Protecting the heart of the Park

Above: Paddlers enjoy a serene day on the newly opened Essex Chain Lakes.

When paper manufacturer Finch, Pruyn and Co. hired the Adirondack Chapter of the Nature Conservancy to conduct a biological survey of a 161,000-acre parcel of land bordering the towns of Newcomb and Johnsburg, it was a rare opportunity for environmentalists to check out lands closed to the public since the Civil War. The findings were significant. Places like OK Slip Falls and Blue Ledge on the banks of the Upper Hudson River house ecosystems that support globally and locally endangered species.

TNC Adirondack Chapter Executive Director Mike Carr began discussions with Finch, Pruyn concerning the preservation of these natural wonders. As it turned out, Finch, Pruyn was interested in divesting itself of the land entirely. 

This was a heavy lift  for the local TNC chapter. It would be the largest land acquisition in the park in more than 100 years, costing $110 million to start. Eyes on the ecological prize, they borrowed the purchase price and established the $35 million Heart of the Adirondacks fundraising campaign to pay conservation and carrying costs until New York State and other holding companies could acquire carefully identified acreage from TNC directly. This was a heavy lift  for the local TNC chapter. It would be the largest land acquisition in the park in more than 100 years, costing $110 million to start. Eyes on the ecological prize, they borrowed the purchase price and established the $35 million Heart of the Adirondacks fundraising campaign to pay conservation and carrying costs until New York State and other holding companies could acquire carefully identified acreage from TNC directly.

Several funds at Adirondack Foundation awarded grants to the campaign, including the Adirondack Woodland Trust, the Meredith Prime Fund, the Rocky Bog Fund, the Jarvis Lamy Fund, the Ernst Family Fund, and the Master Family Fund.acquisition in the park in more than 100 years, costing $110 million to start. Eyes on the ecological prize, they borrowed the purchase price and established the $35 million Heart of the Adirondacks fundraising campaign to pay conservation and carrying costs until New York State and other holding companies could acquire carefully identified acreage from TNC directly.

“Support from Adirondack Foundation helped give us the courage and the wherewithal to take on this epic project — and to implement a balanced conservation plan that includes protection of commercial working forests, provision of new state lands available to everyone for recreation, and new opportunities for communities to bolster their tourism and recreation economies,” Carr says. 

“The Heart of the Adirondacks, like no other project I have been privileged to support, exemplifies the best of what conservation can hope to achieve,” says Larry Master. “The project knits together, into one much more cohesive whole, the two halves of the largest protected complex of lands and waters in the lower 48 states, where man and nature can coexist in a mutually supportive way, and ensuring that this ‘heart’ of the Adirondacks will remain forever wild.”

The project dramatically increases the ability of species to survive the ravages of climate change by securing room to move northward and upslope; by keeping many large natural habitats intact; and by preventing fragmentation and degradation of this great landscape.

From day one, TNC was meeting with communities that would be aff ected by the deal, according to Communications Director Connie Prickett.

“Many communities saw new opportunities,” she says. Local concerns were weighed as the conservation plan was crafted. 

The results are positive. The Park has seen an increase in ecotourism, says Prickett. Newcomb, for example, is experiencing brand new tourist traffic because of a beautiful, remote canoe access on newly available waterways there.