Sunday, September 29, 2013

Peter Bauer:
Governor Cuomo’s Role in Forest Preserve Classification

Essex ChainGovernor Andrew Cuomo visited the Adirondack Park on Thursday September 26th and devoted a full day to discussions with various parties about the looming decision by the Adirondack Park Agency (APA) on the Forest Preserve classification of 21,000-acres of former Finch Paper lands along the Hudson River and around the Essex Chain Lakes.

I give the Governor high marks for making the trip and holding these meetings. (In the interest of full disclosure no one from Protect the Adirondacks was invited to these meetings. We are, after all, suing the Cuomo Administration with two pretty big lawsuits.) With Joe Martens, Commissioner of the Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC), in tow, the Governor met at Follensby Pond (his second trip there) with the Adirondack Chapter of the Nature Conservancy, the Adirondack Council and ADK. Those most closely aligned with the Cuomo Administration, who supported for the Adirondack Club & Resort project and/or the NYCO land swap, get to go fishing with the Governor.

The Governor then went to Gore Mountain and met with seven local government officials as well as Senator Betty Little and Assemblyman Dan Stec. At Gore, the Governor held a press conference.

The meeting with the environmental groups, as some who attended explained to me, was more fishing and guffaws than substantive discussions about a Wilderness classification. As one person said, the Governor knows that the environmental groups have all lined up behind Wilderness. The Governor was non-committal about his decision.

The meeting with local officials involved more direct conversation about why they want a Wild Forest classification. The Governor probed, but, again, was non-committal. Note that the final step in the APA Forest Preserve classification process is approval by the Governor based upon a recommendation from the APA. In the past, Governors have been slow to sign a classification recommendation, but no Governor has overridden an APA recommendation and made one of his own. (Such an action would be new legal ground. I’m not sure the Governor can make his own classification decision, I think he can just approve or reject, but I’m researching this.)

Some of the reporting and analysis about the Governor’s trip came up short. I disagree with how Brain Mann of North Country Public Radio (NCPR) reported the story as well as his analysis of the day’s events. Denton Publications provided the day’s best reporting.

On Brian Mann’s reporting about the Governor’s trip north, he was pretty selective in his use of quotes from the Governor to build his narrative and interpretation of events in his NCPR report. There’s a real disconnect between the short quote from the Governor used in the NCPR website text report and the longer quote used in the NCPR audio report. The abbreviated quote does not do the Governor justice.

Here’s Cuomo in the NCPR website text report: “I wanted to hear from the experts on the matter before I made any decision, and that’s why I came up today,” Cuomo said.

Here’s Cuomo in the NCPR audio report: “The APA will make a recommendation to me and I will make the decision and I wanted to hear from the experts on the matter before I made any decision and that’s why I came up today. We met with environmental groups this morning and we discussed their point of view and their perspective. And then I had the discussion with the local leaders and their state officials this afternoon to get their perspective. There will be more conversations, there will be more discussions, more analysis, but I want to make sure that I can be as prepared as I can be to make this decision because it’s an important one.” You can play the audio version on the link above.

Brian Mann uses these statements as a jumping off point for analysis that the Governor’s decision to hold these meetings was a huge departure in process for APA Forest Preserve classifications and also raised questions about APA Chair Lani Ulrich’s ability to see the classification process through to the end.

Brian Mann is no Will Doolittle. Brian Mann doesn’t make stuff up, but in his reporting on this event, the discrepancy between the written website article and the tape is pretty big and colors public interpretations of the event. More importantly, I think he gets it wrong about the APA Chair. The NCPR website text version was read by many that somehow the Governor had no faith in the APA and was seeking input from outside experts beyond the APA. The audio version shows that while the Governor is clearly doing his own fact finding, he is also keenly aware of the APA process and his role in it.

Here’s a series of more expansive quotes from Cuomo’s Gore Mountain press conference with local officials reported by Denton Publications, which gave space to the Governor’s more nuanced statements about his role in this process.

“The governor makes the decision,” Cuomo said. “The APA makes the recommendation to the governor. In a perfect world, the APA’s recommendation would coincide with the judgment of the executive. But, in any event, the governor is responsible legally for the decision and can override the recommendation of the APA if he or she sees fit.”

“Everybody understands the same principles,” Cuomo said. “The principle is ‘We need balance.’ We need to preserve the Park. We also need economic development. We need activity. We need revenues. And you have to balance the two.”

“The Adirondack Park is obviously a great asset and treasure for this state,” Cuomo said. “It’s very important to the entire state economy, and it’s something we’re very proud of on a personal level. It’s part of the heritage of this state. We’ve gone to great lengths over the past couple of years to preserve the Park and work with the communities within the Adirondack Park so they’re stronger and better than before.”

I can’t speak to the differences in NCPR reporting as to tape and text, but in situations like this it’s clear that a selective excerpt can change how one understands an action or event.

The bigger issue is Brian Mann’s overall interpretation of events. I think his analysis is wrong for two reasons. First, this is mainly style over substance. Governor Andrew Cuomo has shown a real difference in style than previous Governors when it comes to Upstate New York and the Adirondacks; have you ever seen any other New York Governor in shorts? He clearly likes to travel and get out of Albany. I can see how the trappings of an executive chamber road trip are intoxicating to him upstate – the private air force, security, motorcades, and awed local officials. Frankly, this is not what the Governor experiences in New York City where his prestige has been completely drowned out by the Mayoral election.

Also, Governor Cuomo likes to ruminate in public. He really likes to think out loud. Whereas other Governors made their views known clearly about classification decisions behind the scenes, this Governor is in the habit of talking publicly about his looming decisions for extended periods of time before he actually makes a decision (issues, such as fracking or prison closures, for example).

George Pataki was keenly interested in the Wilderness classifications of Little Tupper Lake and Round Lake as well as the classifications of the Champion lands, such as making Madawaska Bog Primitive as the basis of a future Wilderness, but he did it all behind the scenes. Remember, at the APA vote on Little Tupper Lake, then DEC Commissioner John Cahill spent two days at the APA meeting in Lake Placid whipping the votes, an unprecedented level of involvement by a DEC Commissioner up until then.

Governor Cuomo clearly likes to take charge of decisions he gets to make as shown by his enthusiasm to personally negotiate loans for hotels in Saranac Lake, for instance, or about what state grants are awarded. There’s a lot in New York that Governors can’t influence very much, so he grabs onto the things he can do. Frankly, it seems that there’s no decision in New York too small for Andrew Cuomo.

In the end, the Governor’s trip was more style than substance, if not just an excuse to fly north and spend several hours fishing on amazing Follensby Pond on one of the most beautiful days of the year in full fall peak colors, one of the perks of his office for sure. A history buff, Cuomo likely sees himself channeling the wisdom of Ralph Waldo Emerson from Follensby Pond as he deliberates on his classification choice.

More importantly, I think that the Governor was pretty careful not to cross any lines in his public statements on Thursday to show any kind of a preference for how he wants the APA to vote or what he thinks the best classification should be. The Denton Publication quotes clearly show that the Governor respects the process and understands his role in it.

Second, I found Brian Mann’s conclusion that the trip somehow showed the Governor had lost confidence in APA Chair Lani Ulrich to be a reach. I think it would have been very improper, indeed, for Ulrich to attend any of these meetings with the Governor while various interests were pleading these cases for Wilderness or Wild Forest. I think her exclusion showed a respect by the Governor for the APA’s management of the classification process, and not a loss of confidence in the APA.

Even though I have previously written that this decision is a done deal (largely because of DEC’s hegemony over the APA on Forest Preserve issues and the APA’s inability to fulfill its lawful checks-and-balances role over DEC’s management), I think that the APA has been very scrupulous thus far in administering a good public process. Though, that may end soon because I’m very concerned that the APA will produce a trifling, unsubstantial legal analysis of the four main classification options (Wild Forest, Canoe, Primitive, Wilderness) and a weak SEQRA “Reponses” document.

Joe Martens attended these meetings on Thursday with the Governor and that’s fine because DEC is already on record in support of a Wild Forest classification. Official process for new Forest Preserve lands classification starts with a DEC recommendation to the APA. Alternative 4B, one of seven alternatives that the APA took to public hearing, is the DEC alternative. We all know that DEC wants a Wild Forest classification with some modest modifications through a Special Management Area. (What I’d like to know, though, is what the DEC took away from the APA public hearings where public comments ran 4-1 in support of Wilderness? From what I see, the DEC just yawned and shrugged.)

Had Lani Ulrich attended these meetings, either at Follensby or Gore Mountain with the Governor, this would have been a novel departure from established process and a red flag. I don’t know if Ulrich was invited or not, but I give her high marks for staying away and guarding the lines of good public process. Her absence from these meetings showed a healthy respect for established process. (While I’m at it, I also give the Chairwoman high marks for attending the Adirondack Explorer’s conference on the future of the APA and bringing her senior staff along in tow.)

Last, and perhaps the bigger issue in all this, is that’s it’s pretty cool that this Governor wants to come north and hang out at Follensby Pond rather than flying out early for a weekend in the Hamptons.

That said, Andrew Cuomo’s Adirondack Park scorecard on my bulletin board is far too heavy on the negative environmental side of things, with just one singular environmental protection accomplishment. The only meaningful “green” thing he’s done in the Adirondack Park in 2.75 years in office is buying the 65,000 acres of former Finch Paper lands from TNC. His historic investment in the Park’s tourism infrastructure is notable as is his assistance to expand broadband.

On the negative side, he’s made a number of troubling appointments to the APA and Lake George Park Commission of people who are openly hostile to the core environmental protection missions of these agencies, or even worse, clueless as to the core mission. His administration green lighted loosening of clearcutting regulations, expanded the bobcat hunting limits in the state, pushed the troubling NYCO Constitutional Amendment, green lighted massive stream and river habitat destruction after Tropical Storm Irene, forced the APA to modify a towers permits to the detriment of the Bicknell’s Thrush, supported the Adirondack Club & Resort mega-development and problematic final review and approval, whittled the DEC state lands management budget to the bone, green lighted major construction of road-like snowmobile trails throughout the Forest Preserve, and undermined ambitious actions for invasive species protections.

Hopefully with the Essex Chain Lakes and Hudson River classifications, the Governor will make a big investment in the Adirondack Park’s wilderness and environmental integrity.

Photo provided by Carl Hielman II.

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Peter Bauer is the Executive Director of Protect the Adirondacks. He has been working in various capacities on Adirondack Park environmental issues since the mid-1980s, including stints as the Executive Director of the Residents' Committee to Protect the Adirondacks and FUND for Lake George as well as on the staff of the Commission on the Adirondacks in the Twenty-First Century. He was the co-founder of the Adirondack Lake Assessment Program (ALAP) in 1998, which has collected long-term water quality data on more than 75 Adirondack lakes and ponds. He has testified before the State Legislature, successfully advocated to pass legislation and budget items, authored numerous articles, op-eds, and reports such as "20% in 2023: An Assessment of the New York State 30 by 30 Act" (2023), "The Adirondack Park and Rural America: Economic and Population Trends 1970-2010" (2019), "The Myth of Quiet, Motor-free Waters in the Adirondack Park" (2013), and "Rutted and Ruined: ATV Damage on the Adirondack Forest Preserve" (2003) and "Growth in the Adirondack Park: Analysis of Rates and Patterns of Development" (2001). He also worked at Adirondack Life Magazine. He served as Chair of the Town of Lake George Zoning Board of Appeals and has served on numerous advisory boards for management of the Adirondack Park and Forest Preserve. Peter lives in Blue Mountain Lake with his wife, has two grown children out in the world, and enjoys a wide variety of outdoor recreational activities throughout the Adirondacks, and is a member of the Blue Mountain Lake volunteer fire department.Follow Protect the Adirondacks on Facebook and Threads.

60 Responses

  1. dave says:

    “What I’d like to know, though, is what the DEC took away from the APA public hearings where public comments ran 4-1 in support of Wilderness? From what I see, the DEC just yawned and shrugged.”

    That does seem to be their Modus Operandi of late. Make a decision, present it to the public, stick by that decision even when the public disapproves of it. The Bobcat management plan being the most recent example.

    What about historically though? Are there any examples where the DEC changed its recommendation or reversed its position based on public input? I’d be curious to hear about them if so.

    • Paul says:

      It is not like the public comments are the only factor in a decision like this? It should be one factor in a long list if done properly.

      • dave says:

        I’m confused by the question mark in your comment Paul. Are you asking a question or making a statement?

        • Paul says:

          Just laying out the question. Is it the only factor we should consider? Maybe? I personally don’t think so but I am just one person.

          • dave says:

            I don’t think anyone thinks (or implied) that it should be the only factor in a decision.

            However, if public input weights so little in the decision making process that it never influences a change in the agency’s decision… then the question needs to be asked, what is the purpose of public input?

            That is why I’d be interested in hearing if anyone can recall a situation where the DEC presented a plan and then reversed that plan when the public objected.

    • Paul says:

      Also remember public comments are influenced by spin doctors on all sides of an issue. I guess we could adopt the crazy version of doing things like in CA where we just put it all on a ballot measure and let the special interest groups go bananas?

  2. Paul says:

    Peter, NCPR is a radio station so if there “audio” is more thorough than a textual version that isn’t very odd.

  3. Paul says:

    “Last, and perhaps the bigger issue in all this, is that’s it’s pretty cool that this Governor wants to come north and hang out at Follensby Pond rather than flying out early for a weekend in the Hamptons.”

    As an environmentalist I hope you understand that coastal areas like some out on eastern LI are not places that should be ignored. The threats there are serious as well. The Governor has to look out for all of NYS not just our favorite corner.

  4. Pete Klein says:

    Just one small comment. Something to keep in mind.
    Article 14 of the State Constitution says the state owned lands shall remain forever wild.
    It does not say forever wilderness.
    We wouldn’t be having all of these ridiculous arguments were it not for the whole classification nonsense.
    DEC could then just do its job to manage the state owned lands and the APA could confine itself to managing development on the private lands.

    • Alan Senbaugh says:

      It’s hardly nonsense. The SLMP clearly dictates a direction DEC can take based on classification. It’s an important decision.

  5. Ellen Apperson Brown says:

    I’d like to weigh in on the topic of whether the state government has ever changed its course if action based on public input. After years of studying the conservation tactics and accomplishments of John S. Apperson, Jr. ( 1878-1963)and his efforts to protect the Forever Wild Clause of the NY Constitution, I would say that there have been many occasions when the people have had a voice in voting down proposed amendments to the constitution. That is precisely why the Adirondack Forest Preserve has been preserved for so long! In the 1920’s and ’30s, powerful people in the state government ( especially Robert Moses) were eager to build parkways and closed cabins in the forest preserve, but activists (like John Apperson) were able to educate the citizens to the fact that such development went against the intended protections of the constitution. I appreciate the analysis Peter Bauer is making, and I think that John Apperson would have agreed with everything Baur has said.

    • John Warren says:

      I think the question was not, “whether the state government has ever changed its course of action based on public input.” It was has DEC ever changed its course after public input opposed the direction it was taking.

      The answer to that I’m afraid, can only be no.

      • Paul says:

        It will be interesting to see what happens with Hydrofracking in NYS.

        In this particular case isn’t the recommendation from the DEC to the APA (the thing that Peter shared with us in an earlier post) just a suggestion to the APA from the DEC. The APA doesn’t have a “course” yet. They have not made any decisions (except for Mr. Booth maybe he has decided before the analysis is complete?).

      • Alan Senbaugh says:

        The only time I remember them doing so was when they wanted to “re-introduce” Moose to the ADKS in the early 90’s. They had a ton of public meetings, the people were against it and the plan was scrapped. The DEC was shocked at the public response. They even had out side funding for the project.

  6. Brian Mann says:

    Hi folks –

    Peter’s commentary is great and makes some important points. I want to wrestle with it a bit.

    First, he’s absolutely right. I should have included the more detailed quote in my transcript.

    For various reasons, I was incredibly pressed for time on Friday and created a quick web version transcript.

    We do this from time to time, and it’s accepted journalistic practice these days for the transcript to
    be less than all-inclusive so long as the original audio version is there and readily available.

    But on this story I should have slowed down and included the full quote.

    To Peter’s broader point, about my “analysis,” it’s tricky because I did a significant amount of background reporting for this piece.

    That is to say, I spoke with a number of sources to find out whether this event fit neatly into a planned, coordinated effort by the APA and state officials to develop a land classification recommendation for the governor.

    This was not the case.

    It came as the APA was involved in a carefully outlined process to deliver the governor its expert recommendation, after months of meetings, public comment gathering, and talks with local leaders.

    The governor parachuted into the middle of that and APA staff were clearly taken off guard by the event.

    I can’t speak for Chairwoman Ulrich – I don’t know her views of last week’s meetings.

    But for the governor to step around her efforts and those of her staff to go directly to other “experts” to develop his thinking at this stage is hardly a public vote of confidence in her leadership.

    And nothing in that longer quote muddles the impression that that’s exactly what Gov. Cuomo did.

    So here’s my analysis summed up:

    Governor Cuomo and Chairwoman Ulrich are state officials and, to varying degrees, politicians.

    Both of them know that for one politician to take the ball out of another politician’s hands when they’re a few feet from the end zone is — problematic.

    It’s also problematic when one politician excludes another from key public events.

    Whatever the motivation for Ulrich being at Paul Smiths while the governor was a few miles away at Follensby, the optics matter.

    Face time and being in the room matter — in the North Country and in Albany.

    The other people in the room that day with the governor were starkly aware of who was included and who wasn’t.

    Ulrich now moves forward in this process without that kind of clear support from the 2nd floor and without the visceral knowledge of what went on in those rooms that day.

    –Brian Mann, NCPR

    • Paul says:

      Why should the Governor just sit in his office in Albany and wait for the APA recommendation to come in? I give the guy credit for wanting to get more involved. That is what we are paying him for.

      • Paul says:

        Besides who would pass up the opportunity to go fish on beautiful private pond like that!

      • ADKvoter says:

        The problem is not that the Governor decided to meet with various elements involved with the classification issue, but WHEN he chose to do so. The Governor could have and should have waited until AFTER the APA finished their deliberations and sent their recommendation to his before he started to “consult the experts” , as he put it.

  7. Pete Klein says:

    Brian, could it be that the governor was sending more of a message to Booth than to Ulrich?
    Wasn’t Booth trying to get around Ulrich by stating he is in favor of wilderness before any votes have been taken?
    How common was Booth’s action?

  8. John Henry says:

    “Even though I have previously written that this decision is a done deal”

    I guess I missed that in the earlier writings what do you feel is decided? Did you mean Cuomo in his own has decided on a Wild Forest classification and the rest of this is just a dog and pony show to make everyone feel like they had input?

    If so I have to say to how sick I am that, I quit working on school committees and others as I found the outcome was pre decided. The committees were solely to get buy in and to let the “stakeholders” (another term overused) feel like that got to express their views. Yet nothing substantial was ever going to change.

    PS I and Tyler had a nice time meeting and talking you and your son this weekend at the shoot. It was a great weekend to be out and in the mnts.

  9. Don Dew Jr. says:

    The most troubling part is you have an APA commissioner who has made up his mind before all the information and staff recommendations have come in. Dick Booth should now recuse himself from this vote.

    • Paul says:

      It is his prerogative. If he thinks he has enough information already fine. Others may like to be more thorough.

    • Alan Senbaugh says:

      That”s Hysterical! Don did you miss what he said? He was requesting direction on how the decision should be made. What specifically, by law they should be considering. They are nearing the end. The major presentations by staff were in the August meeting and if you watched and listened it was very difficult to consider anything other than wilderness if you followed the law.

  10. Will Doolittle says:

    Thanks for the plug. I agree Brian and I do different sorts of work. To your implication that I have made stuff up — prove it. We have had many disagreements on things over the years, and I respect many of those who have disagreed with me. It may be, at times, their arguments were better than mine. But I have never made stuff up.

  11. Brian Mann says:

    Hi folks –

    Two things.

    First, I want to make it crystal clear that I don’t endorse in any way Peter’s slap at Will Doolittle’s reporting.

    Frankly, on re-reading it, it seems a gratuitous bit of pot-shooting.

    I think Peter’s real point was to suggest that in this instance I had drifted into a gray zone of semi-dishonesty.

    I think that’s an argument that doesn’t bear up, though I acknowledge that I could have been more accurate.

    (Being inaccurate and being dishonest are two different things. I often commit the former venal sin and never knowling commit the second mortal one.)

    In any event, there was no need that I can see to drag Will Doolittle into a critique of my work.

    Second, returning to the issue at hand, I have received one bit of clarification from the DEC.

    The gathering at Follensby was hosted by the Adirondack Nature Conservancy, but according to the Conservation department, TNC staff did NOT take part in the meetings.

    We know from Peter’s post that his group also wasn’t actively involved.

    In the days ahead, I’ll do my best to sort out which green groups were there and took an active role and why those groups were chosen.

    Brian Mann, NCPR

  12. Peter Bauer says:

    Dear All, thanks for good comments.

    From the top:

    Dave: All indications are that DEC remains fixated on a WF classification. It seems no information or analysis will change them, only an order by the Governor.

    Pete Klein: I disagree. I think the SLMP classification system works well and provides for a broad spectrum of natural resource protection and recreational uses. It’s only, generally, on new purchases where there are intense disagreements.

    Ellen Apperson Brown: I hold John Apperson in high regard. He’s one of the few to whom the many, like me, owe a debt of gratitude for his prescience and actions.

    Brian Mann (1): Ok. But, there’s a disconnect in your analysis. The Governor makes his approval/rejection (I don’t think he can substitute his own classification) of the APA’s recommendation for classification. The Governor can use any information he wants in this decision. Certainly, the APA decision and the substantial materials that support it should be considered, but as Governor he can talk to anybody he wants.

    So, I still think it’s an unfair characterization of the APA Chair to show her up for not being at this meeting. She’s voting at some point in the next few months and under state law she needs to do so based on a record.

    The Governor can base his decision on anything he wants. The Governor gets great latitude here and is free to meet with and talk to whomever he wants. That’s a perk of the job.

    In this way, it’s not unlike his decision over signing or vetoing a bill. Sure, he may have been involved in the legislative negotiations and the legislators may have listened to him or not. And, there are many interests calling for a bill to be signed or rejected, with whom the Governor may consult.

    While this is an imperfect analogy, it’s the same dynamic.

    Further, based on my conversations with people who attended both meetings, the Governor made no indication to either group that he supported one classification over another. If anything, local government officials were cooled by the Governor explaining that his past statements that he will work to make sure that these new acquisitions will benefit their communities should not be taken to mean he supports a Wild Forest classification.

    In your conversations with those who attended these meetings did anybody tell you that the Governor expressed a position?

    John Henry: Yes, the turkey shoot was fun. Here’s a link where I said WF was a done deal because of how the DEC tyrannizes over the APA and how the APA is content to be the lapdog to the DEC. I still hold that this is likely. The only thing that would change it is if the Governor gets it in his mind to support Wilderness.

    Don Dew: From my observation, Dick Booth has said to slow the process for adequate deliberation and as of the September meeting it was looking to him like WF. I see no big deal in APA Board members speaking their minds, especially on the record at an open forum like an APA public meeting.

    Will Doolittle: You make stuff up all the time in your so-called analysis. Two examples: 1) PROTECT is anti-paint ball because Caffry represented families who lived around a proposed paintball park; 2) PROTECT is anti-downhill skiing because of legal challenges to ORDA’s Gore Mountain expansion. These two allegations clearly constitute made up stuff with no basis in fact.

    All I ask, Will, is that you get your facts straight before you distort them.

    Brian Mann (2): I in no way equate your journalism with Will Doolittle. I thought I made that clear. As far as I have seen over the years you consciously rely on multiple sources in your reporting, whereas Will is content with one source. Moreover, your analysis is usually based on your actual reporting as opposed to shooting from the hip, like Will, who can’t even be bothered to check out basic facts. The journalism that you each practice is dramatically different.

    That said, my comments on your comments above state why I think you’ve got the narrative wrong on this story.

    Governor Cuomo can get information from whomever he wishes, whenever and where ever he wishes. He’s not bound ethically or legally to any set standard for his decision making, unlike the APA Commissioners, who should be making their decision based upon a public record.

  13. Peter Bauer says:

    Oops. It was looking to Dick Booth like it was not Wild Forest!!

  14. John Warren says:

    “Honest” Will Doolittle, April 2012:

    “I would never move back into the Park with my kids, because of the remoteness, the ignorance, the narrowness, the North Country redneck culture that still thrives there. I would go back as a second home-owner and perhaps as a retiree.”

    • ADKvoter says:

      Doolittle already has a second home, in Lake Placid. He’s had it for a number of years, including when he made the above statement. Whether this can be categorized “making stuff up”, I don’t know, but it is clearly a type of dishonesty.

  15. Brian Mann says:

    Hi Peter –

    I think I agree with most of your description of what Governor Cuomo is doing here – using his extraordinary latitude. At no point did I suggest that he was acting unethically or in secret or in violation of any law.

    At the same time, I’ll stick by my political analysis.

    You have a longer history than I do, but in my 15 years here, I’ve never seen anything quite like this.

    For the governor to be in the Adirondacks holding key closed-door stakeholder meetings in anticipation of an historic APA decision without including the APA chairwoman?

    That is remarkable.

    –Brian Mann, NCPR

    • Paul says:

      there isn’t a big difference between a secret meeting and one done behind closed doors where the discussion is basically a secret.

  16. Will Doolittle says:

    Wow. It is amazing that someone — John — would save up perhaps the most ill-considered comment I have ever made on a blog — and promptly retracted and apologized for, right John? — save it up for longer than a year, perhaps longer, and then trot it out when he sees a chance to take a shot. I guess I should be honored. We are known by our enemies, the saying goes, and to the extent that is true, I can live with John and Peter defining me.
    Liberals like to say the right-wingers can’t be reasoned with or joked with, that any effort at finding common ground is futile. Well, right-wingers are not alone in their zealousness or humourlessness.

    • John Warren says:


      That quote gets right to the heart of your mockery of journalism, of truth, and of our Adirondack community.

      You speak for yourself, and as you said, you never lie.

  17. Don Dew Jr. says:

    Alan, has the APA staff given its official recommendation to the Board? My issue is not in what Dick Booth is saying but in the timing. And Peter of course the Board should make comments in public during there deliberations. I believe that should come after the public process including staff recommendation not before. So if the APA staff has given its official recommendation I apologize for wasting everyone’s time here. Thank You!

  18. Paul says:

    Hang one, one more flight down, and this discussion is in the basement!

  19. Paul says:

    Peter, you are guilty of some of the same “arguments” that you accuse Will of. For example you write about the lack of motorless waters in the Adirondacks when nothing could be further from the truth. Here is a list. I can’t even count how many there are it would take an hour:

    • dave says:

      Peter’s Quiet Waters report specifically examined the 100 and 200 largest lakes.

      The link you provided does not specifically list the largest lakes

      So I am not sure why you would use the latter to claim the former is untruthful.

      That is just about the definition of a straw man attack right there…

      But anyways, forget that, right now I am more consumed by the fact that a pond that I own property on is in that list you provided and it so totally is not motorless. But I wish it was!

      Gonna have to do some fishing (no pun intended) into that.

      • Paul says:

        Dave, I am not talking about that story specifically. Yes it was qualified with looking at large lakes. Part of Protect’s argument for the Essex chain Wildreness classification as motorless (which I personally think should be motor free) is that there is a limited number of motor free waters in the Adirondacks. These are not large lakes. That is baloney. The name of their campaign (or whatever you call it) says it all. “the myth of quiet motor free waters in the Adirondacks”. If you live or spend any time there you know that is pure propaganda.

        Dave, get out there and get that pond straightened out.

        • dave says:

          When analyzing how bodies of waters are classified for use, you have to look at those waters that are actually useable. That is why Protect’s report specifically, and correctly, looked at larger lakes… because they are the bodies of water that are the most useable and accessible.

          Including every random, remote, inaccessible puddle out in the woods in an analysis like this makes no sense.

          Lake Tear of the Clouds? Come on… Heck, 216 on that list don’t even have names.

      • Paul says:

        Even if you look at that story you mention Peter states this specifically without the qualifier of large waterbodies (an argument he makes later and separately).

        “In fact, the Park faces a scarcity of quiet waters where one can paddle a canoe or kayak without interruption from motorboats, jet skis, floatplanes, and other types of motorized watercraf – See more at:“.

        Please refer back to the DEC list I provided and explain the “scarcity”?

  20. Will Doolittle says:

    But I love apple pie! Really, I had two, no three, big pieces today.
    That happens to be true, but gosh even I am bored by the recycling of old petty arguments.
    Moving on …
    — Will

  21. Peter Bauer says:

    Brian Mann,

    Remember that the APA Chair first and foremost is a regulator.

    The Park is a pretty open community and I know that some see the APA Chair as a “politician,” which I don’t see as accurate.

    Lani Ulrich has used her position on the APA as a Park-wide platform for things she cares about, like economic development, and clearly used it to build the stature of the CGA.

    That said, the APA should, and generally does, make decisions based on a record. Forest Preserve classification should be based on a series of different ecological assessments and public comments.

    When a big decision is in front of the APA, the APA Chair, in my humble opinion, should stay pretty close to home and make her decision from the same pool of information that the other Commissioners have. For the APA Chair to participate in the private briefings that the Governor received last Thursday for Wild Forest and Wilderness, would have been inappropriate.

    The Governor is bound by no such restraints.

    Mario Cuomo met with greens and Adirondack local government as did George Pataki. They did not do it in a public way the way that Andrew Cuomo did with press conferences.

    If the Governor wants a classification recommendation from the APA that he can approve, all he needs to do is call in his votes behind the scene and orchestrate building a record in support of his decision. The Governor, in essence, has three votes through state agencies on the APA Board and the Chair is unlikely to buck the Governor. Other votes will be easy to get for whatever the Governor wants.

    I have not yet seen the Governor start moving the chess pieces to orchestrate a decision. The upcoming legal analysis that the APA Counsel is preparing and the SEQRA “Response” document will be big “tells” for whether the APA is in control of the classification process or whether the DEC and/or Governor has taken over.

  22. Brian Mann says:

    Hi Peter –

    Two points:

    1. As you note, it’s only your opinion that it was a good thing that APA Chair Ulrich wasn’t present at those meetings. There’s probably a solid argument to be made that if the governor wanted to hear from “experts” about the land classification process, he might have been well served to consult the chair of the state agency that has conducted that process. You suggest that Ulrich was under some kind of “restraints.” But there really are none.

    2. I haven’t done enough reporting yet to know whether Governor Cuomo was “moving the chess pieces” to orchestrate a specific decision. I’m still working to understand what happened here. What I do know is that in arranging to meet with environmental groups, he chose only two for closed-door meetings — the Adirondack Council and the Adirondack Mountain Club. I’m eager to learn why those groups were chosen and whether they were being consulted about land classification, or lobbied.

    –Brian Mann, NCPR

    • Tom says:

      Just went to ncpr and re-read the article. Had to crack up when Gov Cuomo said something like he had to hear from the experts before making a decision. So Betty Little and Gary Douglas are considered “experts”? Wow!

      • Paul says:

        They are experts on the political dimensions of something like this. And that is an important factor that you can’t avoid.

  23. Paul says:

    The Nature Conservancy is as a matter of policy are regularly consulted on issues related to land classification. Maybe he wants to formalize some kind of cooperative arrangement with these other environmental groups as well? Why should only the TNC staff working with the DEC in Albany be giving the state information to help with these things?

    Here is a link with a description of the program with the TNC:

  24. Pete Klein says:

    Has the APA outlived its usefulness?
    I believe this is a valid question.
    The Catskill Park has a Catskill SLMP developed and updated by the DEC without any input from a Catskill Park Agency because there is no such thing as a Catskill Park Agency.
    Isn’t it about time for all of the towns in the Adirondack Park to have their own land use plans and planning boards? I know there are some people who don’t want to be responsible for any zoning or land use plans but aren’t these people just people who want to avoid their duties as citizens – people not worth the time of day in a democracy?

  25. dave says:

    “There’s probably a solid argument to be made that if the governor wanted to hear from “experts” about the land classification process, he might have been well served to consult the chair of the state agency that has conducted that process.”

    The Governor WILL hear from experts at the APA.

    He will hear from them about this issue when they vote on it. He doesn’t need to drive up here and meet with Lani Ulrich, or anyone else at the APA, to hear what she thinks about all of this… because he will get that information from her via the APA’s recommendation.

    I’m not following your line of thinking on this one at all.

    I would think that a governor should avoid having meetings with a regulatory agency about an issue before they make their decision about that issue. I would think that would be considered entirely inappropriate… and likely viewed as an attempt to influence the decision of that agency.

    • Paul says:

      I totally agree. But I would make throw in one qualifier. She actually hears from the “experts” and then makes her decision and then she conveys her recommendation to the Governor. She isn’t really an expert, but they do work for her, and she hopefully takes their expert advice.

  26. Will Doolittle says:

    I resent your unfair characterization of my work, which it seems you don’t really know, except for the commentaries and comments I’ve written over the years on Adirondack issues. There’s a lot more to it.
    That said, I find this polarized back and forth boring and upsetting in its negativity after all these years. I’m offering a truce. In that spirit, I want to say I value the work you and other environmentalists and environmental organizations have done. I don’t always agree with your positions — although sometimes I do — but I think the Adirondack Park is a better place because of the environmental advocacy that has taken place there over the years. You’ve been a big part of that, and although I sometimes disagree with your conclusions and decisions about ways to address a problem, there is no doubt you work hard at issues and do a lot of good research. That sounds a bit condescending, but I mean it sincerely. I was impressed with the work you did on the tributaries of Lake George — the streambank work, if I’m characterizing it correctly. So anyway, I do think the Adirondacks has been crippled politically by polarization over the years, but that could change now. I want to be part of the positive change, not the polarization.

  27. Paul says:

    Joe martens caught a nice 6lb Laker on Follensby Clear. I saw a retweet at the Council’s site. Here is a link to the picture the Governor Tweeted. Was he fishing with them on this trip?

  28. Charlie S says:

    Paul says: It seems as polarized as ever.

    This whole country has been extremely polarized ever since the illegal invasion of Iraq and other atrocities committed by yours truly Uncle Sam during that eight year reign of terrorism. This polarization that we’re feeling in other arena’s,including issues relative to the Adirondacks,is a byproduct/continuation of that.It is a clash of minds,of the right side of the brain,of the left side.On the one side is a venomous toxin,darkness and monetary gain.On the other…an altruistic insight,a glowing sphere and selflessness with a futuristic vision.Yin and yang.

    It may be that they see an opportunity to attract folks that would leave the Adirondack Council because they are afraid it is being too “reasonable”?

    I left the Adirondack Council because they voted yea on the Tupper Lake project,which I believe is a big no-no.Maybe i’m wrong but it all starts in increments and before we know it boom…..or bust.The boom mentality is where we’ve been……the bust is coming.

  29. Paul says:

    “On the one side is a venomous toxin,darkness and monetary gain.On the other…an altruistic insight,a glowing sphere and selflessness with a futuristic vision.”

    Charlie, you honestly think that folks are either all bad or all good? That folks either create all the problems or have all the solutions? Luckily this is just a view held by folks that will never accomplish anything. I am sure it isn’t you.

    Also, you don’t seem to have a grasp of history sometimes. You think we are more polarized now than we were in the early 1960s over civil rights, the 1970s over the war in Vietnam… Look back further the 1860s over the question of slavery…. etc. We always work it out we will this time also. Go cool off and take a paddle on the newly protected Essex Chain (you know it is part of that 70,000 acres we have protected for posterity) it opened up yesterday to us all for the first time in our lifetime. It ain’t all bad my friend.

  30. Charlie S says:

    You seem to be doing my thinking for me Paul.Either that or you’re misreading me which I expect.Am I supposed to be a history buff to know right from wrong Paul? And which history is it that I am supposed to grasp? Who cares about the Civil War when so many little boys and girls and their mommies and daddies are dying all over the world (or being brutally maimed for life) these very moments from all the current wars?
    History is in the making these moments Paul,right under our sleepy noses. Why would I want to go back to the 60’s and the Civil War? Nothing’s changed,different actors same scenes.Have you picked up the newspaper lately. Nothing ever changes there neither except for the fact that their giving us less and less.It’s the corporate way of doing things,giving us less,taking away more. That’s another story altogether.
    I go by my experience,what I see,feel,what vibes I pick up on.I am known to have an acute sense of awareness,and I most certainly do know right from wrong.What else is there? You say we always work it out.I’m not certain if you’re being overly optimistic or just plain old living on a blind faith Paul.
    The world today is a different world than it was just ten years ago,never mind the 60’s and the Civil War.There’s being futuristic and there’s being stuck in the same old rut.It boggles the mind all of the mess Paul. Most of us don’t know how to escape unless you consider tv and sports and all of the other entertainment escape. I know there’s no escape,but there are ways to heal. I go to nature to heal,to the woods.To the Adirondacks!
    You suggest I go cool off. If I did that i’d be joining the ranks Paul.If we cool off any more we’ll be going into a deep freeze.Then there’d be nobody left to defend that wonderful wilderness which some of us would like to see left as it is,untrammeled by mindless man and his noisy contraptions.

  31. Paul says:

    “I go by my experience,what I see,feel,what vibes I pick up on.I am known to have an acute sense of awareness,and I most certainly do know right from wrong.What else is there? You say we always work it out.I’m not certain if you’re being overly optimistic or just plain old living on a blind faith Paul.”

    I think I also go by the same things. I just apparently see different results. I see an Adirondacks that has far more protected land than it did when I was born. In fact when I was born there was zero acres of land designated as Wilderness in the Adirondacks. And no matter when you were born even if you are born a few years from today there will again be more Wilderness land in the Adirondacks. No matter what proposal is chosen for this land the amount of Wilderness in the park will be going up (you seem to talk like it will be going down?).

    There are Loons now on just about every lake in the Park. Not so when I was a kid. I have bald eagles that sit in the trees on my property now. Non existent when I was a kid. Acid rain that had killed many ponds is not as serious an issue as it was when I was a kid…. Do you need me to go on?

    One more.

    Just in the last 20 years 1 million additional acres (1 million!) have been protected from development by conservation easements so there even private lands set aside for posterity.

    I am optimistic because of what I have seen. You and I just see different things.

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