New York state is acquiring more than 1,200 acres of land in Warren County that will be added to the Adirondack Park.
The state purchase of 1,263 acres from the Open Space Institute includes Huckleberry Mountain, an elongated peak that rises 2,400 feet and is known for cliffs along its south and southwest face. In 2017 the Institute transferred 848 acres of Huckleberry Mountain land to the Department of Environmental Conservation to be added to the Lake George Wild Forest. President and CEO Kim Elliman says those were adjacent parcels and the current state purchase culminates over four years of work to add the remaining lands to the Wilcox Wild Forest.
“There’s a recreational component," Elliman said. "It also because of the cliffs there are birds of prey including peregrine falcons that nest here because it’s ideal habitat. Obviously it protects watersheds. It has a role in carbon sequestration because it’s an intact forest. One could go on but it adds to this wonderful legacy of New York state to protect some really valuable important lands.”
Elliman hopes the numerous recreational opportunities in the tract will be an alternative that helps relieve increased use in the High Peaks area.
“Obviously you can hike," Elliman said. "You can take bikes in part of this if there’s a trail network. There’s cross country skiing, snowmobiling. I mean there’s winter use. When one thinks about land preservation and protection of the Adirondacks one also thinks about the High Peaks. There’s huge pressure on the High Peaks. There’s overcrowding. The parking lots are overfull. They create sort of seasonable problems for local communities. And the extent to which the state can provide alternative recreational opportunities such as Huckleberry Mountain that are closer to people, easy day use, I think it takes some pressure off the High Peaks. It spreads out the economic benefit of tourism and it’s a local amenity.”
Protect the Adirondacks Executive Director Peter Bauer agrees that besides protecting wildlife habitat and more open spaces the acquisition will provide new recreational opportunities. Bauer has hiked in the area and expects the Huckleberry Mountain land will expand the Forest Preserve around neighboring Crane Mountain.
“Crane Mountain has become a very popular hiking destination as really hiking has exploded all across the Adirondacks outside the High Peaks," Bauer said. "And the Huckleberry Mountain tract will now expand the Forest Preserve area around Crane and may even provide down the road some better access options for a new trail to the top of Crane.”
Adirondack Council spokesman John Sheehan notes that the tract is easily accessible and features relatively easy climbing and hiking and beautiful vistas of Lake George.
“It has lovely views of waterfalls, great walks through open oak forests and great potential for wildlife viewing," Sheehan said. "It’s had some traffic because the lands around it are part of the Lake George Wild Forest and we’re hoping that this will be incorporated into that forest soon.”
The lands must be classified by the Adirondack Park Agency.
“Typically if it abuts a Wild Forest it becomes a Wild Forest," said Elliman of the Open Space Institute. "So I would expect this to be Wild Forest.”
The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation purchased the land for $770,000 using state Environmental Protection Funds.