Clockwise from left, NYSDEC Region 5 Director Robert Stegeman, DEC Regional Forester Kris Alberga, Minerva Town Board members Eric Klippel and Stephen McNally, and a few citizens survey a map showing the upcoming state land purchase in the town that were discussed during the Aug. 29 meeting.
New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) officials Wednesday, Aug. 29 met with the Minerva Town Board to discuss the state’s purchase of 69,000 acres of land from Finch Pruyn.
DEC Region 5 Director Robert Stegeman asked board members for comments regarding possible uses of the soon-to-be state land. The focus of the discussion was the 8,000 acres that are within and around the town of Minerva, an area including the Essex Chain of Lakes.
Stegeman said that he had been meeting with towns to hear their thoughts on how tie these lands to the surrounding towns’ interests. This is an opportunity for communities to share their ideas.
“These lands are coming to the state,” Stegeman said. “What we want to know is how you would like to see these lands come to the state.”
One of the central challenges is how to balance the need for conservation with the importance of helping people enjoy this natural resource.
“We want to make varying degrees of wilderness experience available to the public,” Stegeman said, adding that they would like to provide access for senior citizens and people with disabilities.
Town Councilman Eric Klippel said he was happy to hear this because he knows many seniors can’t manage the physical demands required to get out into woods, even though they would like to.
Councilman Stephen McNally said that without roads, there would only be a handful of people who would make use of the land.
While looking at a map of the area being discussed, he suggested that a road providing access to Sixth Lake would be ideal because from that point, the entire Essex Chain of Lakes would be accessible. He also wanted to know who would build and maintain these proposed roads.
DEC Regional Forester Kris Alberga told Town Board members that the DEC would be responsible for the maintenance.
A local citizen asked when these new parcels would be classified and if the classifications of existing state land would be changed. The Essex Chain Tract borders the Vanderwhacker Mountain Wild Forest, Blue Mountain Wild Forest and the Hudson Gorge Primitive Area.
Stegeman said the Adirondack Park Agency (APA) would begin the classification process after the state takes possession of the title to the land. He said that it was possible that the APA might change some of the classifications of existing parcels.
Stegeman assured the board members they were aware of the ideas and concerns of the towns and would give them careful consideration throughout this process. He also stressed the fact that this was an opportunity for the board to consider how these lands could be benefit the town and communicate their thoughts directly to the APA.
On Aug. 5, Gov. Cuomo and DEC Commissioner Joe Martens announced that New York state will acquire 69,000 acres of the former Finch Pruyn lands in the Adirondacks.
In 2007, The Nature Conservancy (TNC) purchased the entire 161,000-acre property from Finch Pruyn. TNC has managed the 65,000-acre non-easement portion of the property and 4,000 acres of other landholdings with the intent to ensure their protection. Under the agreement reached by the State and The Nature Conservancy, the property will be sold to the state in a phased five-year contract beginning this year.
Using funds dedicated for these purposes in the Environmental Protection Fund, the State will pay a total of $49.8 million for the property over five years with $13 million to be paid in this fiscal year. The balance of the funds will be paid in each fiscal year through 2016-17. The state will pay full local property and school taxes on the land.
The State has not yet purchased any of these lands at this time, so there is no public access currently available. As tracts of lands are purchased and public access becomes available, DEC will inform the public. The purchase of the first tract is expected to be completed in late 2012 or early 2013.