Over the past two decades, the state has purchased conservation easements on some 750,000 acres in the Adirondack Park. These timberlands are protected from development, and many of them are open to the public for recreation.
In theory, at least. In reality, most visitors to the Adirondacks seldom, if ever, set foot on easement lands. Partly, that’s because they don’t know where they can go or what they can do. The cliffs on Silver Lake Mountain are an exception.
The state purchased easements on the cliffs as part of a massive deal with International Paper in 2004 that preserved some 260,000 acres. Now owned by Lyme Timber, the cliffs were opened to the public—i.e., rock climbers—in 2009. » Continue Reading.
In the Adirondacks, we often point with pride to the extraordinary oddness of the Adirondack Park. From Manhattan’s Central Park to California’s Yosemite, Americans have gotten used to parks with neat boundaries enclosing a domain wholly owned by the people. Because the land within the boundary is public and that outside private, when you walk or drive across that boundary, you’ve gone from one sort of place to another. You have certain expectations outside that boundary, which are different from those you have inside.
But as we like to say up here, the Adirondack Park is a park like no other. Aside from invoking this peculiarity as an interesting factoid, however, what do we do with it? What defines this Park? Is it something other than a collection of all the acres (almost 6 million of them, roughly half in the public Forest Preserve and half in private hands) inside a blue line on a map of New York State? » Continue Reading.
There has been some good writing on forestry issues in the Adirondack Park in the media recently, stimulated by the APA’s proposed, controversial General Permit for clear-cut logging. Adirondack Wild applauds the discussion and encourages more of it.
The APA held a stakeholder meeting recently of Agency staff, forest landowners and managers, scientists, and environmental groups where a conversation ensued about the difficulties that face forests and forest managers today in the Adirondack Park (and beyond). The dialogue needed to happen, and it should continue, but the General Permit (GP) does more than just get in the way of that discussion. It does little to solve the problems discussed, and cuts out the public’s involvement in these matters and, even worse, it subjects forest landowners who might apply for the GP to a perception of unfair dealings with the Agency in order to expedite the clear-cutting of their lands. That’s may be an unfair characterization, but that is the public’s perception. All in all, this General Permit is a just a bad idea. » Continue Reading.
The new draft General Permit for clearcutting being readied for approval this week by the Adirondack Park Agency (APA) is a flawed document for a number of reasons. It’s simply bad public policy, bad legal work done in the rush to get it approved, bad public process as it willfully ignores overwhelming public sentiment, and bad science as it seeks to dramatically expand the amount of clearcutting in heavily cut forests.
All of this, of course, will lead to a bad outcome for the APA and for the Adirondack Park.
But, there’s a better way. The APA could slow down this train. It should postpone action on the draft General Permit or deny it outright and then begin a better process towards a better outcome. The APA should fully investigate the legitimate issues facing large-scale forest managers across the Adirondacks. It’s important for the Adirondack Park to keep our working forests working well. » Continue Reading.
The Open Space Institute has announced that a private landowner has donated a conservation easement that will protect a nearly 1,400-acre forest in the northeast corner of the Adirondack Park. The property borders the western shore of Butternut Pond and is bisected by several brooks, most of which feed into Auger Lake, which in turn empties into the Ausable River and eventually into Lake Champlain.
The parcel, a largely wooded Essex County tract owned by the Johanson family, buffers state lands, including Pokamoonshine Mountain, and sits within the viewshed of the historic firetower on the summit of Pokamoonshine, a popular destination for rock climbers, hikers and cross-country skiers. » Continue Reading.
The Adirondack Land Trust has announced that it sold to a private buyer a 340-acre parcel for $1.3 million in the towns of Webb and Long Lake. As part of the transaction, the property, which borders the 50,000-acre Pigeon Lake Wilderness, is now protected by a conservation easement, a legally-binding, permanent land preservation agreement.
Known as the “Mays Pond tract” and offered for sale on the open market through real estate broker LandVest, the property includes a rustic cabin and will continue to be used as a private wilderness retreat, as it has for more than 70 years. » Continue Reading.
Conservation easements are real property arrangements designed for the insider. Specialists predominate before and after an easement is consummated in private, including the negotiators to the terms of the easement (the seller, donor, buyer, or grantor and grantee and their lawyers), the appraiser of the easement’s value, and an ecological specialist who conducts baseline surveys of the land in question. There is rarely, if ever, a public meeting to discuss the details of the easement. The public may learn about easements through after the fact press releases, but their specific provisions and public benefits may be unclear for years. » Continue Reading.
The New York State Snowmobile Association (NYSSA) will be holding the 4th Annual Adirondack Park Snowmobile Trail Conference at the Adirondack Hotel in Long Lake on Sunday, April 10th From 10:00 AM to 1:00 PM.
This year conference will focus on the several new Unit Management Plans (UMP) that have been approved and those in the works. Once approved by the Adirondack Park Agency (APA), plans for trail improvements can begin. Additional topics will be the status of Adirondack easements, Recreation Plans, and the new Trail Stewards program. » Continue Reading.
The Adirondack Park Agency (APA) has issued its 2010 Annual Report. The report summarizes yearly accomplishments and includes links to key documents such as the Citizen Guide, Jurisdictional Form, telecommunication sites, broadband coverage and Unit Management Plans. In addition, embedded in this year’s report is a link to the 2010 Agency Board Highlights. The Board Highlights link details Board activity, projects approved and presentations received. The Annual Report is available from the Agency’s website [pdf]. Information about the 2009 Annual Report can be found here. During 2010, the Administration Division worked to meet budget mandates by reducing the work force. This was accomplished in part through retirements and the closure of both the Visitor Interpretive Centers.
The Economic Services Division participated in the review and approval of 42 projects which are believed to have retained or created jobs in the Park. In addition, staff coordinated with the Town of Brighton on reuse opportunities for the former Camp Gabriels prison site and provided guidance on the Lake Champlain Bridge project which expedited project approval.
Regulatory Programs staff issued 392 permits and processed 167 pre-application requests. 59 economic development and 28 cellular projects were approved. In addition, 73 general permits were issued. APA staff responded to the sudden closure of the Lake Champlain Bridge by issuing permits for bridge demolition, the development of a temporary ferry and the construction of the new tied-arch bridge. Regulatory Program staff helped develop new general permit applications for a change in use for existing commercial, public/semi-public or industrial buildings and the installation of new or replacement cellular equipment.
Planning staff worked with local governments such as the Towns of Westport and Tupper Lake which sought successfully sought planning map amendments. Planning staff also worked with the Towns of Crown Point, Essex and Bellmont on local planning and mapping initiatives. Staff prepared base maps for the Hamlets 3 Smart Growth project and assisted in the development of a Memorandum of Understanding between the APA and the Department of EEnvironmental Conservation (DEC) that defines a process for review of projects on lands in which the State owns a conservation easement.
Local Government Services staff responded to 570 inquiries from local officials on land use issues and participated in twenty-six meetings with town officials providing information on Agency jurisdiction and land use law. In addition, staff reviewed 99 variances from towns with approved local land use programs.
State land staff prepared four State land classification packages which were approved by the Governor in 2010. Actions included were the creation of a new Little Moose Mountain Wilderness Area, establishment of a new Intensive Use Camping Area in the Moose River Plains, and the reclassification of the fire towers on Hurricane and St. Regis Mountain to Historic. Staff also provided advice on five new unit management plans which were determined compliant with the SLMP by the Agency Board.
Resource Analysis and Scientific Services staff completed 271 wetland delineations, advised on 242 wetland jurisdictional determinations and evaluated 81 deep hole test pits. Staff conducted educational workshops on stormwater management and the impacts of invasive species.
Regulatory revision was a significant focus for Legal staff. During the year, staff implemented regulatory revisions related to boathouses. The Legal Division also continued to work on advancing three bills in the legislature: 1) to create a community housing incentive; 2) to create a local planning grant program; and 3) to streamline the Agency’s permit process and enable development rights transfer. Legal staff were also responsible for executing Executive Order 25, which required State agencies to conduct a review of their rules and regulations.
The Jurisdictional Inquiry Office wrote 856 jurisdictional determinations, (560 non-jurisdictional and 186 jurisdictional) handled 510 referrals from other agencies and answered nearly 4,820 general inquiry phone calls. The average response time for jurisdictional determinations was 16 days. In addition, staff processed 233 Freedom of Information requests.
Enforcement staff opened 380 cases and successfully closed 372 cases, including 189 signed settlement agreements and 112 cases closed with no violations. Ongoing outreach with code enforcement and local government officials has dramatically reduced the number of subdivision violations. In 2010, of the 98 subdivisions undertaken within the Park, only one resulted in a violation.
The mission of the Adirondack Park Agency is to protect the public and private resources of the Adirondack Park through the exercise of the powers and duties of the Agency as provided by law. For more information, call the APA at (518) 891-4050 or visit www.apa.state.ny.us.
What follows is a guest essay from Minerva carpenter Duane Ricketson, an original appointee to the Department of Environmental Conservation’s (DEC) Region 5 Open Space Advisory Committee in 1990 and one of the longest serving state appointees. He’s an Adirondack native whose family arrived in the region in the 1790s and who enjoys fishing, hunting, hiking and camping. Ricketson supported and worked with local leaders on the Region 5 Open Space Advisory Committee to get local governments and Adirondackers enfranchised in the process of open space protection, especially the local government veto, which he now sees as being usurped by the Local Government Review Board.
On the surface, the recent drive by Adirondack politicians and local media to stop the State from purchasing the former Finch-Pruyn lands from the Adirondack Chapter of the Nature Conservancy is simply a continuation of the storied battle between Adirondackers and the State of New York over buying land in the Adirondack Park. This time it opens a brand new chapter, however, because the actions of local governments are now being called into question by The Local Government Review Board. » Continue Reading.
Recently, Adirondack politicians have intensified their effort to block the state’s acquisition of Follensby Pond and some sixty-five thousand acres once owned by Finch, Pruyn & Company.
In the past two weeks, the Adirondack Park Local Government Review Board and the Franklin County legislature adopted resolutions opposing the purchases. The Adirondack Association of Towns and Villages is expected to vote soon on a similar measure, and it stands an excellent chance of passing.
The opponents say the purchases would cost forestry jobs, force traditional hunting clubs to disband, and in general harm the local economy. But their ace in the hole is the claim that the state simply cannot afford to buy these properties. » Continue Reading.
Here are some of the Adirondack Park related highlights from Governor Andrew Cuomo’s 2011-12 Executive Budget, his first plan for closing the state’s estimated $11 billion deficit.
Cuomo’s budget plan would maintain the state’s Environmental Protection Fund (EPF) at $134 million, the same spending level as in the current budget, but would further reduce the budgets of the Adirondack Park Agency, the Department of Environmental Conservation, close several prisons (possibly including some in the North Country), and disband the Tug Hill Commission.
“We have to consider this a victory,” said Neil Woodworth, executive director of the Adirondack Mountain Club (ADK) said in a statement about EPF funding. “Under the circumstances, it could have been much worse. Deep cuts in the EPF would have had a substantial and long-lasting impact on New York’s natural resources. Fortunately, Governor Cuomo had the wisdom and foresight not to do that.” » Continue Reading.
I’ll risk it and take the bait in responding to Senator Betty Little, Assemblywoman Teresa Sayward and others concerning a proposed constitutional amendment to permit logging and forest product utilization on newly acquired Forest Preserve.
Their simplistic ecological arguments for the amendment, such as wanting to see more rabbits on the Forest Preserve, or expecting that logging the Preserve would help the climate are being made up as they go along and will not withstand serious scrutiny. I prefer to focus more on their constitutional hurdles.
The Senator is clearly motivated to keep the Finch lands and Follensby Pond out of the Forest Preserve. Unstated may be a desire to maintain certain leaseholders occupying the Finch lands – such as the politically influential members of the Gooley Club west of the Upper Hudson. These are at least rational positions to take and, while I have a different viewpoint, I can respect theirs. They will also attempt to accomplish their objective of keeping the lands out of the Forest Preserve through legislation, and one would think that an easier step than a constitutional amendment. Perhaps they think not. They apparently believe a good way to accomplish their objective is to create a separate class of Forest Preserve that on some date certain, after a constitutional amendment is approved by the voters some years hence, and after new Forest Preserve is acquired will permit the practice of forestry on the new land. They may feel that the public would accept this, knowing that the existing three million acres would still be “forever wild.” They may believe that all they need to do is neatly sidestep a sticky clause in Article 14, Section 1 of the Constitution, and exempt new lands from its provisions. That clause states: “nor shall the timber thereon be sold, removed or destroyed.”
But that’s not all they have to do. Theirs is no technical amendment. By attempting to exempt only new Forest Preserve from the strictures of Article 14, they must amend all 54 words of Section 1 of Article 14. They must roughshod over the very constitutional language which voters have refused to change – despite given numerous opportunities to do so – in 116 years.
Perhaps they are betting on a constitutional convention virtually doing away with Article 14 as we know it, and I’d say that’s a poor bet.
Section 1 unifies the Forest Preserve. Its first sentence states that “the lands of the state, now owned or hereafter acquired, constituting the forest preserve as now fixed by law, shall be forever kept as wild forest lands.” A simple exception clause for new acquisitions after some date would not do the trick. “Hereafter acquired” means just that. “Forever kept” means forever. The words pertain to any lands owned before, or acquired after the effective date of Section 1 of January 1, 1895. They were reaffirmed at the 1938 and 1967 constitutional conventions, and on many other occasions in the 20th and 21st centuries through passage of over 30 limited, site specific amendments which nonetheless preserve the overarching language of Section 1.
The second and final sentence of Section 1 is just as problematic for the Senator. “They shall not be leased, sold or exchanged, or be taken by any corporation, public or private, nor shall the timber thereon be sold, removed or destroyed.” Allowing DEC, a public corporation, to supervise and control logging on newly acquired Forest Preserve would constitute a clear taking of the lands. The legal agreements to permit logging activity by private parties on any parts of the Forest Preserve might likely constitute a lease, further violating that provision. The third and final clause of that sentence – the one that the Senator may think is the only hurdle – speaks for itself.
I conclude that pretty much all 54 words of Section 1 would need to be amended, rewritten and stripped of their present and historic meaning in order to achieve a separate class of Forest Preserve managed for forest products. The public may be willing to make occasional, limited, site specific amendments to Article 14 for worthy objectives that both meet a legitimate public purpose and enhance the Forest Preserve. However, the voters have demonstrated over a very long period that they are unwilling to make substantial changes to the “forever wild” policy because the Forest Preserve as now constituted provides such enormous benefits. It is the envy of the world. It distinguishes New York from all other states and from all other nations. It is woven into our social fabric, as well as our laws. It provides billions of dollars in ecological and recreational services. It pays taxes for all purposes. The voters would be especially unwilling when the reasons for doing so, on economic, ecological, social and public policy grounds, are so questionable.
Prior to 1983, Senator Little’s amendment might have a better public policy rationale and more public appeal. That was when the conservation easement legislation was approved that permits the State to acquire rights in land without the land becoming Forest Preserve, and which has been so effective in keeping forest management and forest employment alive in the Park, which are the stated objectives for the amendment. Putting more resources into effective programs like this would be the more realistic way to achieve them.
My ski trip to Bum Pond, with my daughter Martha, was made possible by the state’s purchase of nearly fifteen thousand acres from the Whitney family in 1997.
Thanks to this latest land deal, the public will have the opportunity to enjoy new ski trails in coming winters.
The Nature Conservancy bought all 161,000 acres owned by Finch, Pruyn in 2007. Last year, it sold eighty-nine thousand acres to ATP Timberland Invest. On December 30, the state announced that it would pay $30 million for easements on the ATP lands. » Continue Reading.
The signing of an important conservation easement last week protecting a large percentage of the former Finch, Pruyn lands reminds me of a visit I paid to Paul Schaefer in March, 1990. At that time, Governor Mario Cuomo had proposed an Environmental Bond Act, which required legislative approval before going to the voters (it was ultimately voted down). How was the bond act being received in the legislature, Paul asked. I gave him the news that it was having a rough reception politically. Paul remained optimistic. The bond act was important because it would permit the purchase of conservation easements in the Adirondacks, and that should be enough to tip public support in its favor, he felt.
Later that year, Paul formed Sportsmen for the Bond Act. It was one of many highly focused organizations he created in his lifetime. This effort, one of the last he personally led, revealed an evolution in Schaefer’s approach to Park conservation. Since 1930, Paul had fought for any appropriation that would add more Forest Preserve, public land protected as “forever wild” by Article 14 of the NYS Constitution that would eventually be classified wild forest or wilderness. He persuaded many organized hunters to support his wilderness philosophy. But he also came to believe that many private holdings in the Park should be available for active forest management, which he viewed as complimentary, both ecologically and aesthetically, to adjacent “forever wild” Forest Preserve. » Continue Reading.
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