In a ceremony Sunday afternoon in Lake Placid, Governor Andrew Cuomo signed a contract committing New York state to the purchase of roughly 69,000 acres of Adirondack timberland over the next five years.
The deal was described as the largest single expansion of the ‘forever wild’ forest preserve in the last century. Cuomo himself described the project as “a gift to our children.”
The move came as a surprise, with state and local officials learning only Saturday evening that the governor would make a trip to Lake Placid for the announcement.
The vast conservation project had been engineered by the Adirondack Nature Conservancy, just before the national recession ravaged New York state’s budget.
State officials had suggested that it might be years before the so-called Finch Pruyn lands could be acquired.
DEC commissioner Joe Martens, former leader of the Open Space Institute, described the project as a highlight for his career as a conservationist and an environmental official.
The agreement signed Sunday offers a new degree of security to the Nature Conservancy, which had struggled to manage the vast debt it incurred to launch this deal. The group raised $35 million in private contributions to aid in financing.
While green groups hailed the decision — which will protect scenic headwaters of the Hudson River, as well as wild remote lakes — some local government officials have raised questions about the state’s ability to provide stewardship for the land.
One of the deal’s staunchest critics, state Senator Betty Little, was not on hand for the ceremony.
But one local official, Democratic town supervisor Sue Montgomery Corey from Minerva, said the purchase would open up new lands in her community where local residents and tourists could hike, boat and fish.
And Republican assemblywoman Teresa Sayward gave the state and the Nature Conservancy high marks for their negotiations with towns inside the affected area.
Communities were offered a chance to acquire parcels of land that can be used for future projects.
NCPR will have details as well as more reactions to the historic deal Monday morning.
UPDATE: DEC Commissioner Joe Martens just confirmed that NYS will buy 65,000 acres of timberland over the next five years. Calls it biggest expansion of Adirondack forest preserve in 100 years. Gov. Cuomo calls deal ‘ahas gift to our children.’
I am waiting at the conference center in Lake Placid for Gov. Andrew Cuomo to arrive. Sources here say he will lock the state into a five year plan to purchase a huge swath of new timberland for the Adirondack forest preserve. The deal has been a priority for green groups. Details soon…