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For Release: Friday, March 30, 2012

DEC Modifies Forest Conservation Easement to Allow Leasing of 220 Camps and State Acquisition of 2,800 Acres of Forest Land

Leasing of Former Champion Lands in Adirondacks by Heartwood Forestland Fund to Continue

Deal Adds 2,146 Acres to the State Forest Preserve and Creates 651-Acre State Forest

Leasing of recreational camps on the former Champion lands in Franklin, Herkimer, Lewis and St. Lawrence counties will be allowed under an agreement reached this week with the state and Heartwood Forestland Fund III, LP, the Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) Commissioner Joe Martens announced today. As part of the agreement, Heartwood Forestland, the owner of a conservation easement on the former Champion lands, will transfer 2,797 acres of valuable wildlife habitat in the Deer River corridor to the state.

"Today's agreement recognizes the importance hunt clubs play in the day-to-day management of these lands and in ensuring the long-standing traditions of hunting, fishing, camping and hiking will continue," said Commissioner Martens. "DEC and Heartwood Forestland worked cooperatively with area stakeholders to ensure these camps can continue to be an important destination for hunters and their families in this remote area of the Park. DEC continues its efforts to create and maintain important recreational opportunities on state lands and lands subject to conservation easements."

Under the new terms of the agreement, Heartwood Forestland will retain the right to permanently lease no more than 220 camp sites located on the 110,000 acres of forest lands on which the state acquired a working forest easement in 1999. In return, the company will transfer the 2,797 acres of land to the state in two parcels adjacent to the state's existing Deer River holdings.

A 2,146-acre parcel within the Adirondack Park will be added to the State Forest Preserve as part of the recently classified Deer River Primitive Area, and a 651-acre parcel outside the Park will become a new State Forest. These parcels will provide access to a previously-inaccessible, detached Forest Preserve property and will be open to the public for hunting, fishing, camping, hiking and other outdoor recreation.

Under the terms of the 1999 agreement with Champion, the leased camps on the easement property acquired by Heartwood Forestland were to be removed by 2014. DEC and Heartwood Forestland worked with many other stakeholders to explore options to keep the tradition of camp leasing viable in this area. The new agreement will provide Heartwood Forestland with the discretion to permit the camps to remain on one-acre parcels after 2014. The entire 139,000-acre property will be open to public hunting, except for the one-acre camp parcels.

"This is great news for the north country," said Robert Snider, Town of Clifton Town Supervisor. "The tradition of hunting and hunting camps is an important part of our heritage."

Charles H. Collins, Managing Director, the Forestland Group, LLC which manages Heartwood Forestland said, "We are pleased this project is now complete as it aligns the Champion easement with the other conservation easements in the Adirondack Park. This amendment will demonstrate that traditional, regional uses of this ownership can be combined with our fundamental goals of sustained natural resource management and access to these lands for the general public. This project will benefit the natural resources of the Adirondack Park, the communities and residents who live in and around the Park, and the Park's many visitors both from within New York state and around the country. The cooperative effort involved in this project is a testament to its value to the North Country. We look forward to a continued close working relationship with all of our conservation partners."

Brian Houseal, of the Adirondack Council, stated, "This revised Champion lands conservation easement will ensure the protection of this important working forest as an economic asset for the Adirondack region, as well as preserve over 2,100 acres as Forever Wild Forest Preserve for future generations of New Yorkers."

New York State Conservation Council's Access and Land Use Specialist, Walt Paul, said, "It's a great day and I'm sure a relief for families with camps on the former Champion Lands to finally have some resolution to this situation after 12 years of hard work by many, many people. The sporting community recognizes and truly appreciates the hard work and persistence on the part of DEC staff to bring this to closure. What became evident during the discussion and seemed to be a turning point is the realization that sportsmen and women and their families have been good stewards of these lands for many years and that the contributions they make to our regional economies are significant and very important."

The Agreement was publicly noticed in the November 4, 2009 Environmental Notice Bulletin and included a 48-day public comment period. The Agreement was also approved by the Adirondack Park Agency after a public comment period, the Offices of the Attorney General and the State Comptroller. A full Environmental Impact Statement and Responsiveness Summary was also prepared for the agreement, which is available for viewing on DEC's website.

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