e s f home link - e s f college of environmental science and forestry
e s f home link - e s f college of environmental science and forestry

New Adirondack-based Institute will Study Northern Forests

Multi-agency partnership to create new ESF-operated facility in Newcomb

Listen to North Country Public Radio's coverage of the news conference:

The historic Masten House in Newcomb, Essex County, will be the site of a new leadership and training institute that focuses on the research and management of northern forests, New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) Commissioner Pete Grannis announced today.

SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry (ESF) President Cornelius B. Murphy, Jr. and Open Space Institute (OSI) President Joe Martens joined Commissioner Grannis and other state and local officials to announce the creation of the Northern Forest Institute for Conservation Education and Leadership Training. The facility will educate and train policy makers, business leaders and educators to guide future decisions and learn more about the 25 million acres of forested land that blanket portions of four northeastern states. The institute will be operated by ESF.

President Cornelius B. Murphy, Jr. speaks.
ESF President Cornelius B. Murphy, Jr.
DEC Commissioner Grannis said: "This world-class educational facility will help DEC learn more about the forestry resources and challenges unique to our region, while also contributing significantly to local economies. By supporting the growth of public and private higher education with this and other initiatives in the Adirondacks, Governor David A. Paterson, DEC, and our partners are supporting the economic and environmental future of northern New York."

ESF President Murphy said: "We very much value our partnership with the New York DEC and the Open Space Institute in helping to develop the new leaders and stewards for our great northern forest. The Masten House will be a focal point for this effort."

OSI President Joe Martens said: "The Adirondacks and the entire Northern Forests hold enormous economic, educational and environmental potential. And OSI is proud of its role in making the Masten House available to SUNY ESF to help realize this potential. Thanks to Governor Paterson's leadership and this remarkable public/private partnership, the Adirondacks are going to be the epicenter of research and training related to the region's economic and environmental well being."

The "northern forest" extends from Lake Ontario at Tug Hill, across the Adirondacks to northern Vermont, New Hampshire and Maine. The institute's location is adjacent to the Adirondack High Peaks region and includes the historic town of Adirondac, which has a rich industrial and cultural heritage.

The project is a cooperative effort that will enhance forest preserve and wildlands management research and contribute to the local economy. ESF will run the Northern Forest Institute (NFI) on a 46-acre portion of a property owned by OSI' s Open Space Conservancy and leased on a long-term basis to the college for $1 a year. Establishment of the institute is being aided by a $1 million grant from Empire State Development to OSI and $125,000 from DEC to ESF. In addition, DEC has committed $1.6 million over the next four years to ESF scientists who will conduct three research projects on visitor demand, experiences, and impacts, as well as a training program for DEC employees responsible for managing recreational visits to New York State forest preserve lands.

The Masten House.
The Masten House
The NFI will focus on meeting the educational and research needs of professional audiences, including representatives of state agencies, business leaders, and educators. The institute will also serve the general public, particularly college and secondary school students.

Kenneth A. Schoetz, Acting Upstate Chairman for Empire State Development, said: "Today marks an important milestone in solidifying Northern New York's economic strength and vitality. Empire State Development is proud to support this project and its expansion of critical research and training related to the six-million-acre Adirondack Park and the entire Northern Forest area. This cutting-edge research facility establishes a gateway to the largest wilderness area in the contiguous United States and will serve as an economic catalyst, further protecting open space and the historic Masten House. Such components are critical to local, regional and state economies, particularly in the tourism and agriculture industries."

The eight-bedroom Masten House was built in 1905 near secluded Henderson Lake and was used as a corporate retreat by NL Industries, which operated a nearby mining site. Masten House is within the state historic district that encompasses the former town of Adirondac at the southern entrance to the High Peaks Wilderness area. The town was settled in 1826 and was home to one of the region's first iron mines and early blast furnaces. The village was resettled in the late 19th century as the Tahawus Club. Then-Vice President Theodore Roosevelt was staying at Tahawus in 1901 when he learned that President William McKinley had been shot.

NYS DEC Commissioner Grannis
New York DEC Commissioner Pete Grannis
NL Industries refurbished the Masten House in the 1990's and in 2003, the Open Space Conservancy acquired the 10,050-acre Tahawus tract from the company. DEC acquired 6,813 acres outright earlier this year with funds from the state's Environmental Protection Fund and is working to purchase a conservation easement on an additional 3,237 acres. The easement will enable public access while also contributing to the economy by continuing sustainable timber harvesting.

The institute will incorporate three facilities in the central Adirondacks. The Arbutus Great Camp and the Carriage House at the Adirondack Ecological Center, both donated to ESF by Archer and Anna Huntington in the 1930s, will provide housing and conference facilities. These buildings are several miles to the southwest of the Masten House, which will be renovated to also provide housing, conference space and facilities for educational programming. Complete development of the Institute is expected to cost up to $13.5 million.

Dr. William F. Porter, Director of ESF's Adirondack Ecological Center, said: "It's about making connections between those who are in need of the information and those who do the science that generates the information. In the Northern Forest, it's all about how you can simultaneously promote wilderness, and at the same time, grow the economy to provide the quality of life for the people who live there."

In addition to the Open Space Institute and DEC, partners in the project include the Adirondack Park Agency, the Town of Newcomb, the Adirondack Museum, the Natural History Museum of the Adirondacks, and the Association for Protection of the Adirondacks.