A view of someone kayaking on Raquette River surrounded by fall-colored trees.
Raquette River Dec And The Nature Conservancy Announce Completion Of Raquette River Recreational Access And Follensby Pond Research Preserve Conservation Easements © John DiGiacomo

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DEC and The Nature Conservancy Announce Completion of Raquette River Recreational Access and Follensby Pond Research Preserve Conservation Easements

Permanent Preservation of More Than 14,600 Acres of Open Space Contributes to New York State’s 30x30 Initiative

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The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) and The Nature Conservancy in New York today announced the State’s acquisition of two conservation easements that together provide public recreational access, protect natural resources, and establish a first-of-its kind research preserve on the Follensby Pond property. This announcement follows the historic agreement announced by Governor Kathy Hochul to permanently protect more than 14,600 acres of ecologically unique and historically significant Adirondack forests, wetlands, and watershed.

The Nature Conservancy retains ownership of the Follensby property and New York State has acquired two conservation easements that protect in perpetuity these natural resources in the Adirondacks. Conservation of these properties is identified as a high priority in the New York State Open Space Conservation Plan, and acquisition of these conservation easements advances New York State’s efforts to conserve 30 percent of its lands and waters by 2030, in line with the global 30x30 initiative to protect the world’s lands and waters.

DEC Chief of Staff Erica Ringewald said, “Today’s announcement marks a critical milestone in the State’s efforts to open the Follensby property to recreation while advancing opportunities for research and preserving these lands and waters for future generations. Working hand-in-hand with our partners at The Nature Conservancy, New York State is implementing a conservation pilot that supports globally significant research and ensures visitors have the opportunity to see these pristine lands and waters for the first time in decades.” 

The Nature Conservancy Adirondack Director Peg Olsen said, “The Nature Conservancy has been caring for Follensby Pond for 16 years and in partnership with DEC, we are thrilled to embark on this next chapter that includes new recreational access to nearly 6,000 acres adjacent to the High Peaks Wilderness Complex and the establishment of a research preserve that pilots a collaborative approach to freshwater conservation in a changing climate. We thank Governor Hochul and DEC for sharing this vision, and we are particularly grateful to the professional staff at DEC and the Office of the Attorney General for their hard work, focus, and dedication working with the Conservancy team to make this extraordinary transaction happen.” 

Raquette River Recreational Access Conservation Easement 

The Raquette River Recreational Access conservation easement provides new, highly desirable public access opportunities to 5,985 acres along 10 miles of the Raquette River for the first time in more than a century. The easement tract can only be accessed via the Raquette River as there is no road access. The parcel is adjacent to DEC’s 275,000-acre High Peaks Wilderness Complex.

This section of the Raquette River is part of the iconic Northern Forest Canoe Trail and a portion of the longest canoe route in the Adirondacks that runs 90 miles between Old Forge and Saranac Lake. It includes a beautiful and extensive stretch of silver maple floodplain forest and other wild areas historically off limits to the public. 

The easement supports new non-motorized public recreation activities such as camping, picnicking, hiking, hunting, fishing, and other activities specified in the DEC Interim Recreation Management Plan. In particular, fishing and paddling opportunities will be available on Moose Creek and Beaver Brook, which offer outstanding brook trout fishing. Hunters will also be able to access new remote locations. 

Follensby Pond Research Preserve Conservation Easement 

The Follensby Pond Research Preserve conservation easement, covering Follensby Pond and the surrounding watershed, establishes an 8,660-acre freshwater research preserve that will be a reference site for researching and monitoring the impacts of climate change, while protecting rare habitat for cold-water fish and other aquatic species. 

While the Follensby Pond area is not open for general public recreation, The Nature Conservancy will provide opportunities for the public to learn about and visit Follensby Pond consistent with the use of the property as a freshwater research preserve. Accordingly, the Pond easement allows for managed access to this area for educational opportunities. The Nature Conservancy will consult with DEC, the community, and other public stakeholders to determine how best the public can experience and learn about this landscape, including collaborating with the renowned Wild Center, just one mile down the road, to explore programmatic educational and interpretive opportunities. 

Follensby Pond Research Consortium

Along with achieving permanent protection of this ecologically significant area, The Nature Conservancy and DEC are establishing a Follensby Pond Research Consortium to support scientific research and long-term monitoring in a learning environment. The consortium, which to date includes DEC, The Nature Conservancy, Cornell University, Paul Smith’s College Adirondack Watershed Institute, State University of New York College of Environmental Science and Forestry (SUNY ESF), U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and U.S. Geological Survey will advise and participate in novel and applied research and guide the ecological management of the freshwater preserve and the Raquette River conservation easement area. 

Restored Indigenous Relationships with the Land 

Through a partnership with SUNY ESF’s Center for Native Peoples and the Environment, protection of the Follensby Pond and Raquette River Access parcels also provides opportunities for restoring Indigenous Peoples’ access to, and caretaking of, their ancestral homelands. The Nature Conservancy’s partnership will help guide the incorporation of Indigenous priorities, perspectives, and Traditional Ecological Knowledge.

To learn more about DEC’s public recreational access on the Raquette River conservation easement, please visit https://dec.ny.gov/places/raquette-river-recreational-access-conservation-easement-tract.

And to learn more about The Nature Conservancy’s vison for Follensby, visit www.nature.org/Follensby.  

The Nature Conservancy is a global conservation organization dedicated to conserving the lands and waters on which all life depends. Guided by science, we create innovative, on-the-ground solutions to our world’s toughest challenges so that nature and people can thrive together. We are tackling climate change, conserving lands, waters and oceans at an unprecedented scale, providing food and water sustainably and helping make cities more sustainable. The Nature Conservancy is working to make a lasting difference around the world in 77 countries and territories (41 by direct conservation impact and 36 through partners) through a collaborative approach that engages local communities, governments, the private sector, and other partners. To learn more, visit nature.org or follow @nature_press on X.