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Permanent Protection of 14,600 Acres of Ecologically Unique and Historically Significant Adirondack Forests, Wetlands, and Watershed

Governor Kathy Hochul today announced 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 with New York State. This collaboration will provide new public recreational access in the Raquette River corridor and establish a first-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.’

“New Yorkers and visitors to this special region of the Adirondacks have long recognized the singular beauty and significance of Follensby Pond and the Raquette River,” Governor Hochul said. “In collaboration with The Nature Conservancy and many partners, we are preserving a unique natural resource so that all New Yorkers can enjoy this treasured and historic region for generations to come."

The ecologically, historically, and culturally significant 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.

Department of Environmental Conservation Commissioner Basil Seggos said, “Securing more than 14,600 acres of critically important ecosystems is a win-win for conservation and for all New Yorkers. In recognition of the longstanding stewardship by Indigenous Peoples and in the spirit of Emerson and the great thinkers of two centuries ago, New York State and The Nature Conservancy are bringing together a consortium of leading scientific minds to study a waterbody that has remained relatively untouched for more than a century. Follensby Pond and its associated watershed will serve as a living laboratory for scientific study by leading public and private institutions. Together, the easements provide a unique combination of enhanced recreational and globally significant research opportunities, thereby providing a sound balance between conservation and recreation. DEC is excited to continue collaborating on this historic environmental, scientific, cultural, and economic opportunity.”

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 fishing 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 fishing. 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 influences may impact such a species over time.

Along with achieving permanent protection of this ecologically significant area, The Nature Conservancy and DEC are establishing a Follensby Research Preserve 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 develop a research agenda on monitoring environmental change in the face of a warming climate to inform fisheries science at Follensby Pond and around the world. The research will provide the building blocks for learning and developing strategies to manage and enhance the excellent fishing enjoyed throughout New York and inform the management and protection of fish beyond the state’s borders.

In addition to research directed at the ecological effects of climate change on cold water ecosystems, lake trout, cisco and brook trout will be intensively studied to ensure that these native and iconic fish species continue to thrive in the Adirondacks for generations of anglers to come. The research preserve will serve as a global destination for researchers, and a precedent-setting model for freshwater conservation.

A plan for managed access to Follensby Pond will be developed by The Nature Conservancy in collaboration with consortium members, local community members and officials, and other partners. The plan will include opportunities for the public to participate in activities such as guided visits for educational, scientific, and cultural purposes. The easements are novel in that they also provide opportunities for restoring Indigenous Peoples’ access to and caretaking of their ancestral homelands. The Nature Conservancy’s partnership with SUNY ESF’s Center for Native Peoples and the Environment will help guide the incorporation of Indigenous priorities, perspectives, and Traditional Ecological Knowledge.

State Senator Pete Harckham said, “This new agreement to protect nearly 15,000 acres in the Adirondacks stands as a triumph for land conservation here in New York. It is imperative that we safeguard our pristine forests and natural resources for future generations, and this unique public – private partnership between the Nature Conservancy and the state’s Department of Environmental Conservation is a model achievement in this regard.”

Assemblymember Matthew Simpson said, “Finding the balance of preservation and public access is a win-win when protecting the pristine landscape of the Adirondacks. To further achieve this goal while also prioritizing scientific research of our natural ecosystems is a true testament to the great State of New York’s position as a global leader in modern conservation and land resource management. I applaud Governor Kathy Hochul, The Nature Conservancy, and the many stakeholders involved for their ongoing commitment to prioritizing the Adirondacks as the a centerpiece of our environmental stewardship goals.”

Assemblymember Deborah J. Glick said, “The permanent protection of nearly 15,000 acres in and around the Follensby Pond and the Raquette River in the Adirondacks is great news for conservationists, researchers, outdoor enthusiasts, and all New Yorkers. Equally important is the protection of the freshwater preserve of the unique habitat of the pond, which will provide us with a valuable outdoor research laboratory. The pandemic has reminded so many people of the wonderful outdoor resources available to us, and this conservation easement will provide new fresh air opportunities, from boating to hiking and more. Projects like this remind us of how critical continued investment in the Environmental Protection Fund is for the protection of ecologically unique areas and preservation of open space.”

Town of Harrietstown Supervisor Jordanna Mallach said, “I am so glad that The Nature Conservancy and DEC have come to an agreement on this culturally and environmentally significant area. I look forward to seeing the collaboration come to fruition in the additional access for paddlers, hunters, and fisherman along the Raquette River and I am excited about the work and educational opportunities that the Research Consortium will bring.”

Town of Tupper Lake Supervisor Rick Dattola said, “The Town of Tupper Lake looks forward to this new era in the evolving development of the Follensby Pond and wilderness tract. The rich history of the Follensby Pond property is inextricably linked with the rich history of the Town of Tupper Lake. As this relationship matures to the mutual benefit of academia, science, state, and local governance et al, we remain optimistic that emerging economic and recreational opportunities will present congruent benefit to the citizens of the Tupper Lake and the North County and provide unique recreational and educational experiences to people from all over the state and country. We look forward to continued collaboration and congratulate all parties on this significant agreement.”

Adirondack Park Local Government Review Board Executive Director Gerald Delaney, Sr., said, “This carefully crafted easement with The Nature Conservancy protects and enhances recreational opportunities on the Follensby property. It recognizes the importance of the Adirondack hunting clubs embedded in the fabric of Adirondack culture while protecting and creating a scientific study area with multiple partners, of a resilient Follensby Pond and associated ecosystem. The gem on top of it all is the tours of the Philosophers’ Camp and pond. Ecotourism at its best, drawing visitors and scientists that might not have ever made the trip without this easement. Thank you, Governor Hochul, Commissioner Seggos, and The Nature Conservancy for the leadership that created this well-thought-out plan.”

ADK Executive Director Michael Barrett said, "We are excited to see increased access to the iconic Raquette River, which will offer incredible recreational opportunities to the public. Furthermore, we commend the emphasis placed on science and monitoring at Follensby Pond. Sustained research and monitoring like this is imperative to protecting the health and integrity of the Adirondack Park and other public lands."

Author and Environmentalist Bill McKibben said, "2023 saw higher temperatures on this planet than in at least 125,000 years; that's the context for this important announcement that climate researchers will be able to make use of a crucial record of the past, with huge implications for the future."

Trout Unlimited Vice President for Eastern Conservation Keith Curley said, "The conservation easements in the Raquette River watershed and the Follensby Pond research consortium are a boon to wild trout conservation in New York. Trout Unlimited thanks and applauds our friends at the New York DEC and The Nature Conservancy for bringing about 10 miles of public access on the Raquette River and unique protections for lake trout in Follensby Pond."

Center for Limnology at the University of Wisconsin-Madison Director Jake Vander Zanden said, "By creating a freshwater research preserve and science consortium at Follensby Pond, New York State and The Nature Conservancy have set an important precedent for freshwater protection and study in the U.S. and beyond. This initiative is an exciting development for freshwater conservation and research globally and is particularly important given the mounting pressures and challenges to freshwater ecosystems."

The Wildlife Conservation Society Executive Vice President of Public Affairs John Calvelli said, “At the Wildlife Conservation Society, we are committed to protecting the last wild places that are intact, biodiverse, and most resilient to climate change. The innovative agreement between The Nature Conservancy and New York State to conserve the 14,600-acre Raquette River and Follensby Pond Tract and create a groundbreaking freshwater research preserve, is a globally important example of the kind of conservation initiatives needed to address the impacts of climate change and help wildlife adapt and survive.”

Northeast Region U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Regional Director Wendi Weber said, “Follensby is an incredible reference site for scientists to monitor climate impacts that can inform the management of other lakes and fisheries both in the Northern Forest region and across the Appalachians. Freshwater habitats are vastly under-represented in the world’s conserved areas, and we are delighted to be part of this innovative collaboration.”

U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) New York Water Science Center Director Robert Breault said, “The USGS has conducted environmental research and monitoring throughout the Adirondacks for over a century and values the opportunity to be a member of the consortium that will guide the climate research agenda and help inform policymakers, resource managers, and the public in decision making that will help build a more sustainable future.”

SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry President Joanie Mahoney said, “The SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry has long partnered with The Nature Conservancy in exploring the scientific, historical, and cultural values of Follensby through student bioblitzes, examinations of the Philosophers’ Camp, and via a partnership with our Center for Native Peoples and the Environment, the co-creation of a more honest narrative of Indigenous Peoples’ relationship with Follensby Pond, alongside the restoration of Indigenous Peoples’ access to and caretaking of their ancestral homelands. We look forward to expanding our role as a member of the consortium and conducting climate research that will serve the long-term interests of all New Yorkers.”

The Center for Native Peoples and the Environment Director Dr. Robin Wall Kimmerer said, “There is growing evidence from all around the world that biodiversity flourishes under Indigenous stewardship. With our partners, we look forward to creating opportunities for a productive collaboration between Traditional Ecological Knowledge and conservation science based on mutual respect, reciprocity and shared access. Land care which reflects Indigenous perspectives and priorities has the potential to enhance the wellbeing of land and cultures in the extraordinary landscape of Follensby Pond.”

Cornell University Department of Natural Resources and the Environment, Dr. Pete McIntyre said, “Cornell’s Adirondack Fishery Research Program focuses on the sustainability of cold water fisheries, and we believe firmly in the essential role of public-private partnerships and long-term research for guiding adaptive management. Adirondack lakes are increasingly threatened by oxygen depletion of the cold bottom waters that lake trout and other fishery species depend on as our climate changes. We are thrilled to be a member of the consortium at Follensby, whose depth and size make it a great candidate for high climate resilience and restoration-oriented research.”

Paul Smith’s College President Dan Kelting said, “The Adirondack Watershed Institute is proud to serve as a member of the consortium that will help guide the research agenda and ecological management of Follensby. We have seen the impacts of climate change on Adirondack freshwater systems firsthand, and it is imperative that we continue to mitigate these impacts through scientific inquiry and conservation.”

The Wild Center Executive Director Stephanie Ratcliffe said, “The Wild Center is exploring the vast potential of educational and interpretive opportunities at neighboring Follensby Pond. What we do best is connect people to nature, and Follensby Pond offers such rich natural history, cultural, and scientific learning opportunities - there really is something for everyone.”

The Adirondack Council Executive Director Raul J. Aguirre said, "Follensby Pond is one of the crown jewels of the Adirondack Park, and will continue to be with this new agreement. With increasing pressures on native wildlife coming from climate change, air and water quality impacts, and invasive species, protecting one of the last pristine lake trout fisheries of the Adirondacks will pay dividends for generations. Congratulations to The Nature Conservancy for being great stewards of Follensby Pond, and for finding a solution to a challenging management situation that provides recreation access, critical education and scientific research opportunities, and acknowledges important Indigenous cultural values. This is a win for Follensby, the people of New York State, and for all those who have sought protection for this iconic landscape over the years."

Both the Raquette River and Follensby Pond parcels are priority projects in the State’s Open Space Conservation Plan and together form the largest protection of open space since the historic Finch Pruyn acquisition in 2012. DEC will pay The Nature Conservancy approximately $9.3 million in addition to other reimbursable transaction expenses for the conservation easements using resources from the State’s Environmental Protection Fund (EPF). The EPF supports climate change mitigation and adaptation efforts, improves agricultural resources to promote sustainable agriculture, protects water sources, advances conservation efforts, and provides recreational opportunities for New Yorkers. Among the many environmental victories in the 2023-24 State Budget, Governor Hochul maintained EPF funding at $400 million, the highest level of funding in the program's history.

Contact the Governor’s Press Office

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