Clash of Ideals in Adirondack Mountains

Author:  Brittany Raffa
Date:  November 2007

An article published October 29th in the New York Times details the exchange of $110 million for 161,000 acres of the Adirondack Mountains. The Nature Conservancy, one of the largest environmental groups in the world, bought the lands from the Finch, Pruyn & Company, a timber company who has held the vast expanse of acreage since the Civil War. The controversy surrounding the deal is that the Finch paper mill will continue logging there for the next twenty years.

The Adirondack Mountains are located in northeastern New York and contain rugged greenery and thousands of streams and lakes, including Lake Placid. The mountains are within the 6.1 million acres of the Vermont-sized Adirondack Park, 2.1 million acres of which are a constitutionally-protected Forest Reserve. The property purchased by the Nature Conservancy is the last remaining privately owned parcel in Adirondack Park.

Michael Carr, executive director of the Adirondack chapter of the Nature Conservancy, is at the forefront of the acquisition. The conservancy hopes to sell half of the land to the state for forest preserve and to sell the rest to private owners in a maneuver to relieve the debt induced from the purchase and the $1 million payed in annual property taxes. Scientists are currently conducting an ecological assessment of the land and decisions about the future of the land will follow. Groups and individuals are now vying to be among the few private owners. Raft guides, float plane pilots, hunting clubs, loggers, hikers, buffalo ranchers, school superintendents and municipal golf course operators are among the contenders.

According to Carr, "We (the Nature Conservancy) have no intention of making everyone happy." He acknowledged that confusion arises from the idea of a conservation organization being in the logging business. "Right now, people are not sure if we're going to cut trees or hug them." He added that supplying wood has recently become acceptable in land preservation efforts, and logging is simply essential due to the fees involved in the acquisition of the land.

The initial reaction of environmentalists was one of glee at the news that the Nature Conservancy had bought the enormous amount of land. But the speculations of cutting 65,000 tons of pulpwood trees each year due are now raising questions. These concerns add to previous doubts of the conservancy's integrity raised from the Washington Post's series of articles in 2003 focusing on transactions of the Nature Conservancy, one of which was in Texas, where the Conservancy drilled for natural gas on sensitive lands it owned.

Written by Brittany Raffa

Reviewed by Falishia Sloan

Published by Pooja Ghatalia.