One of the most exciting acquisitions of land for the Forest Preserve in years has been expected since the Nature Conservancy bought 161,000 acres of land from Finch Paper in 2007. But as the state government fell into financial crisis and opposition to the purchase grew even among previous supporters, questions lingered. Would the state fulfill its promise to buy sixty-five thousand acres of the Finch land for preservation and public use as Forest Preserve? (The Nature Conservancy sold nearly all of the remaining lands with conservation easements to private timber interests.)
Doubts vanished in early August when Governor Andrew Cuomo announced the state now has a contract to buy the lands, which include such spectacular locations as OK Slip Falls, the Essex Chain of Lakes, and Boreas Ponds. It’s a historic victory for the cause of wilderness preservation and a priceless opportunity for the people to experience regions of the Adirondacks that have been closed to the public.
This dream won’t be fully realized for a few years more. The state will complete its $49.8 million purchase over five years. And the Adirondack Park Agency will have to classify the new lands and determine how we can use them. That process doubtless will—and should—involve many groups interested in the Park, a time-consuming but healthy debate. But the lands will be open for public use before the process is completed.
Debate will center on what portions of the tracts should be classified Wilderness, with motor vehicles prohibited, and which should be open to some motorized use. Though details are open to discussion, the APA would best serve the interests of the people and the spirit of the Park by designating the great majority of these lands as Wilderness.