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Donated easement protects 1,400 acres

KEESEVILLE - A private landowner has donated a conservation easement to the Open Space Institute that will forever protect a 1,400-acre forest in northern Essex County.

The parcel, a largely wooded tract owned by the Johanson family, buffers the western shoreline of scenic Butternut Pond and includes a mile-long stretch that is highly visible from Interstate 87. It also includes lands on Poke-o-Moonshine Mountain, and sits within the viewshed of the historic firetower on the summit of Poke-o-Moonshine, a popular destination for rock climbers, hikers and cross-country skiers.

Eric Johanson began traveling to the Adirondacks with his parents in the late 1940s. He purchased a 175-acre tract in the area when he was 19 years old, then acquired other contiguous parcels over time to create a sanctuary he called Baldface Mountain Preserve. His ancestors came from Sweden and were landowners and farmers, so forestry and land ownership are a family tradition, he said.

"I did not struggle to put this preserve together to develop it," Johanson, "but to practice conservation, to hunt and fish, and to leave it intact for future generations as a model of sustainable forestry."

The donation was made to the Open Space Conservancy, OSI's land acquisition affiliate.

The conservation easement restricts all commercial and residential development on the property, and restricts forestry practices to those that are environmentally responsible and sustainable. The Johanson family retains ownership of the land and may pass it on or even sell the land, although the terms of the easement must be adhered to by future owners.

The Johanson property is bisected by several brooks, most of which feed into Auger Lake, which in turn empties into the Au Sable River and eventually into Lake Champlain.

"The acquisition of this conservation easement represents a next step toward OSI's long-held goal of protecting signature Adirondack landscapes," said Joe Martens, OSI's president. "This forest has been sustainably managed for decades, and is emblematic of the matchless beauty of the region."

In the past 15 years, OSI has protected iconic Adirondack landscapes such as the 2,000-acre Last Chance Ranch south of Lake Placid, the 10,000-acre-plus Tahawus tract at the southern entrance to the High Peaks-which includes the historic village of Adirondac, and other important natural areas.

In 2007, OSI also participated, as a conservation lender, in the The Nature Conservancy's celebrated Finch-Pruyn acquisition, a single transaction that protected nearly 250 square miles of forestland, streams, lakes and mountains just south of the High Peaks region.

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