Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Land Use and Ethics Symposium in Newcomb

Balancing individual and community priorities with land use is the focus of a symposium of interdisciplinary scholarship in land use and ethics to held by the SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry’s (ESF) Northern Forest Institute. The event will be held June 1-3 at Huntington Wildlife Forest at ESF’s Newcomb campus and all are welcome.

The symposium will highlight research from across professions and disciplines on topics related to balancing individual and community priorities with respect to land use, and the associated expectations for human and ecosystem stewardship and social and environmental ethics.

Bill Vitek, professor of philosophy and chair of the Department of Humanities and Social Sciences at Clarkson University in Potsdam, is the keynote speaker. His research focuses on the substantial cultural and social changes that will be necessary for humans to live without easy access to cheap, carbon-based energy in the form of soils, forests, oil, natural gas and coal. SUNY ESF President Dr. Neil Murphy will give the closing remarks.

Symposium organizers hope to generate conversation around a variety of approaches to land use and the ethical implications of these approaches, as well as the ways they influence the ongoing debate over how to achieve social and environmental justice. New and in-process work from a range of disciplines and professional fields will be represented and integrated into the symposium discourse.

For complete event details and online registration, visit

Photo of Arbutus Lodge, compliments of Huntington Wildlife Forest, Newcomb, NY.

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47 Responses

  1. Peter says:

    I may attend this symposium to state some points that are largely ignored by the media.

    Forest Preserve land acquisition causes Resource Scarcity. Resource Scarcity is a topic that Mark Tercek, The Nature Conservancy’s CEO, writes about frequently.

    We know we are facing a New Energy Future; we increasingly see schools and businesses in the Adirondacks successfully implement and utilize new environmentally friendly wood-fueled heating systems.

    We know that managed forests trap significantly more greenhouse gasses than natural succession forests.

    We know that forest management and forest products are vital to the Adirondack economy.

    We know that stakeholder users, especially Family Recreational Clubs, are exemplary stewards, and we know public use areas have lower stewardship levels.

    We are faced with a pending state land acquisition that will do much more harm than good, and will be a vast burden on the taxpayer. There is no rational justification for the state to intentionally increase renewable natural resource scarcity. The state is prepared to close down two dozen important small businesses and eliminate important economic, cultural, and social resources to satisfy some small but powerful preservationist groups. Forest Preserve acquisition cause serious and permanent harm.

    Here is a link to a petition that will help Governor Cuomo understand that the pending acquisition is a bad idea. Please sign it and send it to your friends.

    Land use ethics; let’s use them wisely.

  2. Steve says:

    “We know that managed forests trap significantly more greenhouse gasses than natural succession forests.”

    DO we know that? Young forests sequester more carbon per acre but old growth stores more carbon per acre. As some point old growth forest CAN become sources but not necessarily.

    I question the notion that there is some scarcity of timber resources. In the northeast, some 80 million acres are available for timber management while about 4 million are off limit to harvesting do to regulations. A large portion of the 80 million are underutilized as timberlands.

    I think Pete is more concerned about private recreation clubs. If so, that is a debate that should be had. There have been some vigorous debate on the subject here at on the Almanack.

  3. Paul says:

    Steve, I agree to some extent. The debate is probably more about recreational use from both sides. One side wants the land used exclusively use for hiking and non-motorized use. The other would be more satisfied with a mix of more recreational opportunities on the land. But to be honest even if the land were encumbered with easements rather than becoming Forest Preserve land there will still be severe restrictions on motorized access or use like on any of the other current easement land. The debate is not about “private recreational clubs” those are already dead. Even if there were an easement these “clubs” will lose their rights to post the land so that isn’t an issue.

  4. Peter says:

    Steve, you asked some great questions. It’s a common misunderstanding. There is a huge difference between Carbon Dioxide (a gas called CO2) and Carbon (an element C). Growing, managed forests pull CO2 (greenhouse gas) out of the atmosphere utilize it in growing, and release oxygen into the atmosphere. Mature, natural succession forests grow at a much slower rate, and thusly do not sequester nearly as much CO2 as a growing forest. Carbon, on the other hand, is an extremely important element. We are, after all, carbon based life forms. Carbon is stored in wood, and it is extremely important that we sustain a rotational storage system. When a managed forest reaches a harvest point, the harvested trees become an important part of our economy, whether used for paper, tissue, lumber, fuel, furniture, etc., and the harvesting allows for even more carbon to be stored. So yes, forests do store carbon, and managed forests trap substantial amounts of CO2. If you really want to see a neat use for carbon, do some research on Bio Char, which is used in agriculture, and will eventually help reduce fertilizer requirements by 80% or so. There’s a great website for more information; it was established by a highly regarded environmental conservationist named Bill McKibben. Here’s a link:

    Regarding 80 million acres of harvestable timber, if you used wood pellets to heat your school, would you rather they be made in Indian Lake, or haul them in from northern Maine? There is a big difference in the “carbon footprint”. Local, sustainable forestry is vital to the economy, much like local agriculture is. A lot of underutilized timberland is that way for a reason; it is too distant or inaccessible. What we are talking about here is shutting down 65,000 acres of Forest Stewardship Council Certified sustainably managed forests. There’s a lot to consider here, meaning that management also included invasive species protection.

    Regarding the Family Recreational Clubs, I think you can see just how important they are through the recent change of easement terms on the Champion lands. They are so important to the local economies, and to the cultural and social fabric of the region, that DEC, in a recent landmark decision, allowed them to remain intact on some easement land. Please visit one to see what they are all about. They are extremely important to the region.

    All these issues should be openly discussed in the symposium on land use ethics.

  5. Paul says:


    Pointing out that the Champion easements were CHANGED (a change that I support), you are in a sense making the other sides argument for them. Forest Preserve, protected under Article XIV, would not be subject to change like an easement apparently is.

  6. Peter says:

    Paul, I think the bigger question is about Land Use Ethics. Where do we start? Do we evaluate the “highest and best use” of the land, and if so, from whose perspective? In my view, I think we should acknowledge that wherever man has interacted with nature, a moral duty for stewardship has been created, therefore a reasonable, enduring, and sustainable management system needs to be established.

    Then we ask, what is best for nature? What is best for community, and what is best for society at large. Then, after these questions are answered we can ask what is best for groups, for individuals, or for ourselves. These can be a circular paths, with each possibly canceling out the next, rather than a linear approach. Nature -> Individual, with Individual being least important. The Individual may never enter the equation.

    We get into a lot of emotional discussion on these points, but when you define the path of ethical thinking, then the discussion becomes factually based. A preservationist would say that Forest Preserve is best for nature, but I think I adequately refuted that earlier. Forest Preserve is certainly not the best land use for the local communities; it only serves a handful of individuals, and at great expense to society I might add.

    Have you signed the petition?

  7. Steve says:

    Peter and Paul. Good points and great discussion.

    Peter, what exactly do you think I am misunderstanding about Carbon. I don’t know about that “huge difference between CO2 and C”. At the risk of going elementary, the carbon sunk in forests are not C, they are carbohydrates whose C comes from CO2 in the atmosphere. Again, young forests sequester more carbon per acre but old growth stores more carbon per acre. As some point old growth forest CAN become sources but not necessarily. My logic tells me that harvesting forest for pellets to burn would result on very little net loss of CO2 in the atmosphere.

    You confused me here: “Carbon, on the other hand, is an extremely important element. We are, after all, carbon based life forms. Carbon is stored in wood, and it is extremely important that we sustain a rotational storage system.” Can you please elaborate on why it is extremely important that we sustain a rotational storage system. To me this sounds like there is a carbon shortage, so I must be reading it wrong.

    Also, your point that lot of underutilized timberland is that way because it is too distant or inaccessible. I find it hard to believe that there are many places less accessible then Newcomb. I think something else is going on. I think it has something to do with changing ownership patterns and markets.

    Lastly, I don’t know how any of your last post relates to Resource Scarcity, which much of your first post discusses.

  8. Peter says:


    The Forest Preserve acquisition is an intentional reduction of renewable natural resources that are important to the regional economy; it is by definition a cause of an increase in resource scarcity. The local wood fiber users have all expressed concern about the reduction of a fiber supply resource base.

    Regarding carbon storage, once a storage system has reached capacity, new storage capacity needs to be established, hence rotational cutting. We need a constant supply of CO2 uptake, and and constant supply of carbon storage. Again, managed forestland is better for this than successional forest land. Forest Preserve regulations prohibit management (and protection I might add).

    Clean burning of wood fiber pus very little CO2 back into the atmosphere. The technology is sound.

  9. Steve says:

    Peter, I do not think you adequately refuted the idea that forest preserve is best for nature. You certainly made an argument, but I think the question cannot be resolved. You really could get 10 experts in the room and get 10 different opinions. Factoring human introduced invasive species and ability to combat them makes it less than good for nature. On the other hand, old growth typically has greater biodiversity and therefor creates more resilient systems. There are too many factors that I we can only make our own limited informed judgement.

  10. Peter says:

    Steve, here is some information to help in the decision making process. One thing we have not really discussed yet is Forest Protection. I made a FOIL request to DEC earlier this year to get information on their invasive species control plans. Basically, they do not have control plans. The prescriptive control for Emerald Ash Borer infestation is removal of the infested material. This is prohibited under the State Constitution. The options are to either do nothing (unethical in my view) or apply insecticides, which is widely opposed to in today’s society.

    Here’s some information:

    Northern Institute of Applied Climate Science
    The Northern Institute of Applied Climate Science (NIACS) is a collaborative effort of the Forest Service, universities, and forest industry to provide ecological, economic and social information that can be used to manage forests for the sequestration of atmospheric carbon. Forests store and/or retain carbon while simultaneously producing sustainable supplies of renewable energy and materials that help society. There are significant uncertainties, however, about how forest systems might respond to future climate change and how forest management could be used to ameliorate any negative effects. Link to more:

  11. Steve says:

    I still don’t believe there is a scarcity of wood. Specifically, which fiber users have expressed concerns about lack of supply? Most big ones sold their land recently, and I doubt that would happen if they were worried about supply. I heard Ward in Jay wasn’t even buying all that people wanted to sell as recently as 2 years ago.

    But, more importantly: Did I just read that burning wood releases little CO2?!!

    Combustion is CH4 + 2 O2 = CO2 + 2 H2O + ENERGY

    Did they invent a new technology that alters this age old reaction?

    I use wood pellets, but at best wood fuel is carbon neutral, without factoring in transportation. C02 in, CO2 out.

    • Paul says:

      Steve, yes generally speaking there is plenty of timber. The question is do the owners of the land want to utilize the resource. Industrial timberland is where the wood comes from. That is shrinking for sure.

  12. Peter says:


    Old growth forests have more STASIS of biodiversity than growing forests, not more biodiversity per se.

  13. Peter says:

    Steve, the local paper mill foresters have expressed concern.

    I mentioned that new clean burning wood technology releases less CO2.

  14. Peter says:

    Steve, here is some great information on clean burning technology:

    Sustainably managed forests are becoming vital to our new energy economy.

  15. Steve says:


    I still think your are most concerned about the change to recreation. This is a good topic of debate. Your points here are more, i think, red herrings than anything.

    The forest preserve is a tiny fraction of forests in the US and the NIACS is not advocating for the management of all forests. In fact they recommend long rotations to optimize carbon sequestering. Long rotations is not the practice you would use for pellets.

    Also you said in a previous post: “once a storage system has reached capacity, new storage capacity needs to be established, hence rotational cutting” Do we know that forest have a capacity that can be reached?

  16. Steve says:


    I still think you are wrong when you said “clean burning of wood fiber pus very little CO2 back into the atmosphere”

    There is not loss of carbon. If this sound clean burning technology can put less carbon into the atmosphere, where does the rest of the carbon go?

  17. Peter says:


    I am indeed concerned with the Family Recreational Clubs; I am a member of one of them. One that contributes hundreds of thousands of dollars per year into the local towns economies. I have also made my career in the forest products industry, and I am an environmental conservationist; I own a certified organic farm and practice the highest levels of environmental stewardship. I am QUITE concerned.

    Regarding the red herrings, we are discussing land use ethics, aren’t we?

    If you want to see a real ethical dilemma, read the State Land Master Plan. The Finch acquisition does not meet ANY of the fee title acquisition criteria.

    Regarding a tiny fraction, DEC values productive forestland at $477.00 per acre per year in NY’s GDP. This tiny fraction of 80,000 acres is worth $38 million PER YEAR to the state’s GDP.


  18. Duane says:

    There are strong ethical, aesthetic and scientific arguments to be made that it is both ecologically important and emotionally important for the planet and mankind to let large tracts of land and their water systems develop and evolve with minimal interference by humans. There are few places better suited for that than the Adirondacks with its many wetlands and slopes unsuitable for best practice logging and its relative slow fiber growth. We must then add to that the historical use and support by the public at large for a multitude of recreational purposes and tourism in general that largely depends on the lure of these large undeveloped tracks of land.

    In the Adirondacks land use ethics have evolved beyond standard points of view because the public not only has a large ownership stake, the public also has an emotional attachment as well. Democracy is in play and it can be messy.

    As to Peter’s pronouncements, I do know that “resources” can mean more than material extraction. I know that conservation easements can not only cost the state around 70% of the fee purchase price but they can also restrict or even eliminate public access. Would that be a better deal for tax payers? I do not know of the two dozen important small businesses the State is going to shut down. Will Peter please list them for us and where he got the list from?

    Peter also claims the “State” will “eliminate important economic, cultural and social resources to satisfy some small but powerful preservationist groups.” Does Peter know that regarding the Finch Lands deal he is talking about, The Nature Conservancy and the DEC spent a lot of time in honest and open dialog and negotiations with all of the communities and Town Boards that have Finch lands? Does he know that all of the Town Boards had to and did sign off on the deal pursuant to State Law? (Environmental Protection Fund 1993) This deal was signed, sealed and delivered by Adirondackers via home rule and small d democracy, not by small but powerful preservationists.

    It was only after the Adirondack Review Board blindsided these Adirondack communities by unilaterally going public and asking them to renege on the deal they had made with The Nature Conservancy and the DEC that some but not all towns caved and submitted to the political pressure. This effort did not arise spontaneously at the grass roots level but was orchestrated from the top. Peter talks about land use ethics. What does he have to say about the ethics of backing out on a deal that was done honestly and in good faith?

  19. Fredrick says:

    Wow. This discussion has jumped all over the place. I agree with Steve it seems like Peter is most concerned about his situation regarding his club but trying to use every argument there against forest preserve to get support for his cause. Many of the arguments are questionable, as been pointed out here. I don’t believe the resource scarcity issue. Despite Peters claim that every fiber producer is concerned, obviously they must not be too concerned if they all sell their land to the nature conservancy who sells most of their land to the state for forest preserve. I also find the $477 figure to be rediculous. If that’s true, my 40 acres that I log every 20 years contributed $380k to the the GDP on the last 20 years.

  20. Fredrick says:

    I personally think the Finch deal was a great balanced deal. It was heralded as a model for future acquisitions at the time. I think Fred Monroe’s ethics would be a good topic for discussion by the state ethics commission.

  21. Tom says:

    Peter, which paper mill foresters specifically have expressed concern about fiber supply? I think you are blowing smoke. The biggest paper company’s have been dumping their land at record pace. You are understandably upset about you club, but the finch deal was balanced. I can’t wait to get out on Essex chain and Boreas ponds. As soon as they announce the final sale to The People of New York, I will be booking a house for a week in Newcomb for hunting season. meanwhile, the majority of the Finch land will remain as working forests.

  22. Peter says:

    H. Easements. Conservation easements should be the predominant method of acquiring a State
    interest in private lands, and fee purchase, when under consideration, should be the subject of a
    detailed written justification.
    DEC and the Office should first consider in each acquisition whether the purchase of a conservation
    and/or recreational use easement would fulfill the purposes for which the particular acquisition is
    sought. If an easement would fulfill such purpose, then DEC or the Office should use its best efforts
    to acquire an easement to achieve the objective of the acquisition, wherever practicable.
    Conservation and / or public access easement agreements should include provisions under which
    the State agrees to defend, indemnify or hold harmless the grantor of the easement or any and all
    claims arising out of the public’s use of the property based on ordinary negligence.
    The Committee favors the acquisition by the State of Conservation easements on lands which
    include productive agricultural or forest lands currently dedicated or suitable for dedication to
    sound management. Such easements should be crafted to allow such practices to continue. Such
    easements, in some instances, need not require restrictions on the owner other than the transfer
    of development rights such as for scenic easements. Recreational access easements should be
    sought by the State where the property contains important recreational resources.
    The DEC began acquiring easements in the late 1960’s. To date the DEC in Region 5 holds 50
    easements totaling 122,610 acres. Each separate easement is unique and has its own management
    constraints; for example, public recreational management plans, long-term monitoring of
    development rights, forest management activities and enforcement of public use and the law. This
    acquisition tool has become increasingly common in the recent past and has the potential for
    greater use in the future. Region 5 is uniquely suited to the use of conservation easements due to
    the high percentage of state land and the need to keep remaining private land in timber production.
    The Region 5 Committee believes the State must provide the resources needed to properly
    administer all of their easements, including but not limited to inventorying, monitoring,
    stewardship, raising public awareness and enforcing easement provisions.

  23. Peter says:

    Economic Importance of private forests in New York State, from the DEC website:

  24. Peter says:

    Paper companies divested of their forest holdings for tax purposes. As an example, Weyerhauser Company redefined its forest holdings business as a Real Estate Investment Trust due to tax regulations.

    Timber Investment Management Organizations (TIMOs) are now forestland owners, and they in turn sell to forest products processors.

    It’s all about the tax laws.

  25. Peter says:


    How do you define “balanced” please.

    I don’t see balance in an equation where the state could spend $18 million to achieve a better result than it it spent $50 million. What balance are you referring to please?

  26. Peter says:

    Tom, Newcomb is an excellent example of a small Adirondack town that is in desperate need of a restorative and sustainable economic plan. It is dependent upon the regions renewable natural resources for its economic base.

    The recreational clubs are the most important small businesses in this town.

    The state intends to cut off its economic resource base, thus causing greater burden on the rest of the taxpayers.

    I know you’re emotionally attached to the concept of “saving nature”; I can sense that in your tone. This discussion topic started with Land Use Ethics, and it has gone full circle to the needs of one man, namely you, who wants a new, free area to hunt. Please think of your community’s interests before your own. This is the path to ethical thought.

  27. Tom says:

    I am not emotionally attached to saving nature. I think the emotionally Attatched one is you to your club. As a taxpayers, I would not consider state land free to me.

    Those Papeer co.’s sold land to TNC. Do you think they were not aware of what TNC does with their lands? Didn’t Newcomb sign off on the deal? Previously, you said ” the local fiber producers have all expressed concern” about supply. Many here have asked you to support it but you have yet to mention them specifically. Where did you get your info. I hope you do go to this conference and embarrass yourself with your unsupported arguments. I may go for some comic relief.

  28. Peter says:


    Finch Pruyn’s board of directors were adamantly opposed to selling the land to the state. FP sold to Atlas Holding Company, an industrial holding company. Blue Wolf Capital structured the deal between Atlas and TNC to circumvent the board of directors wishes.

    International Paper, Ticonderoga and Finch Paper, Glens Falls, have expressed concern over the availability of local fiber supply.

    The taxpayer dollar is being misused for purposes that you should research. It is a wealth transfer scheme, completely legal. Your tax dollars are being used to make the rich richer. Do some research on Charitable Remainder Trusts.

  29. Peter says:

    Tom, what do you mean by “balanced”?

  30. Tom says:

    I thought Atlas owns Finch Holding who owns Finch mill and several other mills. I recall the sale to TNC was a joint press release by Finch Paper and TNC.

    I don’t assume you were privy to any private info from these paper companies so I challenge you to provide links to sources that back up your following claims:

    1) finch board was adamantly opposed to the sale to TNC
    2) finch is concerned about fiber supply.
    3) IP is concerned about supply

  31. Tom says:

    Balanced- one one end of the spectum all would be state land . On the other end all would be easement. I think a good balance is most of the land (94k acres) in working forest easement and the 65k acres will become public land which contains places of interest like lakes and ponds. I supposed you think all of it becoming cons. Easements would be balanced. If so, what are the two extremes that you think the balance point lies between?

    Also do you acknowledge that the town signed off on the deal?

  32. Peter says:


    The towns reluctantly accepted the deal because their veto power had been circumvented on the previous land deal. They had little choice in the matter.

    Since then, they have had a chance to do more analysis and have all adopted resolutions opposing the deal. You can google search all of the resolutions if you like.

    Suppose there was a plan that would keep the forests working, the clubs intact, and opened the land for public access. Would you support that?

  33. Steve says:

    Peter- are you planning to answer Toms 10:42 challenges? Or answer his question about balance?

  34. Peter says:


    I’m wondering if anyone is willing to address the issues I’ve provided with supporting documentation first. No one has addressed the issues that I provided in a Land Use Ethics Discussion.

    The DEC statistics on the productive forests value
    The State’s purchase guidelines
    The cost to the taxpayers
    The economic impact
    The social importance of the family recreational clubs
    The Forest management and protection


    If you’d like to see who some of the people are who agree with me, the look at who has signed this petition:

  35. Peter says:

    The Land Acquisition Guidelines from the Adirondack Park State Land Master Plan are on pages 6 and 7 of this document.

  36. Steve says:

    Peter. You were the original commenter who made claims about resource scarcity. You are also the one who started a petition. I think your position being ‘i won’t support my arguments because noone else has’. I take this to mean you won’t because you arguments are baseless fiction. Prove me wrong. Support you argument that Tom challenged in his 10:42 post.

  37. Peter says:


    When I see a full log truck drive by, I see employment and hope. What do you see?

    When I see 15 children playing in nature in a club, I see joy and peace. What do you see?

  38. Wren says:

    Case closed. Peter has been owned.

  39. Tom says:

    Peter, don’t get down on yourself. You are obviously emotionally invested in your quest to save your camp. Onward and upward. Don’t let fact get in the way of your mission.

  40. Carol says:

    I hope this comment gets posted. I’ve been reading the other comments, and I’ve been on the fence about this land purchase, and I’ve made up my mind now. I am completely opposed to the state buying this land! It makes no sense at all!

    I fact-checked Peter’s information, and for the most part, he is very accurate. I checked the petition too, and his facts are in order. He makes sensible comments about the land use and the costs.

    I’m active in a large organization in New York and I’m going support him.


  41. Wren says:

    Carol. Are you being sarcastic? If not, I wonder why you haven’t signed his petition when you checked it out. That petition by the way has been signed by a whopping one three- thousandths of one percent of the population of our fair state. I am looking forward to seeing it grow thanks to you being active in that large organization and all.

    • Paul says:

      The “other side” has a petition supporting the purchase with an equally paltry number of signatures, and that one has the support of lots of different organizations. There is nothing wrong with people speaking out.

  42. Carol says:

    Wren, no, I’m not being sarcastic. I went to all of the links he provided. It looks like he’s right about the greenhouse gas, and a friend of mine told me their school is going to install wood heat. The link to the DEC site does go to their site, and it does say the value of working forests is quite high.

    What are your questions? I think he did a pretty good job with his comments.


  43. Wren says:

    My question is: Why haven’t you signed the petition?

  44. Paul says:

    Forget about the club thing for a minute. On the land ethic question, taking the protectionists agenda, what is the best way to protect the land?

    As we know the land, under private stewardship, has remained the “gem” that the The Nature Conservancy describe it as. Why now is public ownership, and the increased recreational pressure that will come with that, the best way to “protect” the land?

    In NYS the only way to limit public use of the land is to keep it in private ownership with deed restrictions that prevent the kind of development that many folks don’t want to see on the land.

    Once the posters come down you can eventually expect a few things to happen. First you can expect the fisheries that have been protected there will come under threat. We have seen many good native brook trout streams ruined once they are open to public use and abuse. Over time the popular areas (the ones specifically slated for the FP) will get heavily used and abused like we see in many areas on state land.

    The petition “for” adding this land to the FP is nothing more than a petition to increase recreation opportunities for the general public. There is no shortage of this in the Adirondacks? The petition “against”, even if it has an ulterior motive to save some private clubs, is the one that supports more protection for the land.

    It didn’t get to be as beautiful as it is under private stewardship by accident.

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