Posted on August 1st, 2012 4 comments Add a comment >>
Protect the Adirondacks, the Adirondack Mountain Club, the Adirondack Council, and other green groups have started an online petition to encourage the state not to back out of an agreement to purchase sixty-five thousand acres of former Finch, Pruyn lands for the Forest Preserve.
In its petition, the environmentalists contend that “a small but vocal group” is pressuring Governor Andrew Cuomo and the state Department of Environmental Conservation to keep the lands in private ownership.
“This proposal undermines a carefully balanced project that is a sound investment both in the local economy and in the environment and in the ecological integrity of the Adirondack Park,” the petition asserts.
The Adirondack Nature Conservancy bought all 161,000 acres owned by Finch, Pruyn in 2007. It has since sold ninety-two thousand acres to a Danish pension fund, subject to easements that prohibit development and allow some public access.
Many local leaders argue that most of the lands earmarked for the Forest Preserve should follow the easement model, thus allowing forestry to continue and hunting camps to remain.
Members of the Gooley Club have been among the most adamant opponents of deal. The club is located near the Essex Chain of Lakes, which is slated to enter the Preserve. George Earl wrote about the club’s fight in article that appeared in the Adirondack Explorer in 2011. Click here to read that story.
Other natural gems that would become part of the Preserve include the Boreas Ponds, a long stretch of the Hudson River, OK Slip Falls, and Sugarloaf Mountain, a potential rock-climbing venue.
DEC officials have repeatedly said that they have no intention of backing out of the deal.
Other sponsors of the petition include Adirondack Wild, Audubon, and the Sierra Club. They intend to present the petition to governor and DEC later this year.
The petition has been online for a few months, but the council sent out an “action alert” this afternoon, asking people to sign up by Monday, August 6. Scott Lorey, the council’s legislative director, said the drive is winding down. To date, the online petition has gathered more than 4,900 signatures.
Click here to add your name to the petition.
Posted on July 31st, 2012 Add a comment >>
New York State has added 156 acres on southern Lake Champlain to the forever-wild Forest Preserve, the state Department of Environmental Conservation announced today.
Known as Chubbs Dock property, the tract includes 2,140 feet of shoreline and seventy acres of wetlands in the town of Dresden. It is in a wildlife travel corridor connecting the Adirondacks with Vermont’s Green Mountains.
“Chubbs Dock conserves excellent wildlife habitat along the narrow headwaters of Lake Champlain,” said DEC Commissioner Joe Martens.
The Adirondack Nature Conservancy bought the property for $500,000 in November 2009 and donated it to the state this past May.
“Not only is New York State keeping intact some of the largest wetlands on Lake Champlain, but doing it in a way that will also secure public access for hunting, fishing, boating, and wildlife-oriented recreation—all of which contribute to the state’s outdoor recreation economy,” said Michael Carr, executive director of the conservancy’s Adirondack chapter.
In addition, Washington County transferred to the state this year an adjoining 283-acre parcel on Maple Bend Island—making a total of 439 acres of wetlands that have been added to the Forest Preserve. DEC will pay taxes on both properties.
DEC’s full news release follows.
ALBANY, NY (07/31/2012)(readMedia)– In partnership with The Nature Conservancy (TNC), the state has acquired 156 acres on Southern Lake Champlain in the Town of Dresdon, Washington County that will be added to the State Forest Preserve, NYS Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) Commissioner Joe Martens announced today.
Known as the Chubbs Dock property, the land features 2,140 feet of undeveloped shoreline and 70 acres of wetland communities that support rare plants and falls within an area that provides critical breeding, staging and migration habitat for thousands of waterfowl species.
“Chubbs Dock conserves excellent wildlife habitat along the narrow headwaters of Lake Champlain,” said Commissioner Martens. “The property will be added to the Forest Preserve and serve as part of a travel corridor for wildlife between the Adirondack and Green Mountains. Thanks to our partners TNC, Washington County and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service for making this land preservation possible.”
With funding through the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s North American Wetland Conservation Act grant program, TNC purchased the property for $500,000 in November 2009. The property was then donated to New York State in May 2012. TNC has previously utilized North American Wetlands Conservation Act (NAWCA) grants to protect Mill Bay Marsh and Huckleberry Marsh in the Lake Champlain watershed.
“This is a great example of strategic, high leverage conservation work of regional and national importance,” said Michael Carr, Executive Director of the Conservancy’s Adirondack Chapter.
“Not only is New York State keeping intact some of the largest wetlands on Lake Champlain, but doing it in a way that will also secure public access for hunting, fishing, boating, and wildlife-oriented recreation-all of which contribute to the state’s outdoor recreation economy.”
The NAWCA grant application was supported by Washington County and included a commitment by the county to transfer an adjoining 283-acre tract on Maple Bend Island. Both transfers happened this year, adding a total of 439 acres with significant wetlands to public ownership. As part of the Forest Preserve, DEC will pay taxes on both properties. Public access to Lake Champlain and its shoreline is limited because most of the shoreline is privately owned. State acquisition of Chubb’s Dock will provide for new public access.
Protecting wetlands is also an important part of mitigating the impacts of climate change by helping to maintain the connection between wetlands and riparian habitat.
The NAWCA of 1989 provides matching grants to organizations and individuals who have developed partnerships to carry out wetland conservation projects in the United States, Canada, and Mexico for the benefit of wetlands-associated migratory birds and other wildlife. The Act was passed, in part, to support activities under the North American Waterfowl Management Plan, an international agreement that provides a strategy for the long-term protection of wetlands and associated uplands habitats needed by waterfowl and other migratory birds in North America. In December 2002, Congress reauthorized the Act and expanded its scope to include the conservation of all habitats and birds associated with wetland ecosystems.
The Act emphasizes multi-stakeholder partnerships as necessary and valuable mechanisms for wetlands conservation, and for this reason proposals submitted for funding under the Act must include a substantial partnership component. Wetlands conservation projects focus specifically on the long-term protection, restoration, enhancement and/or management of wetland ecosystems.
The North American Wetlands Conservation Fund, set up under the Act, is funded through several federal sources, including direct appropriations, interest from receipts under the Pittman-Robertson Trust Fund, receipts from the Sportfish Restoration Account, and fines and forfeitures collected under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s Division of Bird Habitat Conservation is responsible for facilitating and administering grants under the Act’s two grants programs.
By focusing on public-private partnerships and working with multiple stakeholders to leverage federal dollars several times over with non-federal funding sources, the NAWCA Program has become one of the nation’s most successful conservation programs.
Posted on December 1st, 2011 3 comments Add a comment >>
The Adirondack Council wants the state to purchase or otherwise protect a 2,257-acre parcel near Poke-o-Moonshine Mountain that is on the market for $2,275,000.
Dubbed Burnt Pond Forest, the tract lies just southwest of Poke-o-Moonshine, bordering state Forest Preserve. It is being marketed by LandVest, a real-estate company that deals in timberlands the Northeast.
In an online brochure, LandVest says the property contains six peaks, several trout streams, an eighteen-acre pond, and a trail system. The brochure touts the property’s timber value but also suggests that the pond would be suitable “for the development of a recreational cabin or second home.”
Adirondack Council spokesman John Sheehan said the environmental group would like the state to either purchase the property outright or buy an easement that would forbid development. “We would like to see it protected as forestland with public recreation,” he told the Explorer.
The council first called for the protection of this land in 1990, in one of its “2020 Vision” reports, subtitled “Realizing the Recreational Potential of Adirondack Wild Forests.” Written by the guidebook author Barbara McMartin, the report recommended a variety of land acquisitions to expand the Preserve’s Wild Forest Areas. (A companion report focused on Wilderness Areas.)
McMartin, who died in 2005, recommended that the state purchase 3,660 acres north and west of Poke-o-Moonshine Mountain, a popular hiking and rock-climbing venue. She said Poke-o, which the state owns, “is just one of a cluster of mountains with exposed rock ledges, the nucleus of what could be a splendid hiking and climbing area.”
The Commission on the Adirondacks in the Twenty-First Century also recommended in 1990 that the state acquire land around Poke-o. The commission was headed by George Davis, who also oversaw the publication of the council’s 2020 Vision reports.
Burnt Pond Forest overlaps the tract eyed by McMartin and the commission. A comparison of maps suggests that more than half of Burnt Pond Forest’s acreage was targeted for the Forest Preserve.
Champlain Area Trails (CATS) also wants the state to purchase or protect the land on the market. Chris Maron, the group’s executive director, said the property is ideal for hiking and cross-country skiing. He noted that it would provide an alternative hiking route to the fire tower on Poke-o-Moonshine’s summit.
Dave Spiers, a LandVest broker, said the investment group that owns the property would be willing to sell tract to the state. “They’d be open to anybody who wants to make an offer,” he said.
It appears, though, that Burnt Pond Forest is not on the radar screen of the state Department of Environmental Conservation. Asked if DEC would have any interest in purchasing the property, spokesman David Winchell replied in an e-mail that the department is not familiar with it.
“The owner has not approached us about selling it to the state,” Winchell said, “nor is the parcel listed as a specific priority project in the Open Space Conservation Plan.”
Sheehan, however, noted that the state has expressed interest in protecting land in the Champlain Valley, where Poke-o sits. He said the council will urge DEC’s regional open-space committee to take steps to protect Burnt Pond Forest.
Given the state’s dismal fiscal condition, some Adirondack politicians have called for a moratorium on the acquisition of land for the Forest Preserve. Sheehan, however, said the parcel in question is small enough that the state may be able to afford it. If not, he said, an easement could be acquired for less than half of the purchase price.
Click here to read LandVest’s marketing materials and view photos of the property.
Click here to read my article on Adirondack Almanack about other timberlands marketed by LandVest.
Posted on May 18th, 2011 1 comment - Add a comment >>
Governor Andrew Cuomo came to Lake Placid on Wednesday to push the three initiatives of his “People First” agenda: a property-tax cap, ethics reform, and gay marriage.
Cuomo delivered a polished speech, with graphics, to a packed room in the brand-new Conference Center at Lake Placid and received loud applause for all three causes.
Property-tax cap. Cuomo said property taxes for years have been rising faster than inflation. He proposes to cap property-tax hikes to 2 percent a year or the rate of inflation, whichever is lower. It would take a supermajority vote of the taxpayers or a local legislative body to exceed the cap. “New York has no economic future as the tax capital of the nation,” Cuomo said.
Ethics reform. Cuomo said scandals and corruption in state government have disgraced the state. He proposes measures requiring legislators and lobbyists to disclose their relationships and establishing an independent entity to enforce ethics rules. He scoffed at legislators’ claims that they can monitor themselves. “Self-policing is an oxymoron,” he said.
Gay marriage. The governor said New York State—once a progressive state—lags behind other states, such as Vermont and Iowa, in permitting gays to marry. Just as interracial marriages won acceptance decades ago, so gay marriage will be seen in the future as a basic right. “We will look back and say we can’t believe there were states that didn’t allow gay people to marry just because they were gay.”
Click here to read the Adirondack Daily Enterprise‘s account of Cuomo’s visit.
After the speech, Cuomo met with a dozen or so reporters to take questions. Most of the questions were about his agenda, but I managed to slip one in about land acquisition. I asked how he felt about state land purchases in the Adirondacks and in particular about the pending purchases of Follensby Pond and former Finch, Pruyn properties.
Unfortunately, the governor did not reveal much in his answer. Here it is in its entirety (thanks to Chris Morris of WNBZ for providing the audio clip):
“Conservation is very important to our efforts and our entire environmental program; it’s important to the Park. You then have a question on the specific purchase—this purchase, this land here at this cost, at this time—and that’s a case-by-case determination.”
Local officials have called on the state to back out of commitments to purchase the Follensby and Finch, Pruyn properties. The state Department of Environmental Conservation, however, has indicated that it intends to go forward in adding these lands to the forever-wild Forest Preserve.
Click the link below to hear Cuomo’s answer to my question.
Posted on February 16th, 2011 9 comments Add a comment >>
The Tupper Lake Town Board voted this week to oppose the state’s acquisition of Follensby Pond, one of the largest privately owned lakes in the Northeast, and some sixty-five thousand acres once owned by Finch, Pruyn & Co. Both properties are now owned by the Nature Conservancy, which intends to sell them to the state.
Jessica Collier, writing in the Adirondack Daily Enterprise, says the town’s resolution closely mirrors the one passed a few weeks ago by the Adirondack Park Local Government Review Board. Franklin County passed a similar resolution, and the Adirondack Association of Towns and Villages is considering a similar measure.
Despite the local opposition, the state Department of Environmental Conservation does not intend to back off plans to purchase the properties, according to DEC officials. I have written a detailed story on the controversy that will appear in the March/April issue of the Explorer.
Part of the 14,600-acre Follensby Park lies within the town of Tupper Lake, but most of the land is in adjacent Harrietstown.
If you follow the link to Jessica’s story, be sure to check out the lively debate in the comments section.
Posted on February 7th, 2011 8 comments Add a comment >>
The Adirondack Association of Towns and Villages has drafted a resolution opposing the state’s purchase of Follensby Pond and some 65,000 acres formerly owned by Finch, Pruyn & Co.
Wells Supervisor Brian Towers, the president of AATV, said the draft resolution has the “same general thrust” of a resolution passed a few weeks ago by the Adirondack Park Local Government Review Board.
Unlike the Review Board’s resolution, Towers said, the AATV’s draft measure does not speculate on the number of jobs that might be lost if the lands are added to the Forest Preserve. Rather, Towers said the AATV focuses more on the state’s fiscal crisis.
“The general feeling is that this is a bad time to be buying any land,” he said.
Towers said the organization’s executive board is reviewing the draft resolution. He expects that it will be voted on by the board and the general membership within a month or so.
“My gut feeling is that this will pass in some format,” he said.
The Adirondack Nature Conservancy owns the lands in question and plans to sell them to the state. Officials in the state Department of Environmental Conservation say they intend to go ahead with the acquisitions.
The conservancy bought all 161,000 acres owned by Finch, Pruyn in 2007. Afterward, it put together a plan for the property that was approved by all twenty-seven towns that contained Finch lands. Most of the land, some 89,000 acres, is now protected by easements that allow logging and public recreation but preclude development.
Towers would like to see the 65,000 acres in question protected by easements as well rather than added to the forever-wild Forest Preserve. He added, however, that he wouldn’t mind if the state bought a few choice parcels for the Preserve.
Asked if the draft resolution goes against the wishes of the twenty-seven towns, Towers replied, “When the towns supported it, I’m not sure exactly what they were supportive of.”
Fred Monroe, the executive director of the Review Board, has suggested that the towns signed off on the plan in order to negotiate the best deal they could.
Posted on February 7th, 2011 30 comments Add a comment >>
Last week the Adirondack Council criticized the Adirondack Park Local Government Review Board for urging the state to abandon plans to buy Follesnby Pond and some 65,000 acres of former Finch, Pruyn lands. The council argued that the board had overstepped its legislative mandate in commenting on state-land purchases. It also suggested that Fred Monroe, the board’s executive director, and George Canon, who until recently was the board’s chairman, had conflicts of interest in that both belong to hunting clubs that will be forced to shut down or move if the state buys the Finch, Pruyn lands. Monroe has issued the following written statement in response to the council’s critcisms.
The Adirondack Council press release regarding the Review Board resolution opposing fee acquisition of former Finch and Follensby lands is typical Council response to positions taken by organizations that do not hold the same views as the Adirondack Council. The truth is that neither Fred Monroe, the executive director, nor George Canon, the former chairman of the Review Board voted on the resolution. Mr. Monroe does not have a vote. Contrary to Council assertions, Mr. Canon was not even present.
The Adirondack Council has criticized the Review Board before for commenting publicly on state land purchases – in this case saying it had no business making a statement. It sounds like the Council is trying to revoke the First Amendment — not only free speech, but the right to petition the state government for a redress of grievances.
The major concerns of Adirondack local governments are the jobs and building rights that will be lost in the Follensby and Finch purchases. The lost jobs will further harm the Adirondack economy. The lost building rights will make the affordable housing problem in the Adirondacks worse. When the supply of building rights is restricted and demand remains steady, or increases, land prices increase.
The Review Board represents twelve counties. All Review Board representatives are appointed by those county legislatures. Those counties have a population of more than one million. One hundred and thirty thousand live in the Adirondacks. Counties, towns and villages have legitimate concerns. The representatives appointed by the counties did their jobs by considering the facts and unanimously passing a well-reasoned resolution.
The Review Board believes that the APA has a responsibility to insure compliance with the State Land Master Plan which specifically provides that the state should not usually make bulk purchases of highly productive forest land in fee because of the importance of the forest products industry to the economy of the Adirondacks. That provision has been ignored in fee purchases of state lands in the past. It appears that, unless policies change, it will also be ignored in the Finch and Follensby planned purchases.
The Review Board is statutorily (Executive Law Section 803-a) required to: advise and assist the APA; advocate for its constituents, and periodically report to the legislature, the governor and the counties that make up the board. That is what the Review Board did.
The Review Board executive director sits as a non-voting official at Adirondack Park Agency Board meetings, with a spot on the APA’s agenda each month for “Review Board Comments.” The comments that the Board offers are compilations of comments, concerns and approvals heard on specific issues and general issues from the constituents who are represented by the twelve members of the Review Board appointed by their counties. These are the people who live and work in the Adirondack Park, whose life and livelihood is affected, for better or worse, by each and every decision made by the APA.
Posted on February 4th, 2011 1 comment - Add a comment >>
The Franklin County legislature has unanimously passed a resolution opposing the state’s proposed acquisition of Follensby Pond and some 65,000 acres once owned by Finch, Pruyn & Co., according to this story in the Adirondack Daily Enterprise.
The action follows a similar resolution adopted last week by the Adirondack Park Local Government Review Board. Yesterday, the Adirondack Council accused the board of overstepping its authority. The council also accused Fred Monroe, the board’s executive director, of having a conflict of interest, since he belongs to a hunting club that would lose its lease if the state buys the Finch, Pruyn lands.
Earlier today, Monroe pushed back against the council. “It’s a classic Adirondack Council tactic,” he told me, “to obscure the facts, divert attention from the issues, and make personal attacks. ”
Monroe said the Review Board’s resolution reflects concerns he has heard from many towns. He expects a number of towns and counties to adopt resolutions against the land purchases. He hopes a groundwell of opposition to the deals will convince Governor Andrew Cuomo to block them. At this time, however, the state Department of Environmental Conservation has no plans to back out of the deals. The lands were purchased by the Nature Conservancy with the understanding that they would eventually be added to the Forest Preserve.
Meanwhile, Adirondack Council spokesman John Sheehan is sticking to his guns. In an e-mail to the Explorer, he wrote: “We still think the Review Board’s resolution was inaccurate, inappropriate and unethical and should be withdrawn.”
Posted on February 3rd, 2011 43 comments Add a comment >>
The Adirondack Council is accusing the Adirondack Park Local Government Review Board of misleading the public in its critique of the state’s plan to buy Follensby Pond and former Finch, Pruyn lands. In a news release this morning, the council asks that the Review Board withdraw a resolution calling on the state to back out of the land deals. Moreover, the council is calling for an ethics investigation of Fred Monroe, the board’s executive director, and Newcomb Supervisor George Canon, the board’s chairman. Both Monroe and Canon belong to hunting clubs that would lose their leases if the state buys the Finch, Pruyn lands. [I later learned that Canon gave up the chairmanship before the meeting and was not present for the vote.] The council’s news release follows. – Phil Brown
ELIZABETHTOWN, N.Y. – The Adirondack Park’s largest environmental organization today called on the Adirondack Park Local Government Review Board to withdraw a resolution it sent to Gov. Andrew Cuomo, which attacks a pending state land conservation agreement with The Nature Conservancy that would add Hudson River Gorge, Blue Ledges and the Essex Chain of Lakes to the public Forest Preserve.
“This resolution is shameful,” said Adirondack Council Executive Director Brian L. Houseal. “We do our best to see eye-to-eye with local government, but the Review Board has stepped way over the line this time. Their accusations are baseless. Their claims of job losses are not only false, they are contradicted by a 2009 study that Adirondack local governments commissioned and the Review Board promoted.”
“Worst of all, both the executive director and the chairman of the Review Board have unmistakable, personal conflicts of interest in the matter at hand,” Houseal said. “Both are members of exclusive hunting clubs that will be forced to move elsewhere when the state purchases the Hudson River Gorge, Essex Chain of Lakes, OK Slip Falls and other former Finch, Pruyn & Co lands. Both officials should have recused themselves from even discussing this matter in public. That is not what happened here.”
The Review Board’s actions are inappropriate for two more reasons, Houseal explained.
“All 26 Adirondack town supervisors whose communities were affected by the Finch agreement approved the transaction in 2007,” said Houseal. “These parcels were identified by the public as high priorities in the state’s official Open Space Conservation Plan more than a decade ago. So the Review Board is now second-guessing everyone else’s careful decisions.”
Second, Houseal noted that the Adirondack Park Local Government Review Board has no business even commenting publicly on state land purchases. The Review Board has only one lawful function. It is supposed to monitor and report on how the Adirondack Park Agency administers and enforces the Adirondack Park Private Land Use and Development Plan. (Executive Law Section 803-a)
“The Adirondack Park Agency has no role in the acquisition of public lands,” Houseal said. “It is a private-land regulatory agency. But the Review Board is spending public money to attack the Department of Environmental Conservation, The Nature Conservancy and environmental protection in general. That is wrong. It is a misappropriation of tax dollars. When it is done by someone with a personal, financial interest in the outcome, it is worse than wrong.
“At a minimum, this merits an ethics investigation,” Houseal said. “It may be much more serious than that. We expect that the Attorney General, Comptroller and other state officials will want to know about this.”
Houseal said that Local Government Review Board Executive Director Fred Monroe of Chestertown has revealed to local media that he is a member of the Polaris Mountain Club. Review Board Chairman George Canon of Newcomb has told the media he is a member of the Gooley Club. Both clubs will be evicted from their leased lands when the state purchases the former Finch lands from the Adirondack Chapter of The Nature Conservancy.
Ironically, the clubs only had one-year leases with the timber company and could have been evicted by The Nature Conservancy when it purchased the lands in 2007. Instead, the Conservancy offered multi-year leases to all 42 hunting clubs that formerly leased Finch lands in 26 separate Adirondack towns, giving those that had to move years of warning and planning time.
Houseal said the Review Board’s estimate of job losses was both inaccurate and contradicted by the 2009 Adirondack Park Regional Assessment Project (APRAP), commissioned by the Adirondack Association of Towns and Villages and Adirondack North Country Association.
“The Review Board’s resolution claimed that 225 forestry jobs would be lost by subtracting these 75,000 acres from the park’s commercial timberlands,” Houseal said. “But the regional assessment project says there were only 420 forestry jobs in the entire Adirondack Park in 2007, spread across 1,763,470 acres of private forests. How does losing 4 percent of the timber base result in a 55 percent employment loss? It doesn’t. The statement is blatantly false.
“The Nature Conservancy and state DEC have been an overwhelmingly positive influence on the timber industry in the Adirondack Park,” Houseal explained. “Every major timber company has moved away or gone out of business in the past 20 years. But because of conservation agreements with new landowners, the state has protected from development some 800,000 acres of private lands in the Adirondack Park since 1990, where private timber harvesting continues under state supervision. The conservancy assisted the state in completing most of those agreements.
“If anything, the Nature Conservancy and DEC have saved timber industry jobs,” Houseal said. “Part of their purchase of the Finch lands included a guarantee that the lands would remain in timber production, and that the lands would provide pulp to the former Finch papermill in Glens Falls for at least 20 years.
“In contrast, most of our local forestry job losses came with the closing of outdated paper mills and the invention of the feller-buncher, a piece of heavy equipment that allows one man to cut and load an entire forest of trees on to a truck without a crew,” he explained. “But the Review Board’s resolution isn’t about saving jobs. It is about protecting exclusive personal privileges, and doing it with public money.”
Posted on January 28th, 2011 42 comments Add a comment >>
The Adirondack Park Local Government Review Board this week passed a resolution urging the state not to go forward with plans to purchase Follensby Pond and some sixty thousand acres of former Finch, Pruyn lands.
The resolution, adopted Wednesday, argues that the purchases would violate the Adirondack Park State Land Master Plan, hurt the local economy, and burden state taxpayers.
“In these dire financial times, with the state facing bankruptcy . . . the priorities of the state should not include buying any more land,” the board declares. It estimates that the deals will cost the region 165 jobs.
The board also requested Governor Andrew Cuomo to order a study of the social and economic impacts of land acquisition in the Adirondacks before approving any new land purchases in the region. (The full resolution can be downloaded by clicking the PDF link at the end of this post.)
Fred Monroe, the executive director of the review board, said he has talked to Cuomo’s environmental adviser about local governments’ opposition to the deals. Although this adviser was “non-committal,” Monroe said another Cuomo adviser does oppose further land acquisition.
Monroe said the resolution passed unanimously. He conceded that local governments had signed off on the Finch, Pruyn deal a few years ago, but he said they did so only because they wanted to negotiate the best deal they could.
The Adirondack Nature Conservancy bought all of Finch, Pruyn’s 161,000 acres in 2007. It later sold eighty-nine thousand acres to a Danish pension fund, subject to a conservation easement that allows logging but prohibits development. Last month, the state bought the easement from the conservancy. Under the terms of the easement, the public will be allowed to use some of the lands for recreation.
The conservancy hopes to sell most of the rest of the former Finch land, some sixty thousand acres, to the state over the next few years—at a price that is expected to exceed $40 million.
Monroe said he would like to see a timber-management company buy the land outright. His fallback position is to have the state enter an easement agreement with a private buyer. In either case, he wants the hunting clubs that lease much of the former Finch land to be allowed to remain. (Monroe belongs to one of the clubs himself. For more on the debate over the hunting clubs, see this story in the Explorer.)
The Finch lands contain such natural jewels as Blue Ledges on the Hudson Gorge, OK Slip Falls, the Essex Chain of Lakes, and Boreas Ponds. Monroe said he would not object if the state added Blue Ledges, OK Slip Falls, and perhaps a few other “truly unique” properties to the Forest Preserve.
The Adirondack Nature Conservancy bought the 14,600-acre Follensby Park in 2008, with the intention of selling the whole property to the state. The state has secured about $6 million in federal Forest Legacy monies to help pay for this property. The review board contends that the Forest Legacy program was designed to protect working forests, yet if the state buys the land, it will be off limits to logging.
Environmentalists argue that Follensby Park and the remaining Finch lands are treasures worthy of inclusion in the forever-wild Forest Preserve—for both their ecological and recreational value. The Adirondack Council and Adirondack Mountain Club, for example, see an opportunity to create a canoe wilderness in the central Adirondacks.
The review board may be fighting an uphill battle. Last weekend, a state official told me that the state has no plans to pull the plug on either deal. In fact, because the state has no other big land acquisitions in the pipeline, these deals could get done fairly quickly if sufficient money is allocated to the Environmental Protection Fund over the next several years. We’ll know more about the EPF when Cuomo releases his budget next week.