Paterson to move forward with land, easement acquisitions

SARANAC LAKE - Just days after Gov. David Paterson announced he'd put a moratorium on state land acquisitions, officials of the state Department of Environmental Conservation said they're moving forward with a trio of land deals.

The Associated Press reported that Paterson's administration is in the process of wrapping up three different deals to buy the last two undeveloped Finger Lakes, 1,220 acres in the Catskills and conservation rights to 89,000 acres of Adirondack timberlands.

Paterson said he'll halt several other planned purchases of wilderness and open space.

According to AP reports, Paterson plans to close on an easement on former Finch Pruyn timberlands located mainly in the central Adirondacks.

Connie Prickett spoke to WNBZ Thursday on behalf of the Adirondack Nature Conservancy.

"This has been in the works for two, two-and-half years now," she said. "So it's not a surprise and we have been moving forward. Every day there's been behind-the-scenes work going on with the DEC on this conservation easement. It's great to hear that they're committed to closing that easement with money in the current fiscal year."

Prickett noted the state isn't buying any land from the Nature Conservancy. Rather, the state is acquiring a conservation easement, which means it gets certain rights associated with the land.

The land in question is owned by ATP Timberland Invest, a Danish pension fund. Once the state gets the easement, ATP maintains ownership of the land and will continue to harvest it for timber.

An agreement with the Finch Paper Mill in Glens Falls requires ATP to continue providing timber to the mill.

Prickett noted that the state will maintain recreation rights over the land.

"There are some snowmobile rights associated with this, and other recreational rights - and recreational leasing can continue on the land as well," she said. "There are a lot of economic benefits associated with this arrangement."

Adirondack Local Government Review Board Executive Director Fred Monroe said local governments would prefer to see the state hang onto the money and ride out the recession.

But at the same time, Monroe said the review board is pleased that the state is only moving forward with the easement acquisition in regards to the Finch Pruyn land.

"We're happy the state isn't going forward with the fee acquisition," he said. "Otherwise, those foresting and timber jobs would be lost."

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