NEWCOMB — Town officials are waiting to see what kind of impact results from the sale of Finch Pruyn & Co. lands in their community.The 142-year-old Adirondack logging and paper company plans to sell its entire holdings — including vast tracts of Adirondack forestland — to Connecticut-based Atlas Holdings, LLC.John Brodt, spokesman for Finch Pruyn, said that much of the company's 161,000 wooded acres are concentrated in Essex County and are classified Resource Management under the Adirondack State Land Master Plan.Brodt would not say why the Board of Directors wants to sell the privately owned company."In June of last year, they began soliciting offers and met with quite a bit of interest. They have recommended shareholders accept (the Atlas) offer."The 100 shareholders are expected to vote April 24.
About 55,000 acres of Finch Pruyn land are in the Town of Newcomb, according to Supervisor George Canon (R-Newcomb.)"About one-third of Newcomb is owned by Finch Pruyn. They've always been a good neighbor. But you're always apprehensive about change, and, of course, they are a big taxpayer."Canon said the company's initial move to sell last summer did not include land holdings.And the proposed change in ownership calls numerous land-use agreements into question.Nearly 20 hunting and fishing clubs in Newcomb lease rights from the paper company under long-held agreements."Does the new owner simply continue with policies in effect?" Canon wondered.Several snowmobile trails are also used under lease agreements from Finch Pruyn.Officials at Atlas did not return phone calls Tuesday.
While Canon did not know the proposed price for the property in Newcomb, he said Finch Pruyn sold 5,000 acres within the past two years to a conservation group in Maryland for $6 million, or about $1,100 per acre."But the 50,000 Finch acres in Newcomb is prime forestland with two lakes: Trout Pond and Perch Pond."Brodt would not disclose details of the proposed deal, either, but said most of the timber used at Finch Pruyn paper mills in Glens Falls does not come from Adirondack holdings.It is purchased from loggers and private landowners throughout the Northeast.Seven foresters manage the Adirondack lands, Brodt said.
Finch Pruyn has owned the property since before the Adirondack Park was created, making the company one of its first forest stewards.They've earned high marks from environmentalists, including a Rainforest Alliance Pioneer award.In outlining highlights, Rainforest Alliance noted that more than 80 percent of Finch Pruyn land is also leased for recreational use, keeping land useful to surrounding communities."In the 1960s and '70s they donated a lot of land, including mountain tops, to the forest preserve," said Adirondack Council spokesman John Sheehan."We were growing concerned," he added. "Over the past 18 months, they've been removing land from tax-abatement programs 480 and 480a."
As for the potential new owners, Sheehan said Atlas Holding has been in the timber business for about 25 years."We haven't heard any major complaints about the way they operate. If anything, we're hoping an opportunity may arise for easements."Several unique state lands border Finch Pruyn property, including an entire stretch of the Hudson River Gorge, OK Slip Falls and Boreas Pond."They also own a lot of waterfront," Sheehan said.Development rights are permitted as a secondary use of Resource Management lands in 43-acre parcels."It's not the preferred use," Sheehan said. "But it can be used for that if there's a good enough reason shown."We will guardedly watch the situation and hope for the best."