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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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 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:
"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.”June 15, 2011