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New York state obtains conservation easements to protect Follensby Pond watershed

Follensby Pond
Carl Heilman II
New York state Department of Environmental Conservation
Follensby Pond

New York state has obtained two significant conservation easements in the Adirondacks that will permanently protect an ecologically significant area while opening lands for public recreation.

In 2008, the Nature Conservancy purchased the 1,000-acre Follensby Pond located east of Tupper Lake and west of the Adirondack High Peaks. Last week the organization formally transferred two conservation easements to the state of New York that will protect more than 14,600 acres of land in the Follensby Pond and Raquette River watershed.

New York State Department of Environmental Conservation Commissioner Basil Seggos says the historic contract is the largest addition to protected lands in the Adirondacks in over a decade.

“Truly one of its kind, first in the nation, conservation easements to protect some extraordinarily iconic lands and some ecologically significant lands,” says Seggos. “Follensby itself holds a very special place in people’s minds and people’s hearts. From the indigenous history to helping launch the modern conservation movement back in the 1800’s to its status today as a truly one of its kind and remarkable ecological gem. So because of all that its incumbent upon us to do what we can to protect the pond, to protect the watersheds but also open up the area for research, interpretation and recreation. And its really what this lasting agreement will accomplish.”

Seggos says this landmark agreement includes two significant and distinct conservation easements. The first will provide greater public access for recreation along the Raquette River. He says the second easement agreement focuses on Follensby Pond and research opportunities.

“Follensby is globally significant,” notes Seggos. “We’re not picking this body of water by chance. This is one of only nine remaining intact such bodies of water in the lower 48 states that still support an old growth population of cold-water fish and it is still relatively unfished and will remain that way. So we’re really thrilled to announce that DEC and Nature Conservancy are establishing the first of its kind freshwater research preserve so that we can study this incredible ecosystem, which is the entirety of the Follensby Pond watershed. To conduct this research DEC and the Nature Conservancy are establishing a science and research consortium. We expect this will be a global destination for research. We are also deeply committed to indigenous interpretation, so that will be a major component of what the consortium helps to embark upon.”

Nature Conservancy Adirondack Director Peg Olsen says the easements create managed access while also providing an innovative and collaborative approach to freshwater conservation.

“Under the agreement, the Nature Conservancy will retain ownership of the property,” explains Olsen. “And New York state will acquire two conservation easements that will allow for recreation along ten miles of the western shores of the Raquette River, which has been off limits for public access for over a century. The easements will also establish a first of its kind freshwater research preserve. This is really important and what we learn here at Follensby will benefit all New Yorkers and beyond.”

Olsen noted that they have been working with the Center for Native Peoples and the Environment and indigenous nations in the region in crafting the agreement with the state.

“The easements are also precedent setting because they do create opportunities for indigenous peoples cultural activities through the Nature Conservancy’s partnership with the Center for Native Peoples and the Environment,” Olsen said. “We will work to restore indigenous access to their ancestral homelands. And this is really part of a larger effort of the Nature Conservancy to give voice to indigenous perspectives at all our preserves and also to recognize traditional ecological knowledge as an integral part of an approach to climate resilience.”

Follensby Pond is the site of the 1858 Philosophers’ Camp, which brought artists and intellectuals to the wilderness region, including Ralph Waldo Emerson and William James Stillman.

The state and Nature Conservancy anticipate a formal closing later in the spring. Public access will be opened following the closing. The state will pay the Nature Conservancy $9.3 million plus reimbursable transaction expenses from the Environmental Protection Fund.

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