Donated Conservation Easement Protects 1,400-Acre Adirondack Forest

Image Credit: Robert Stone

NEW YORK, NY (February 10, 2010) — The Open Space Institute announced today that a private landowner has donated a conservation easement that will forever protect a 1,400-acre forest in the northeast corner of the Adirondack Park.

The parcel, a largely wooded Essex County tract owned by the Johanson family, buffers the shoreline of scenic Butternut Pond and includes a mile-long stretch that is highly visible from the New York State Thruway. It also includes lands on Pokamoonshine Mountain, and sits within the viewshed of the historic firetower on the summit of Pokamoonshine, a popular destination for rock climbers, hikers and cross-country skiers. The donation was made to the Open Space Conservancy, OSI’s land acquisition affiliate.

Eric Johanson began traveling to the Adirondacks with his parents in the late 1940s. He purchased a 175-acre tract in the area when he was 19 years old, then acquired other contiguous parcels over time to create a sanctuary he called Baldface Mountain Preserve. His ancestors came from Sweden and were landowners and farmers, so forestry and land ownership are a family tradition, he said.

“I did not struggle to put this preserve together to develop it,” he said, “but to practice conservation, to hunt and fish, and to leave it intact for future generations as a model of sustainable forestry.”

The conservation easement restricts all commercial and residential development on the property, and restricts forestry practices to those that are environmentally responsible and sustainable. The Johanson family retains ownership of the land and may pass it on or even sell the land, although the terms of the easement must be adhered to by future owners.

In some cases, conservation easements can be as effective a tool as direct acquisition for achieving conservation goals. Easements maintain scenic viewsheds, preserve ecological habitat, and protect historic and agricultural landscapes while keeping the lands in private hands and on local tax rolls.

The Johanson property borders the western shore of Butternut Pond and is bisected by several brooks, most of which feed into Auger Lake, which in turn empties into the Ausable River and eventually into Lake Champlain.

“The acquisition of this conservation easement represents a next step toward OSI’s long-held goal of protecting signature Adirondack landscapes,” said Joe Martens, OSI’s president. “This forest has been sustainably managed for decades, and is emblematic of the matchless beauty of the region.”

In the past 15 years, OSI has protected iconic Adirondack landscapes such as the 2,000-acre Last Chance Ranch south of Lake Placid, the 10,000-acre-plus Tahawus tract at the southern entrance to the High Peaks—which includes the historic village of Adirondac, and other important natural areas.

In 2007, OSI also participated, as a conservation lender, in the The Nature Conservancy’s the celebrated Finch, Pruyn acquisition, a single transaction that protected nearly 250 square miles of forestland, streams, lakes and mountains just south of the High Peaks region.

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