KEENE VALLEY The fate of some of the most sought-after private land in the Adirondack Park has been decided.
161,000 acre purchase includes working forest agreement
On Monday, The Nature Conservancy (TNC) announced a deal with paper manufacturer Finch Paper Holdings LLC to purchase all 161,000 acres of Finchs forestland in the Adirondacks for $110 million, or $683 per acre.
We came to know these lands when Finch, Pruyn contracted with the Adirondack Chapter in 2001 to conduct an extensive ecological inventory as part of the companys green forestry certification. We discovered extraordinary biological richness, inspiring TNC to step up and play the leading role in this propertys future, said Michael Carr, executive director of The Nature Conservancys Adirondack Chapter, based in Keene Valley.
Forest to remain working
The transaction includes a 20-year working forest agreement that will ensure a fiber supply to the Glens Falls mill and continue to support the jobs associated with timber harvesting. The Finch Paper mill employs approximately 850 people.
The land purchase was made concurrently with Finch Paper Holdings LLCs acquisition of Finch, Pruyn & Co., Inc. Finch Paper Holdings LLC is owned by an investor group led by Atlas Holdings LLC and Blue Wolf Capital Management LLC. Richard Carota, previously CEO of Finch, Pruyn, is an investor in the new company and will continue as CEO of Finch Paper.
Were extremely pleased to have reached an agreement that will continue the proud multi-use traditions of this land for years to come, said Andrew Bursky, chairman of Atlas Holdings, which owns four paper mills and nine packaging plants. Not only will the land remain as open space, it will continue to support our Glens Falls paper mill and provide jobs and recreational opportunities for the Adirondack economy.
Finch forestry staff has been retained on an interim basis to manage the lands. The continuation of forest management and timber harvesting activities preserves approximately 60 Adirondack Region jobs.
No immediate management changes planned
TNC Communications Manager Connie S. Prickett said there would be no immediate changes in the use of the land. Over the next 12 - 18 months, TNC plans to consult with community leaders, leaseholders, and other stakeholders to identify the best way to achieve conservation objectives on Finch lands while addressing local economic needs, preserving the tradition of hunt club/recreational leases and providing new recreational opportunities.
There are about 140 annually renewed recreational leases on 131,000 acres of the property. When they expire this fall, The Nature Conservancy will renew all of them for the next year, provided each is in good standing.
The property is linked to the Adirondack economy and our way of life here. Over the next 12 - 18 months, we look forward to working with communities, recreational leaseholders, and other stakeholders to chart the course toward achieving our critical conservation objectives in ways that are compatible with sustainable forestry and responsible recreational uses, Carr said.
Day to day management of the land will remain business as usual. Foresters will continue to supervise the harvest of timber in accordance with the Forest Stewardship Council and Sustainable Forestry Initiative certifications.
Goodnow Flow Association President Jim DePasquale said his organization was concerned about the purchase. The 50-year-old association has about 230 members, and leases 13,000 acres from Finch, Pruyn for recreational uses.
We hope that we will be able to continue these leases, not only for our use, but also to help the local economy, said DePasquale. Ive indicated that we're not only very willing to work (with the Nature Conservancy), but am anxious to work with them.
TNC to assume responsibility for taxes
The Nature Conservancy will take responsibility for all local taxes on the property. Collectively, the current tax payments on these lands add up to about $1.1 million annually. One of the conservation and disposition strategies may entail selling some of the property to a timber investment management organization or other buyer, in which case, the new owner will pay taxes.
Newcomb Supervisor George Canon, whose township is dominated by former Finch, Pruyn holdings, said the news could be worse.
If you look at what the Nature Conservancy is intending, I don't see any significant changes from what Finch, Pruyn is doing, said Canon.
Canon expressed concern for the future of the leases, since part of the towns economy is dependent on the business of the recreational lease holders. He said he was satisfied that the Nature Conservancy intended to continue the current tax structure for the property.
When you hear the Nature Conservancy has acquired the property, the first thought is about changes to the tax revenue but that doesn't seem to be the case, said Canon.
Fund-raising expected from TNC
The Nature Conservancy ia a non-profit conservation group that has been working locally in the Adirondacks for 36 years. The purchase was financed in part through loans from the Open Space Conservancy, the land acquisition affiliate of the Open Space Institute, and from John Hancock Life Insurance Company. TNC will launch a major private fund-raising campaign for this landmark purchase.
John Hancock Life Insurance helped to facilitate both the land and business sales announced. Hancock provided significant debt financing to The Nature Conservancy to facilitate the purchase of the woodlands and equity and debt financing to Finch Paper Holdings for the purchase of the manufacturing facility assets of Finch, Pruyn.
Finch, Pruyn has been an outstanding steward of this beautiful and bountiful land. We look forward to carrying on the companys proud tradition of sustainable forest management while also preserving the propertys natural and scenic riches, said Meredith Prime, board chair of The Nature Conservancys Adirondack Chapter.
The Nature Conservancy is a international, non-profit organization that protects ecologically important lands and waters for nature and people. With Mondays announcement, the Conservancy has protected 556,572 acres in the Adirondacks since 1971. More than 300,000 of those acres are privately owned and managed sustainably as working forests.
Finch Paper Holdings, LLC, acquired the assets of Finch, Pruyn & Co., Inc. in June 2007. The predecessor company was founded in 1865 as a sawmill, lumberyard and quarry operation on the Upper Hudson River in Glens Falls and began papermaking operations in 1905.
With approximately 850 employees, the company is a leader in the premium uncoated printing paper market, manufacturing more than 250,000 tons per year for advertising materials, book publishing and business office uses from its single Glens Falls mill.