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Rayonier sells forest land in St. Lawrence, Lewis and Franklin counties

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Rayonier Forest Resources has sold 130,659 acres in St. Lawrence, Clinton, Franklin and Lewis counties to a client of Molpus Woodlands Group for $57.5 million.

“The previous owner has done a good job of management in a sustainable manner,” Molpus general counsel Michael D. Cooper said. “It’s business as usual to the local community. What they saw previously will continue.”

Much of the land sold was in the St. Lawrence County towns of Piercefield, Clare, Pierrepont and Colton. The land in St. Lawrence County was purchased by MWF Adirondacks Limited Liability Corp. for $47.3 million. The property is almost entirely within the Adirondack Park and is certified under the Sustainable Forestry Initiative.

Molpus, Jackson, Miss., already had an office in Saranac Lake to oversee the management of 30,000 acres previously purchased in the area.

Despite the price paid, affected towns will not see a windfall from mortgage taxes because they were not secured to finance the purchase, according to records filed with the St. Lawrence County Clerk’s Office.

The state has conservation easements on much of the land, protecting it from development but allowing logging, fishing, hiking and other recreational use.

An easement purchased by the state in 2006 gave the public access to more than 26 miles of the Middle and North branches of the Grasse River corridor along a 200-foot buffer on both banks of the river. That agreement also gave the state public fishing rights on about 16 miles of Grasse River tributaries, including Gulf Brook, Alder Brook, Bear Creek, Pleasant Lake and Stony Brook, along with use of existing snowmobile trails.

The state Department of Environmental Conservation was not aware of the sale until it was nearly done, said Michael J. Contino, real property supervisor.

“Once we buy an easement, our job is done,” he said. “By us owning the conservation easements, we help them pay the taxes.”

Rayonier officials told Piercefield Supervisor Neil W. Pickering they wanted to focus on their timber holdings in the south and the west.

“They were just getting out of this area,” Mr. Pickering said. “We won’t see a change in the way it’s managed. Rayonier really did a good job.”

MWF Adirondacks was looking at timberland as a long-term safe investment with low volatility, Mr. Cooper said.

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