NY Gov to preserve over 20 square miles of Adirondack wetland

New York State has reached a historic agreement with The Nature Conservancy to permanently protect more than 14,600 acres of ecologically rare and culturally significant natural resources in the Adirondacks through two conservation easements and a research consortium initiative. This collaboration will provide new public recreational access in the Raquette River corridor and establish a fi rst-of-its-kind freshwater research preserve to advance shared knowledge of freshwater ecosystems. The agreement permanently protects the Follensby Pond watershed and habitat that is situated in Haudenosaunee and Abenaki homelands and served as the base of Ralph Waldo Emerson’s ‘Philosophers’ Camp.’

The historically signifi cant property is located primarily in the town of Harrietstown, with a portion in the town of Tupper Lake, in Franklin County. The 14,645-acre parcel was first purchased by The Nature Conservancy in 2008 and includes 10 miles of frontage on the Raquette River and the 958-acre Follensby Pond. The Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) and The Nature Conservancy entered into contracts for the State to purchase the two easements that will achieve a crucial balance between providing enhanced recreational opportunities in an area adjacent to State Forest Preserve lands and protecting a globally rare ecosystem while recognizing the long-term relationships that Indigenous People have with the region. The easements recently went under contract and are expected to close in early 2024.

The Nature Conservancy in New York Executive Director Bill Ulfelder said, “Climate change demands more ambitious action and the precedent-setting freshwater research preserve and science consortium at Follensby Pond is another example of New York State leading on climate and conservation initiatives. The Nature Conservancy has been caring for Follensby Pond for 15 years and research shows us that it has unique ecological attributes that make it resilient to climate change. Freshwater ecosystems are some of the most threatened on Earth—monitored freshwater species populations have declined by 83 percent since 1970—so what we continue to learn here could have global implications. We’d like to thank Governor Hochul and Commissioner Seggos for their leadership on climate and their partnership in protecting this incredible 14,600-acre landscape. We are thrilled to be partnering with DEC in providing more recreational opportunities along the Raquette River, with the neighboring Wild Center in exploring educational opportunities, and with SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry’s Center for Native Peoples and the Environment in creating opportunities to incorporate Indigenous priorities, perspectives, and Traditional Ecological Knowledge.”

Raquette River Recreational Access Easement

The Raquette River conservation easement includes 5,985 acres adjacent to the Raquette River, including the lower Moose Creek watershed. The easement will provide new, highly desirable public access opportunities along 10 miles of the river, which 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. The river is also a popular fi shing destination, supporting a variety of sought-after sport fish. The easement will support new non-motorized public recreation activities such as camping, picnicking, hiking, hunting, fishing, and other activities that will be specified in an Interim Recreation Plan currently under development. In particular, fishing and paddling opportunities will be available on Moose Creek and Beaver Brook, which offer outstanding brook trout fi sh-
ing. Hunters will be able to access new remote locations. Existing hunting leases on the full property will continue. The easement is adjacent to DEC’s 275,000-acre High Peaks Wilderness Complex.

Follensby Pond Research Preserve Easement and Consortium

The Follensby Pond conservation easement encompasses 8,660 acres, including Follensby Pond and the surrounding watershed. In 1858, Follensby was the site of the Philosophers’ Camp, bringing together Ralph Waldo Emerson and other intellectuals, artists, and scientists to one of the Adirondacks’ most famous and influential gatherings. It is also the location where DEC successfully reintroduced the bald eagle to the Adirondacks in 1983. This freshwater research preserve will offer managed access for scientific and educational purposes and for Indigenous Peoples’ cultural practices, including ceremonies, gathering, and foraging. The Pond’s unique combination of depth, shape, elevation, and fishing history creates a very special research opportunity that will support New York fisheries science into the future. At an elevation of 1,545 feet, and with its 102-foot-deep bathtub shape, Follensby Pond is positioned to remain relatively cold and resilient in the face of climate change. Follensby is also one of only nine remaining intact lakes in the lower 48 states that still supports a rare, old-age population of wild lake trout which has been relatively unfished for many years. These collective features provide scientists a rare opportunity to study an unexploited population and learn about how climate change and other environmental infl uences may impact such a species over time.

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