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The Heart of the Adirondacks: Anatomy of the Deal


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The largest conservation and financial transaction in the history of The Nature Conservancy in New York did not happen by accident. It may have taken only 90 days from start to finish, but those three months were marked by a true whirlwind of constant activity. 

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The Anatomy of a Deal

It began when Finch, Pruyn & Company, Inc. agreed to sell all 161,000 acres of their carefully stewarded lands. Long considered the “holy grail” of Adirondack conservation, the Conservancy knew that time was of the essence.

Without serious and immediate action by a conservation organization ready to take on the challenge, it was a very real possibility that the entire property could have been divided up and parceled out to the highest bidder.

“The loss of this land would have meant the incalculable loss of a conservation opportunity pivotal to the future of the Adirondack Park,” believes Kathy Moser, New York State director.

"When Finch, Pruyn made the decision to sell, they moved quickly. They weren't going to mess around. We had to step up to the plate,” says Mike Carr, executive director of the Adirondack Chapter of The Nature Conservancy.

Drawing on a large network of partners, associates, and experienced staff, the Conservancy negotiated a complex deal in a staggeringly short amount of time.

"My hat is off to The Nature Conservancy for this one," says Joe Martens, president of the Open Space Institute, which lent the Conservancy $25 million towards the purchase price. "For them to do it in one fell swoop was everyone's wildest dream. It really took people's breath away."

Bill Ginn, the Conservancy’s director of Conservation Investments & Markets, as well as the architect of the deal, believes The Nature Conservancy’s ability to act quickly, efficiently, and decisively is what makes it so vital to the global conservation movement.

“No other conservation group — large or small — is equipped, prepared, and willing to take on such a large challenge, in such a short timeframe,” he says.

The Big Questions

The Finch, Pruyn lands, called the “Jewel in the Adirondack Crown” by Wildlife Conservation Society ecologist Jerry Jenkins, are remarkable not only for their acreage, but for their ecological diversity, health, and prime location. Much of the land adjoins the already-protected Adirondack Forest Preserve, creating a seamless blend of continuous forest canopy and free-flowing rivers and streams. 

But at 161,000 acres and $110 million, many are asking, "Why?" The answers can be summed up best as follows:

  • ECOLOGY: The Finch property contains some of the wildest land remaining in the Adirondacks, and accordingly, is home to some of the state’s most impressive plant and animal diversity. A biological survey conduced in 2001 found 95 significant species, 37 of which are rare in New York, about 20 uncommon in the state, and 30 rare or uncommon in the Adirondacks.

    From the imperiled Bicknell’s thrush to the scarlet tanager, many of the animals found here have been deeply affected by human interference. “Many of these birds need large swaths of contiguous forest to thrive,” says Carr.

    The purchase of the Finch, Pruyn property protects 16,000 acres of wetlands, 70 lakes and ponds, 90 mountain peaks, and 48 miles of Hudson River banks — and countless migratory birds, moose, otter, and bobcat that forage and live in the Adirondack Forest.
     
  • ECONOMY: The Finch, Pruyn & Company paper mill has been in operation for 142 years, employing more than 850 workers and producing over 250,000 tons of paper from sustainably-harvested timber annually. The Conservancy's land purchase includes a 20-year fiber supply agreement, continuing the link between the lands and the mill into the foreseeable future.

    Bill Ginn, the Conservancy’s top negotiator, says, “The quality of this land shows the magnificent stewardship by the Finch and Pruyn families. This purchase will only serve to strengthen and maintain the lifeblood of these Adirondack communities.”
     
  • RECREATION: The Nature Conservancy understands that successful conservation requires a delicate balance of both people and nature. Within the Finch property, there are currently over 140 yearly leases, many held by recreation or hunting clubs.

    ”These camps have a long tradition here and we will respect and honor them,” says Mike Carr. “We know hunting and fishing are important aspects of the Adirondack’s economy, and we have renewed the recreational leases enjoyed by 3,500 individuals for the next 12 months.”

    With more than 90 mountains and over 250 miles of rivers and shorelines, the lands hold great promise for public recreation sometime in the future for hikers, paddlers, campers, birders, and shutterbugs.

"We are awed by the recreational opportunities — all of the opportunities — on these lands, " Carr says. "This really is the Heart of the Adirondacks — history in the making.” 

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