the central and southern Adirondacks. As part of this round of the deal, nearly $900,000 in grants is also being made available for tourism and recreation projects in the Park.

What makes these scattered tracts, which each range in size from 10 acres to more than 3,800 acres, so important that they should be added to the Forest Preserve? The Enterprise posed this and other questions to Mike Carr, the executive director of the Conservancy’s Adirondack Chapter and the primary architect of the Finch, Pruyn deal.

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ADE: What are the highlights, in your mind, of this phase of the deal?

Carr: These are smaller tracts spread out across the Park, and most of them adjoin existing state ownership and round out or improve access, either water access or hiking access. There’s a big section of the Northville-Placid Trail on one of them, the Cedar Ridge Tract. There’s some very interesting tracts down near Saratoga Springs, popular with mountain bikers, like the Daniels Road tract. Another is on the Hudson River, the North River Tract, which is right across from where all the rafters pull out in North River. It’s a very interesting mix. This phase potentially includes a big tract near Santanoni Mountain called McIntyre West. We’re working hard to get there, but it will greatly improve access to Santanoni (Peak) and include Lake Andrew and Mount Andrew.

ADE: I thought the McIntyre Works tract wasn’t coming until later phases of the deal. It wasn’t listed in the governor’s press release. Could it happen in this phase?

Carr: It’s one we’re working hard to get over the goal line. We may actually split it in half to get it done, but it will be part of this phase if we can get there.

ADE: Why is TNC providing more than $500,000 in grants to communities as part of this phase of the agreement?

Carr: We felt like we should provide some seed money to the communities that adjoin these lands, to have people begin to think innovatively about how to leverage the land economically for communities. Is it shuttle services or new trail access, information kiosks? What would it be? We want to get people thinking creatively about what these lands can do for the communities.

ADE: Was making this money available a response to some of the concerns raised about public access to the former Finch lands during the recent (state Adirondack Park Agency) classification process?

Carr: Not so much a response, but a recognition of our responsibility to do everything we can in thinking holistically at this scale. Conservation work at this scale has implications that go far beyond the transactional piece. This is evidence of our commitment to the Park, the governor and the people of the state in getting this right.

ADE: There was a tough battle over access to the Essex Chain of Lakes during the most recent classification process. Do you think similar battles are going to be fought each year, as more of these lands are put up for classification?

Carr: I’d prefer it wasn’t a fight, frankly, but rather parties listening hard and understanding first the potential of the resource, the newly acquired lands, and overlaying the needs of users and communities and working collaboratively. I think we learned in the Essex Chain classification process about the variety of interests and stakeholders that hope to be accommodated. I’d much prefer not to fight but rather to roll up our sleeves and try to get it right together.

ADE: In 2008, TNC bought Follensby Pond and plans to sell it to the state for addition to the Forest Preserve. Is that deal on the back burner until the Finch, Pruyn deal is completed?

Carr: It is. We are not doing any work at Follensby on the acquisition side. We are in the middle of a major fisheries assessment with McGill University. We’re raising privately a quarter of a million dollars, and we’re halfway through a two-year study of the lake trout fishery there, which is thought to be an old-growth fishery, perhaps one of the best in the Northeast. We feel an obligation to really understand that fishery before we open a dialogue on transfer or ownership.

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