In the News  Archive

Editorial: State benefits from buying former Finch lands

Post Star - Editorial
May 1, 2015

New York’s purchase from the Nature Conservancy of 69,000 acres of former Finch Paper company land for about $50 million will someday be recognized as a deal so good it rivals the U.S. purchase of Alaska.

In 1867, the U.S. paid Russia $7.2 million for more than 500,000 square miles of territory in Alaska, about two cents an acre for what would prove to be some of the richest land in the world in terms of natural resources.

About a century and a half later, New York paid about $724 an acre for the Finch lands, some of the most beautiful wild land in the country, including 175 lakes and ponds, 180 miles of rivers and streams, numerous hills and mountains, bogs, fens and forests.

Because of the state purchase, stunning wilderness that was off-limits to the public now belongs to the people of New York and can be used by hikers, paddlers and anglers.

We have not always supported state purchases of land in the Adirondacks, especially not while the state was neglecting other pressing needs, such as infrastructure upkeep. But when you have the chance to pick up for a pittance a natural treasure that will boost tourism and the regional economy, you have to say yes.

Consider that the $50 million New York is spending on these invaluable lands is about 77 times less than the $3.9 billion the state is spending on the new Tappan Zee Bridge now under construction.

The bridge will be wearing out in 100 years or so, and future New Yorkers will have to build another one. The Adirondack wilderness will probably outlast the state itself.

We have also criticized state purchases when the land in question seemed not to justify the expense, especially with so many claims competing for every state dollar. But the availability of the Finch lands was the opposite situation, a purchase that, if not completed, would have haunted the state as a lost opportunity to create a natural legacy.

Although the deal was made in 2012, the state has been acquiring the lands a piece at a time and just paid for and took ownership of the latest piece — 6,200 acres at the southern edge of the High Peaks area, in the town of Newcomb.

This latest acquisition includes access to more than 5 miles of the Hudson River and 7 miles of the Opalescent River, with spectacular paddling and fishing areas that will be open immediately to the public.

“The junction of the Opalescent and Hudson is hallowed ground. There are big sandbars and incredibly clear water,” said Mike Carr, executive director of The Nature Conservancy’s Adirondack chapter.

Although this is wilderness land, some of it will be easy to get to from roads that used to serve mines and timber operations in the Tahawus area.

The people of the state have The Nature Conservancy to thank, and Carr in particular, for the bold purchase of a huge tract in 2007 and the subsequently successful efforts to sell the most scenic section of it to the state.

About two-thirds of the 69,000-acre deal has been completed now, and the rest could be transferred later this year. It’s a purchase that adds to the stature of the Adirondacks as a premiere spot for outdoor recreation and which will bring pleasure to New Yorkers for many years.

 

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