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(For more on the balance between conservationists and developers, please click here.)

ALBANY-In a $13.5-million deal, state officials have acquired a 575-acre tract of land adjacent to Sterling Forest State Park in Orange County that had been earmarked for development. The move expands the park to more than 18,200 acres.

“This latest acquisition represents the final step in protecting the full array of natural resources and wildlife habitats at Sterling Forest State Park for generations to come,” Gov. George Pataki says. “With this purchase, we are not only increasing the outdoor opportunities for the public at this incredible scenic property, but we are furthering our commitment to safeguarding open space in the New York/New Jersey Highlands and throughout the Palisades.”

The property, purchased from Swiss insurance company subsidiary Sterling Forest LLC, was financed by the State Environmental Fund. The Tuxedo-based firm had proposed a controversial mixed-use project for the site that included more than 100 homes and a golf course.

In 1988, the state acquired the first 15,280 acres that created Sterling Forest. New York and New Jersey, along with the federal government and private interests, worked together to raise $55 million to purchase Sterling Forest and preserve it as open space. The property protects a major source of drinking water for New Jersey and was the last large, privately held open space in the New York City metropolitan region. Since the initial announcement, another 3,000 have been added to the park including this latest acquisition, state officials say.

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