NYS Department of Environmental Conservation Commissioner Joseph Martens will be stepping down in July according to an e-mail sent to staffers on Tuesday. Martens is expected to return to the Manhattan-based Open Space Institute, which he headed before moving to DEC, to work on national climate change issues.
He was appointed in 2011, after Gov. Andrew Cuomo was elected to his first term. Although popular with anti-fracking advocates for DEC’s ban on high-volume hydraulic fracturing (HVHF), Martens has received mixed reviews from advocates of protecting state lands in the Adirondacks from development.
The purchase of 69,000 acres of former Finch, Pryun lands from the Nature Conservancy occurred under Martens’ watch, but he also oversaw a major expansion of motorized access into the “Forever Wild” Adirondack Forest Preserve.
Martens was also a leader in the transfer of Forest Preserve lands in the Jay Mountain Wilderness to a mining company, despite language in the New York State Constitution that those lands “shall not be leased, sold or exchanged, or be taken by any corporation, public or private”.
DEC Executive Deputy Commissioner Marc Gerstman is expected to serve as Acting Commissioner after Martens leaves on July 23.
Photo of Joseph Martens speaking on Prospect Mountain in 2013 by John Warren.