NEWCOMB - The Nature Conservancy announced March 30 that it has sold 92,000 acres - much of which lies in the town of Newcomb - to the Danish investment firm ATP Timberland Investing K/S, acting in the interests of RMK Timberland. The purchase gives timber harvest rights to RMK under a 'strict' land easement which requires only the application of sustainable logging practices, officials said this week.
ATP purchased the land for $32.88 million, Conservancy spokeswoman Connie Prickens said April 1.
"I know that doesn't sound like a lot," Prickens said. "But ATP didn't buy all the land-use rights, so it wasn't the full market value."
Prickens said the numerous private and public land easements on the property were responsible for the reduced property value.
The 92,000 acres is part of 161,000 acres the Conservancy purchased from Finch Pruyn Paper Company in 2007.
"There is a newfound enthusiasm these days for investing in natural resources like forestland," Charlie Daniel, president of the RMK Timberland Group said in a prepared statement. "The Adirondacks is a place widely-recognized as a model in sustainability and we are delighted to be a part of this unique region."
Because of a pre-existing agreement, the bulk of the timber harvested will be sold to Finch for paper production, Conservancy officials said.
Conservancy officials praised the sale, stating it is evidence of the mutually inclusive nature of environmentalism and commerce. According to Prickens, sustainable logging typically consists of selective tree harvesting accompanied with replanting of fallen trees.
Although public access to the property is still forbidden, snowmobile access that will connect Newcomb with Indian Lake is included in the purchase agreement.
Prickens said a future expansion of public access to the property is written into the purchase agreement.
Local officials have repeatedly expressed concern about the Conservancy purchasing land, stating that there is potential for future sale to the state of New York.
State ownership of Adirondack property often includes a reduction of allowed land-use applications and often negatively affect local commerce, local officials have argued.
"It was certainly not unexpected - the good thing is that it will keep the land in timber production," Adirondack Local Government Review Board Executive Director Fred Monroe said. "I am a little concerned because I am not sure how a Danish pension firm will treat the locals and lease-holder."
Newcomb Supervisor and ALGRB Chairman George Canon echoed Monroe's sentiments, but voiced caution about the future of the land.
"From my understanding the state still plans on buying a large part of the land back," Canon said. "The positive side is that it maintains the snowmobile trail system per the agreement and keeps the land on the tax rolls."
Although the Conservancy had never filed for tax exempt status, local officials have been concerned about the possibility.
"Any time it doesn't go to the state is a help to the economy," Canon said. "It looks like the agreement restores the land use to what it was when Finch owned it."