One of the local officials who supported an investigation of the Adirondack Nature Conservancy’s sale of land to the state says he still thinks the state’s land-acquisition policy needs to be reformed–even though the probe found no wrongdoing.
Fred Monroe, executive director of the Adirondack Park Local Government Review Board, continues to question why the state paid $3.7 million more for the land in 2008 than the Nature Conservancy paid four years earlier.
“It’s certainly not in the taxpayers’ best interest to pay such a large premium to a middleman for these land purchases,” he said. “Is there a better way to do this?”
Monroe said the state comptroller or someone else in authority should look at the state’s land-buying policies and recommend changes.
Monroe was reacting to the news, first reported by the Adirondack Explorer, that the state attorney general’s office cleared the Nature Conservancy of wrongdoing in the sale of Lyon Mountain and adjacent lands to the state—all told, about twenty thousand acres.
The attorney general’s office, then headed by Andrew Cuomo, launched the investigation a year ago after a story in the New York Post raised questions about the deal. The story quoted Monroe as saying the state “grossly overpaid” for the land.
The Nature Conservancy says the price paid by the state was based on professional appraisals.
Connie Prickett, a spokeswoman for the conservancy, also has noted that the group spent substantial sums in taxes, interest, maintenance, and other carrying costs in the four years it owned the property. Monroe, however, said the carrying costs are irrelevant.
“If I’m going to buy a house from you, I don’t care if you’ve been paying a mortgage on it for twenty years,” he said. “That’s not how the market works.”
Prickett said the carrying costs were not factored into the price.
The Nature Conservancy plans to sell more Adirondack land to the state in the coming years: Follensby Pond, west of Tupper Lake, and some sixty-five thousand acres in the central Adirondacks once owned by Finch, Pruyn & Co.
Monroe contends that the state cannot afford to add these lands to the Forest Preserve. He said the Local Government Review Board, the Adirondack Association of Towns and Villages, five counties and about a dozen towns have passed resolutions against the proposed acquisitions.
“With the state of the economy, should the state be making large-scale purchases of working forests?” he asked.
Photo by Phil Brown: View from Lyon Mountain.
Phil Brown is the editor of the Adirondack Explorer newsmagazine.