Monday, February 4, 2013

State Loses $2.5M Follensby Grant Amid Calls For Funding

follensby pondThe Adirondack Council urged state lawmakers to increase funding for environmental priorities in the FY2013-14 NYS Budget in testimony today at the legislature’s budget hearing. The Council cited the recent loss of a $2.5 million grant secured to aid the purchase of the Follensby Tract as a sign that New York’s Environmental Protection Fund (EPF) needs an expedited increase in funding.

Adirondack Council Legislative Director Scott Lorey called for an additional $11 million to be added in the EPF and also urged Governor Andrew Cuomo to rebuild the staffing at key regulatory agencies whose budgets have been cut in recent years, including the Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) and the Adirondack Park Agency.

The federal Forest Legacy grant was awarded to the DEC to fund a portion of the cost of the Follensby Pond land acquisition. For the past 30 years New York State has sought to acquire the 14,600-acre Follensby Tract, located on the western edge of the High Peaks Wilderness east of Tupper Lake tract. Forest Legacy grants are issued for two years and the Follensby grant initially expired in July, 2012, and was extended through January 31, 2013, a deadline which was not met.

On behalf of the Adirondack Council, Lorey called on the Legislature to examine long-term efforts to increase the size of the EPF in future years and provide an additional $11 million this year above the Governor’s proposal. That would bring the Fund up to $164 million. He suggested that $10 million be added to the open space protection line and $1 million added to fight invasive species.

“If the EPF had remained at 2008 funding levels, both the Finch and Follensby parcels could have been acquired and added to the Forest Preserve by now,” Lorey told the budget panel. “All of these new lands and waters could have been opened to the public already, providing an economic boost to Adirondack hamlets and villages that need the stimulus. It’s a shame New York must return the grant money to the federal government. This is a lost opportunity.”

“Environmental programs are still underfunded across the board, and the signs become more obvious every day. In 2008, the EPF contained $66.5 million for open space protection. This year’s proposal is only $20 million, or about 15 percent more than last year,” Lorey said.

“In addition, there are too few employees at the Adirondack Park Agency and Department of Environmental Conservation to protect the state’s natural resources and tourism investments in the Adirondack Park,” he said. “Enforcement of existing laws is suffering, which means wildlife, water quality and forest health are suffering. The state no longer operates a single visitor-education center in the park. And now, just when it seemed like the acquisition of Follensby Pond was finally within reach with the help of federal monies, it slips away from New York again.”

In 1858, it was the site of “the Philosophers’ Camp,” a meeting of writers, artists and wilderness preservation advocates whose work transformed America’s relationship with nature by encouraging people to see nature and wilderness as something rare and precious, rather than as an obstacle to progress. The gathering included poets Ralph Waldo Emerson and James Russell Lowell, and painter William James Stillman, as well as scientists, lawyers and doctors.

The property was purchased in 1952 by the McCormick family of Manchester, Vermont. The McCormick’s negotiated a purchase agreement with the state from 1990 through 1992, but the lack of funding in those years made the purchase impossible. The Environmental Protection Fund was created in 1993, partly in response to the loss of the Follensby Pond opportunity.

In 2008, the parcel was acquired from the McCormicks by The Nature Conservancy, which hoped to resell it to the state. The parcel has been a top priority in the NYS Open Space Conservation Plan since the plan was first drafted in 1992. The Conservancy is also awaiting state reimbursement for the purchase of nearly 50,000 acres of new Forest Preserve out of the 161,000 acres formerly owned by Finch, Pruyn & Co. That transaction won’t be complete for another four years. According to the Adirondack Council, because of funding limitations, the Follensby purchase must wait until the Finch sale is completed.


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18 Responses

  1. Penn says:

    The Adirondack “Council” – Destroying economic opportunity one acre at a time!

  2. Peter says:

    Hopefully, the state will release the resources to purchase this property, and thanks to the Adirondack Council for their ongoing success in protecting the park over the last thirty plus years. Now all that’s needed is a mechanism for continuing to protect (as the private landholders did so well) Follensby for future generations. The first step is securing the funding. The second is to protect it from recreationalists who believe they are entitled to ravage every bit of the park. Hopefully, the ADK will come to its senses and let this place be.

  3. Nature says:

    I will say it again, why doesn’t the Adirondack Council raise funds and buy this piece of land themselves? They can then manage it however they see fit. Maybe other Adirondack environmental groups could join in. That to me would show a true commitment to Wilderness protection.

  4. Paul says:

    ” This year’s proposal is only $20 million, or about 15 percent more than last year,” Lorey said.”.

    Given where we are economiclly it seems strange to criticize this increase?

  5. Paul says:

    Sorry “economically”?

  6. jay says:

    What part of broke don’t you understand-Maybe we could borrow from China like the Feds do.

  7. AdkBuddy says:

    For some reason I cannot get my thumbs up or down to register. The state is broke and can’t manage the land it owns. Enough is enough. I agree with nature, let the AC buy the land and do as they please. They won’t however. They want the state to do their dirty work for them, on the backs of the taxpayers.

    • John Warren says:

      Unfortunately, the thumbs feature is not working correctly. However, clicking on the thumbs will in fact register your ‘vote’ – you’ll just need to reload the page to see it. I’m told that it runs on older code that has not been updated.

      John Warren

  8. Jim Frenette says:

    Readers of the Adirondack Almanack especially those interested enough to submit comments should go back and reread the blogs of writers especially Pete Nelson’s on the economic advantages,even the necessity of public lands for our economic well being and the survival of the communities in the Adirondacks. The key to our well being is in our hands and the utilization of our natural resources.

    • Pete Nelson says:

      Thanks Hope. And while you’re at it, how about read my last one, just a few articles down the page. It decried simplistic black and white thinking. And here we are again on this post with the usual reflexive side-taking.

      Is it that hard? The Follensby Tract by itself is not going to lead to an economic revolution either way.
      But it is a prime wilderness opportunity, contiguous to the High Peaks Wilderness. I look forward to the State acquiring and protecting it. In the mean time let’s leverage the excellent work being done to bring broadband to the central Adirondacks and bring new telecommuting residents to the park who might want to be near a resource like Follensby.

      • nature says:


        Not sure which posts you are considering simplistic, or black and white, but I have proposed another third way: let someone else preserve the land besides New York State. The argument so often seems to be we either add it to the forest preserve, or it will be overdeveloped, or despoiled in some other way. That seems like black and white thinking.

        I propose a new route. Let those who value wilderness the most buy the land themselves. They can then have full control of its management. They can make sure it stays as wild as it possibly can be. This takes away any argument of tax payer monies being used to block off access, etc. I think this is doable, and would go a long way to proving how committed individuals and organizations are to protecting wild places.

        I wonder if the Nature Conservancy would be flexible on the price for such an arrangement? It could be good PR for them. Are there any other large tracts of land that could be acquired under this model? How about this one ?

      • Hope says:

        Pete Nelson, that comment is from my father-in-law, Jim Frenette. But we agree on many issues and this is one of them

        • Pete Nelson says:

          Oops! I don’t know why I missed that. Bur I know we agree on much, as as you seem eminently sensible that is good for me. Cheers.

  9. a says:

    Well if the Nature Conservancy owns Follensby Tract, it’s not going anywhere — and it’s unlikely to developed much.

    The Nature Conservancy didn’t buy the land to sell to McMansion builders, and even if they sold the land to a McMansion developer, the new owner would have to get Adirondack Park Agency to amend their classification of land, and then approve a site plan. Very unlikely.

    The Nature Conservancy — a non-profit organization — currently has $6.01 billion in assets, and raises over $990 million a year in revenue, 2/3rds from donations.

    The Nature Conservancy can hold title for now of property until state can afford it. There are other lands the state can acquire with existing monies that are in greater danger of being developed.

    In the mean time, the Nature Conservancy can either float the cost on their books or make revenue through a timber sale. If the Nature Conservancy demands tax relief from the state, the state can swap a conservation easement for tax abatement under existing programs.

    • Paul says:

      I agree. EPF funds are also for other land that is under a much higher threat. NYS’s dwindling ocean front land for example. Spend the money on land that is really under threat from being scooped up for development.

      Those of us who live year round or part time are sometimes greedy when it comes to our neck of the woods.

    • Mike says:

      a- The APA, by approving the ACR development in Tupper Lake has in effect amended their own land classification on RM lands. If the pending lawsuit against the APA is dismissed it’s open season for McMansion developers. That is of course if there is a market for them.

      • Paul says:

        What do you mean? The act allows single family dwellings in RM lands? What is the amendment? We may not like it but it seems to fall under the law??

  10. john says:

    Spoke with Connie at the Adirondack Nature Conservancy (ANC) this afternoon. Expressed my eagerness to visit the Follensby Tract. Pointed
    out to her that I am 66 years old and that time (which waits for no man,
    nor, for that matter, the NYS legislature) is trying to shake me. Was told that the ANC has a caretaker stationed at Follensby Tract. My uninvited presence on the property would earn me a certificate of trespass, possibly a fine and incarceration. Am outraged, as you should be, especially given the $$ sent to the Nature Conservancy (and their Adirondack branch) through the years.

    Would be willing to lead a “March on the Tract” (come Spring) as I missed
    the Million Man March a few years back. Anyone else out there up for
    some civil disobedience? No previous experience required.

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