Easement and property transfers proposed for continued protection
By Zachary Matson
Two organizations dedicated to land conservation in the Adirondacks this week initiated merger discussions, officials announced in a joint press release on Wednesday.
An agreement between the Lake Placid Land Conservancy and the Adirondack Land Trust would result in the Lake Placid conservancy transferring its easements and properties to the larger park-wide trust, while ensuring protections under existing provisions.
Greg Fetters, the Lake Placid Land Conservancy chair, said as the organization recently began long-term planning, the board determined that exploring a merger with the Adirondack Land Trust could best serve goals.
“We concluded that it would better serve everyone, conservation in the Adirondacks and donors to explore a merger with the wonderful organization,” Fetters said. “We shared a common geography, common donor base and even shared some board members.”
The Lake Placid group last week approved initiating merger talks, and Fetters approached Mike Carr, executive director of the Adirondack Land Trust. The Adirondack Land Trust board this week approved continued negotiations.
“Our guiding principle is how do we get more conservation done, and if this is one way to do it, we are interested,” Carr said in an interview.
Carr said the organization, which has a staff of around a dozen employees, would be well positioned to take on responsibility for the conservancy’s easements and properties, but will be examining details as part of its due diligence. He also noted the two organizations’ overlapping geographical focus and the potential for more efficient management from merger.
“I think there are some efficiencies to be had, we have a strong land management team,” Carr said. “Being able to apply our staff to land management and strong communication and clear messaging will help people better understand where the opportunities are.”
Fetters said the Adirondack Land Trust in recent years has demonstrated an ability to work on both small and large projects; he also highlighted the efficiency of combining organizations with separate filings, offices and executive director.
“There is no question they (Adirondack Land Trust) are one of the most recognized land trusts in New York state and no question they can do these things,” he said. “It was a difficult decision (to consider a merger) but Adirondack Land Trust is a great organization.”
Both organizations were recently accredited by a national land trusts organization, easing the process of a merger, Fetters and Carr noted.
The Lake Placid Land Conservancy was created in 2013 through the merger of the Placid Lake Foundation and the North Elba Land Conservancy, two smaller organizations focused on land conservation in the Lake Placid region. Since then the organization has helped protect 340 acres in the towns of North Elba, Jay, Keene and Wilmington.
The conservancy arranged a conservation easement on a 39-acre property along Lake Placid’s west shore, protecting nearly 2,000 feet of shoreline; an easement on a 133-acre property along the West Branch of the Ausable River; and an easement on a 135-acre property in Jay that includes part of Otis Brook. It also acquired a 25-acre Keene property adjacent to the High Peaks Wilderness slated for eventual transfer to the state, and the 100-acre public Three Sisters Preserve in Wilmington, which provides a key connection for mountain bike trails maintained by the Barkeater Trails Alliance.
The Adirondack Land Trust has worked on scores of land conservation projects, ranging from one acre to more than 1,000 acres. Some of the projects are transferred to the state, some provide public access and some ensure farms protect local water and other environmental resources in the future.
Carr said the goal is to connect people to protected places.