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The Essex Chain of Lakes. The process is now underway to determine what kind of recreation and public use will be allowed. Photo: Carl Heilman, courtesy Adirondack Nature Conservancy
The Essex Chain of Lakes. The process is now underway to determine what kind of recreation and public use will be allowed. Photo: Carl Heilman, courtesy Adirondack Nature Conservancy

What will NYS do with Finch, Pruyn Adirondack lands?

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The state is close to completing the purchase of two more parcels of former Finch, Pruyn and Co. timberlands that will be added to the Adirondack Forest Preserve.

Meanwhile, staff from the Adirondack Park Agency are preparing for the first of what's expected to be several years of work to classify 69,000 acres of the former Finch lands. The state made that $50-million landmark deal with The Nature Conservancy last year. Some of those lands are set to be opened up for public recreation later this year.

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Reported by

Chris Knight
Adirondack Correspondent

Adirondack Park Agency Planning Director Jim Connolly told the APA board recently that it will likely have three parcels to consider during this year’s state land classification process for the former Finch lands. They include the 18,000-acre Essex Chain of Lakes tract, which the state bought in December, and two other parcels that are expected to close soon: the 1,000-acre Indian River tract and the 3,000-acre OK Slip Falls parcel.

"Our intent is to bring all of these and potentially one other parcel to the agency once we have our [State Environmental Quality Review] documents developed," Connolly said.

The other parcel Connolly mentioned that could be part of the deal is what is now the Hudson River Gorge Primitive Area. The Adirondack Park State Land Master Plan says it should become wilderness once the primitive area’s private in-holdings are acquired by the state.

The APA's job will be to classify the lands based on their character and their capacity to withstand use. It has nine different classification categories to choose from, including wilderness, which is the most restrictive, and wild forest, where some human use, including motor vehicles, is allowed but where the land still retains a wild character.

Former APA lawyer and commissioner Bill Kissel of Lake Placid told the board there’s already a debate brewing about how much public access should be allowed on the Finch lands.

He said it will be important for the agency to use the State Land Master Plan to guide its decision making.

"I've been a commissioner; I know the influences that can be brought upon us," Kissel said. "The State Land Master Plan is where you go. ... Don't forget that. Don't let people pull you aside."

APA staff will present a list of classification alternatives either next month or at the board’s May meeting.  After that, a half dozen formal public hearings will be held around the state.

The Park Agency is pushing to have the classification of the first phase of the former Finch lands in place by Oct. 1, when most of the Essex Chain of Lakes tract can be opened up for public recreation.

A similar process is expected to take place each of the next four years for other lands involved in the Finch acquisition.

Chris Knight's reporting is courtesy of the Adirondack Daily Enterprise. For more, go to AdirondackDailyEnterprise.com.

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