There were hints last week that it would happen, but it’s official, Olympic Regional Development Authority (ORDA) Chair and Open Space Institute (OSI) President Joesph Martens has been nominated by Governor Andrew Cuomo to head the Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC).
Martens has quite a legacy already in the Adirondack region. Under his leadership OSI secured protection of the 10,000-acre Tahawus property and most recently the 2,350-acre Camp Little Notch in Fort Ann. Martens also spearheaded OSI’s involvement in the Nature Conservancy’s 161,000-acre Finch Pryun purchase.
Since Martens joined OSI in 1995, first as Executive Vice President, then as President, the organization has completed over 400 transactions, resulting in the protection of more than 86,000 acres in New York State (the vast majority of OSI’s work so far).
“This move to DEC is the logical culmination of Joe’s entire career,” said Kim Elliman, CEO of OSI. “Working with former Governor Mario Cuomo, the Adirondack Park Agency, the New York State Office of Budget, and ORDA, Joe is perfectly placed to meet 21st century environmental challenges, including the interplay between public and private conservation, and private and public sector interests. Joe’s career has a win-win track record for both conservation and local economic opportunity. With Joe going to DEC, both OSI and I are losing a dear friend, but New York is gaining a committed advocate. Governor Cuomo’s appointment of Joe shows his serious dedication to New York’s environment. ”
Since 1998, Martens has served as President of the OSI, directing and overseeing land acquisition, sustainable development, historic preservation and farmland protection. Previously, Martens served as Deputy Secretary to the Governor for Energy and the Environment from 1992-94 and before that Assistant Secretary from 1990-92.
In addition to his role as ORDA Chair, he also chairs the Adirondack Lake Survey Corporation, which monitors Adirondack lakes and streams to determine the extent and magnitude of acidification.
“Joe’s lifelong experience of fighting to protect and preserve our environment will bring the highest level of stewardship to our state’s beautiful natural resources. Joe knows how to strike the critical balance between defending our natural resources from pollution and destruction while at the same time fostering a climate of economic renewal and growth. His experience and record as a competent and productive manager will breathe life into this vital agency,” Governor Cuomo said.
Martens appointment was also praised by the Adirondack Mountain Club (ADK). “Governor Cuomo has made a wise choice,” said ADK Executive Director Neil Woodworth. “Joe is certainly experienced and well-qualified. Every post he has held in his lifetime of public service has prepared him for the challenges of this critical job.” Robert F. Kennedy, Jr., the Natural Resources Defense Council, welcomed the choice of Martens. Environmental Advocates, who had criticized the abrupt dismissal of Pete Grannis and later hired him, praised Cuomo’s selection.
Even State Senator Betty Little called Martens “a very good choice.” “He’s well qualified and personable and he knows this region very well,” she said in a statement issued today. “Given the state’s fiscal crisis and the need to foster economic activity both here in the Adirondacks and statewide, I am pleased Governor Cuomo has selected someone who will not only be an effective environmental steward but work hard to strike an appropriate balance on the economic side.” The Independent Power Producers of New York also issued a praising statement.
Martens studied Resource Economics at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst and received an M.S. in Resource Management from the State University of New York, College of Environmental Science and Forestry at Syracuse University. A recent interview with Martens is available online.
If confirmed, Martens will replace Peter Iwanowicz, who had held the top DEC post for a short time after Pete Grannis was accused of insubordination by Paterson’s top aide, Larry Schwartz (currently still in the Cuomo administration). Grannis was fired after a memo was leaked that was critical of staff cuts at DEC. Grannis said he wasn’t responsible for the leak, and has been named first deputy comptroller in the office of Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli, after a very short time with Environmental Advocates.
Governor Cuomo also appointed North Country politician Dede Scozzafava to serve as Deputy Secretary for Local Government at the Department of State. Scozzafava served as a member of the New York State Assembly from 1999-2010, but has recently faced criticism by local Republicans and national conservatives for being too liberal.
Prior her career in the Assembly, Scozzafava was Mayor of the Village of Gouverneur from 1994-1998. She also spent 20 years working for Tucker Anthony/RBC Dain Rauscher as an investment adviser. Scozzafava is a graduate of Boston University and received an MBA from the Clarkson School of Management in Potsdam.