Purchase adds to lands open to public in Five Ponds Wilderness
By Mike Lynch
Northeast Wilderness Trust has purchased one of the few remaining private inholdings in the Five Ponds Wilderness.
The inholding, now called the Bear Pond Forest, consists of roughly 1,050 acres of spruce-fir and northern hardwoods and three ponds in a remote part of the western Adirondacks.
“This is as wild as any place you are going to see in the East. It’s an experience that’s very unusual. It is far from major roads.”— Bob Linck, conservation director, Northeast Wilderness Trust
The purchase included two major parcels, one of 353 acres that sold for $1,070,000, another of 693 acres that sold for $2,045,000. Linck said the sellers consisted of 11 LLCs and five individuals. The land had been logged and been used recreationally for hunting and fishing by three hunting camps.
One of the hunting groups has a 10-year lease to continue using one acre of the property and the dirt-road system.
The property is open to the public, but the land trust isn’t encouraging use yet, Linck said. The land trust is in the process of developing a management plan for the property that will look at recreation opportunities.
The newly acquired acreage is about 3.5 miles north of Stillwater Reservoir in the western part of the Five Ponds Wilderness.
There are only four other privately-owned inholdings in the 107,230 Five Ponds Wilderness and adjoining 23,815-acre Pepperbox Wilderness, according to the state Department of Environmental Conservation’s website.
Open Space Institute had initially sought to purchase the Bear Pond Forest after it hit the market in 2022, hoping to buy it and sell it to the state for forest preserve. But after starting the process, OSI changed plans once it learned the state wouldn’t be able to move quickly to buy the property. So it instead worked with the Northeast Wilderness Trust.
“Open Space Institute has had its eye on this property for a long time given its prime location inside the park and its conservation context. Bear Pond Forest is a treasure and was a missing piece of the puzzle given the timber harvesting that did not conform with the surrounding landscape — one of the great wilderness areas in the Adirondacks, ” said Kim Elliman, president and CEO of OSI.
Northeast Wilderness Trust’s philosophy is to own property and let it return to its natural state.
It considers habitat connectivity a key part of its mission and its past purchases in New York reflect that. In the past 20 years, it has acquired numerous parcels in the eastern Adirondacks in the Split Rock Wildway, a wildlife corridor from Lake Champlain to the High Peaks. In October, the group purchased 1,400 acres to create the Grasse River Wilderness Preserve in St. Lawrence County in the Adirondacks to Algonquin Corridor. This wildway project aims to connect the Adirondack Park to Algonquin Park in Ontario, Canada.
The Adirondack Council and Adirondack Wilderness Advocates praised the purchase.
Council Executive Director Willie C. Janeway noted the western Adirondacks are a part of the park where cougars and wolves could return to live.
Linck said the property is now home to moose, black bear, white-tailed deer, pine martens and other animals.
“It doesn’t attract as many visitors except the wild kind,” he said.