Land Ownership

A Note about Land Measurement…

The acreage amounts used in this report, as provided by the Department of Environmental Conservation, have been deliberately rounded. Hundreds of parcels are considered in each of the cumulative totals for the Forest Preserve and the easements in perpetuity. Many of those parcels were originally measured using the survey techniques of that period and were subject to constant revision for more than a century. Maintaining an accurate record of State ownership and public easements within a 5.9 million-acre Park is a very fluid process requiring constant updates, even when no transactions occur. The following is a brief list of the various factors that can affect assessments of total acreage:

  • Boundary line adjustments
  • Accounting for water bodies
  • Redemptions and cancellations resulting from land ownership disputes
  • Improved survey techniques and GIS mapping
  • Ownership by multiple State agencies

Land Ownership Overview

The Adirondack Park is grand in scale and concept. It could stand alone as the 45th largest state in America. The Park is located within a 12-county region that comprises one-third of the land area of New York State. More than 55% of the land area of this region is within the Park boundary.

Since its creation in 1892, the Park has more than doubled in size and more than 62% of the Park is now under some form of resource protection.

One out of every nine acres of land in the State of New York is Adirondack forestland that has been afforded some degree of resource protection.

Forest Preserve

The largest category of lands under protection in the Park is state-owned Forest Preserve (Figure 1). These 2,614,000+/- acres of constitutionally protected Preserve exceed the size of Yellowstone and Grand Teton national parks combined. The Forest Preserve has increased in size nearly five-fold over the past 121 years. The initial endowment of 551,000+/- acres in 1892 has grown by more than two million acres. A strong indicator of future growth might be found in the expansion over the past 80 years, which has averaged 8,000 acres annually.

Conservation Easements

The DEC has overseen the acquisition of conservation easements on 778,000+/- acres of private land. Over the past 16 years, the average annual rate of acquisition of public easements has exceeded 40,000 acres per year. Easement lands are now equivalent in acreage to 30% of the Forest Preserve, or an area larger than Yosemite National Park.

Taken together, state-owned Forest Preserve lands and public conservation easements total 3,392,000 acres within the Adirondack Park or approximately 58% of the Park’s total area as accounted for by DEC. This represents a 50% increase in Forest Preserve/Easement lands since the early 1970s.

For additional information regarding conservation easements visit the NYSDEC website.

The direct fiscal implication in terms of the real property tax paid by New York State on state-owned Forest Preserve lands or lands under state-owned conservation easements was $77.58* million in 2012. This payment has increased by more than $8.5 million or 12.3% since 2007.

For a look at the growth of State-owned Forest Preserve and conservation easements, see Figure 2.

Property Tax Incentives

Yet another form of resource preservation exists in the form of property tax incentives made available by the State to forestland owners. Sections 480 and 480-a of the State Real Property Tax Law provide incentives to landowners who commit to a DEC-approved forest management plan. As with conservation easements, these programs afford the public a degree of forest protection, but do not allow for public access.

According to the State Office of Real Property Tax Services, more than 1,700 parcels of land in the Park, totaling 680,500 acres, are enrolled in these programs. Some of these lands are also protected by state-owned conservation easements, as shown in the Figure 3.

In total, the three forms of resource preservation described above now encompass 3,678,344 acres or nearly 63% of the Park, as follows:

  • State-owned Forest Preserve = 2,614,000+/- acres
  • State-owned conservation easements = 778,000+/- acres
  • 480/480-a lands = 680,566 acres
  • Lands with overlapping 480/480-a and conservation easements = (394,222) acres
  • Total = 3,678,344+/- acres

The progression of the relationship between the size of the Park, the amount of forever-wild Forest Preserve land, and the lands under state-owned conservation easements are shown in Figure 4.


* The NYS Department of Taxation and Finance