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April 19, 2013

Adriondacks keep growing and growing

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The Daily Star

---- — The Adirondacks are a patchwork of state- and privately-owned lands. The 6 million acres that make up this great region means it's larger than Yellowstone, Yosemite, Grand Canyon, Great Smoky and the Everglade National parks put together.

Of this vast wilderness, with its beautiful lakes and forests, better than 2.6 million acres are state-owned and in the forest preserve, and that number is rapidly growing.

Thousands and thousands of acres of the Adirondacks have been owned by large paper companies for as much as 150 years. These privately-owned forests provided pulp wood for the many paper mills and employed a great number of people, but times are changing.

As the need for paper increases with the world’s population growth, companies such as International Paper have sold their interests in New York and moved elsewhere. Taxes and environmental restrictions are having an effect on these companies.

Some have been concerned when a large paper company decides to sell its land. These lands have vast acreages and beautiful backcountry lakes that private developers would love to acquire. To keep the wolves at bay and protect these lands from development, much of them have been bought by the state through organizations whose sole purpose is to protect the wilderness.

In 2007, the Nature Conservancy purchased the entire 161,000-acre property of the Finch Pruyn Paper Company, whose headquarters are in Glens Falls, for $49.8 million. Plans have been made for the state to buy these lands over the next five years to protect them for the future.

In 2010, the state acquired the first 89,000 acres through conservation easements. Over the next few years, the remaining portion will be purchased.

Many feel there is enough state land in the Adirondacks. If this land was owned by private individuals, there would be a growing economy and a larger tax base to help the struggling communities of the north country. But I disagree.

Wilderness around the country is quickly vanishing. We need to protect the wild lands and keep them available to everyone. This Finch Pruyn land has more than 180 miles of rivers and streams, 175 pristine lakes and ponds, and more than 465 miles of shoreline. The Essex Chain of Lakes, Boreas Ponds and OK Slip Falls, as well as the Hudson River Gorge, can be found in this vast forest.

There will be active forest management on some sections of the property, but the recreational opportunities are endless. Premier hunting and fishing, hiking, camping, mountain biking, paddling, cross-country skiing and a snowmobile trail system will be available to everyone once the deal is final.

If this great area had been sold to developers and private individuals, the public would be locked out forever because once the posted signs go up, it’s all over.

This beautiful property is not the end. Other paper companies will leave the state and other private lands are being added to the state’s holdings every year.

But remember, we are the state. The great Adirondack Park belongs to all of us.

We should be grateful that organizations such as the Nature Conservancy and others have the funds and are determined to help save our vanishing wilderness.

Rick Brockway writes a weekly outdoors column for The Daily Star. Email him at robrockway@hotmail.com.