In the News  Archive

State to tackle motorized issue in new Adirondack land purchase

Times Union
May 10, 2016

In a visit Tuesday to the Adirondacks, Gov.  Andrew Cuomo called more than 22,000 acres of new state property "one of the most important additions ever made to the state Forest Preserve," while advocates for making that land motor-free released a study claiming nearby wilderness boosts property values.

Cuomo also directed the  Adirondack Park Agency to determine what uses will be allowed at the new Boreas Ponds tract recently purchased for $14.5 million from  The Nature Conservancy as part of forest once owned by the  Finch Pruyn paper company.

Cuomo said the APA decision on how to classify the Essex County land would be based on "careful consideration of the natural resources' capacity to withstand use." The review is expected to start this summer.

The forest is between the North River Mountain Range to the west and the Boreas Mountain Range to the east. Spectacular views of the High Peaks Wilderness — such as Marcy, Haystack, Gothics and Saddleback — can be seen from a number of spots.

Also Tuesday, the Adirondack Council, which wants much of that land classified as wilderness, which would ban motorized uses, issued a Clarkson University study that sought to answer an age-old question in the Adirondacks: What is the value of wilderness?

Based on a computerized analysis of more than 77,000 property sales in 12 Adirondack counties between 2004 and 2013, the study found land near motor-free areas sold for up to 25 percent more than land near areas without such a ban.

"Proximity to protected land positively impacts property values, said  Martin Heintzelman, an associate business professor at Clarkson who led the study. "We find that properties within 0.5 to 6 miles of wilderness are valued at up to a 25 percent premium."

About 45 percent of the state's 2.5 million acres in the Adirondacks is deemed wilderness. About 50 percent is classified as wild forest, which allows for motorized uses like vehicles, snowmobiles and float planes, and can contain roads and bridges, parking lots and mountain bike trails.

"There is no better indicator of economic value of something than the price people are willing to pay to be near it," said William Janeway, executive director of the Adirondack Council. "The study shows the positive economic impact of wilderness on Adirondack communities as people pay much more for a home or business near an Adirondack Park Wilderness Area than they will pay for homes or businesses near less protected public land."

Bill Farber, chairman of the Hamilton County Legislature and past president of the Adirondack Association of Towns and Villages, said, "While home and property values are a factor in evaluating the economic success of an area, it is certainly not the most important indicator. Home values and the strength of the real estate market within the Adirondacks has not been an issue."

Farber said local governments are "looking for jobs, long-term economic success, and how to make the communities viable. This will ultimately be about creating economic success and jobs, which will allow people to live and work here."

"Increases in property values near wilderness do not equal an improved economy for most of the Adirondacks," said  Fred Monroe, executive director of the  Adirondack Park Local Government Review Board. "If that were true, the Adirondack economy would be booming. It's not. The Adirondack population would be increasing. It's not. Young people would be moving in. They are moving out — because jobs are scarce and getting scarcer."

Neil Woodworth, executive director of the Adirondack Mountain Club, said the Clarkson study confirmed the state's earlier decision to classify the Hudson Gorge as wilderness. "The state should do the same with the Boreas tract," he added.

The study found the premium for land near wilderness was also as great as that for waterfront property, which sold for 27 percent more on average compared to property without water.

"The lesson here is that the greatest economic value of these lands is not from opening them to automobiles, snowmobiles, or other motorized recreation," said  Peter Iwanowicz, executive director of Environmental Advocates of New York.

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