Friday, July 31, 2020

Adk Council reacts to loss of bond act; urges state to acquire Whitney estate

adirondack council new logoThe Adirondack Council expressed disappointment over Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s decision to withdraw the $3-billion environmental bond act from the 2020 ballot, saying the measure could have helped get New York residents back to work and would have provided significant tax relief to rural communities, while protecting clean water and wildlife.

“We are very disappointed that the bond act has been withdrawn,” said Adirondack Council Deputy Director Rocci Aguirre.  “We believe it would have helped to spur economic growth while it benefited the environment.

“The bond act could also have helped in ways that are not readily apparent, such as reduce local taxes by lifting the burden of new wastewater systems from the backs of local taxpayers,” Aguirre said.  “But it is discretionary spending at a time when the national economy is in disarray and national leadership is failing to correct course.  Without the prospect of new federal aid to states from Congress, we understand why the Governor is reluctant to move forward with new borrowing at this time.

“We urge him to reconsider when the economic outlook brightens,” Aguirre said.

The $3-billion Restore Mother Nature Bond Act was approved in April as part of the state budget.  Normally, a bond act would bypass the Governor and go straight to the voters for approval.  However, due to the economic uncertainties caused by the COVID-19 crisis, the Legislature made the unusual move of granting the Governor the power to remove it from consideration by the voters.  He withdrew it from the statewide ballot today, citing the lack of federal aid to states as his reason.”

Whitney Estate For Sale 

The news of the bond act’s withdrawal comes as Congress has reinvigorated the federal Land and Water Conservation Fund.  LWCF and other funding sources were used by the state to purchase 14,000 acres and Little Tupper Lake from the Whitney family in 1997.  The price was $17 million.

“The entire Whitney Estate has been listed as a priority in the NYS Open Space Protection Plan since it was created in 1993,” said Aguirre.  “The lands are listed in our 2020 VISION research series as a component of the Council’s proposed 400,000-acre Bob Marshall Great Wilderness in the west-central Adirondack Park’s Oswegatchie River basin.

“We are grateful to the Whitney family for their decades as committed stewards of their land. Public ownership would ensure that these priceless lands are permanently protected and serve as a lasting legacy for the Whitney family,” he said. “We look forward to working with colleagues in the land trust community and state officials to find ways to secure the possible future protection of these lands. .”

Among the benefits of public ownership of the Whitney Estate would be a motor-free wilderness large enough to accommodate the return of timber wolves, moose and other extirpated species in an area where there are few roads or communities where conflicts could arise, Aguirre said.

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John Sheehan

Before John Sheehan joined the Adirondack Council's staff in 1990, he was the managing editor of the Malone Evening Telegram, and previously worked as a journalist for the Troy Record, (Schenectady) Daily Gazette, Watertown Daily Times and Newsday. For the past 20 years, John has been the voice of the Adirondack Council on radio and television, and on the pages of local, regional and national media.




30 Responses

  1. Chuck Parker Chuck Parker says:

    The Governor taking economic responsibility and removing the $3 billion dollar Environmental Bond Act from the 2020 ballot is sad news but it is a responsible move. With an asking price of of 5 times the normal cost per acre of Adirondack land this should lead to some serious negotiations, if there is ever the possibility for the state to buy the land. Is buying more land in the Adirondacks that does not afford reasonable access for all people in New York. a wise choice or just another case of wasted money. Why not look into a new private land owner where the DEC could purchase conservation easements.

    • Balian the Cat says:

      Chuck – for transparency sake, what you mean by “reasonable access for all people in New York.” is motorized access, correct? Unless I am mistaken, and I apologize in advance if I am, you are not advocating for a blend of non-motorized foot trails and motorized access where appropriate from a resource protection first point of view. You are suggesting that NYS should only make this purchase if they plan to allow trucks and ATVs onto the Whitney estate. I assume, and that’s all it is until you correct me, that you would also advocate for Little Tupper to be opened to motor boats.

      • Chuck Parker Chuck Parker says:

        Balian, your interpretation of what I said is a bit skewed from my intended message. There are intended guidelines set up for the Adirondacks, SLUMP. Under a wild forest classification greater access opportunity and methods of access are available, if it can be determine that there will be no negative impact from these means of access, then they should be considered. Those that automatically go with a wilderness type classification are just eliminating any possibility for a proper evaluation of what is possible.

        As a result of the Essex Chain and Boreas Ponds purchase, I have a stronger feeling that the State should not be buying any more land in the Adirondack Park. The preservationist “non-use” philosophy is leading to a terrible lost of balance in the Adirondacks. The private land ownership that still exist in the Adirondacks at least offers some degree of greater ecological balance and possible access.IE conservation easements. We should be making it easier for the private land owner to be able to keep there land as they can offer greater balance than if all lands were owned by the state. May I suggest that you look at the Teddy Roosevelt Conservation Partnership website ( trcp.org ) to see how a broader base of management is being used across the Country.

        All to often the New York Taxpayer is being unfairly shut out by there own tax dollar that is being spent.
        The automatic elimination use of wheeled vehicles motorized vehicle without a proper science based evaluation is just wrong.

        • Balian the Cat says:

          Thats why I was careful to include the disclaimers on my assumptions, Chuck. Thanks for the elaboration. Just to add what you said – there are a lot of New York Taxpayers who would prefer to keep Little Tupper motorless and not feel shut out if that’s the way this goes.

          • Chuck Parker Chuck Parker says:

            Lets not look at the emotions without looking at the best fact based concerns. There is a balance there somewhere. All New Yorkers deserve to be treated fairly.

            The issues of the 1960’s and 70’s that lead to the creation of the APA and the “protection” initiative is kind of outdated. it needs to be readdressed. A lot is being lost in favor of an unbalance of over all percentage of mature trees.

            • Balian the Cat says:

              Chuck – this is fairly basic research on my part, so correct me if I have misused the numbers: The Adirondack Park is 6 million acres. A little over half of that is private land – hamlets, villages, towns and the Conservation Easements you referenced. Of the public half (its actually less than half, but for arguments sake…) one million acres are designated Wilderness with the rest being Wild Forest. Simply stated, it seems we already have the balance you are seeking with a slight nod to the more consumptive uses. Nothing particularly emotional about that.

              • Chuck Parker Chuck Parker says:

                Within the state own lands in the Adirondacks I contend there is not a balance The amount of transitional of new growth state owned forest is seriously out wack.

        • Boreas says:

          “The preservationist “non-use” philosophy is leading to a terrible lost of balance in the Adirondacks.”

          Can you explain this “non-use” philosophy? I have seen no evidence of it as any kind of guiding principal. Who is advocating for “non-use”?

          • Chuck Parker Chuck Parker says:

            Boreas- My briefest explanation would be when there is a resource that can be used in ways that are not currently allowed, and that use would not have a negative impact on that resource then that is a non-use philosophy.

            Would you say that all motorized vehicles should be stopped at the Blue Line? Of course not. Where should that line be needs to be determine using all the facts available.

            • Boreas says:

              Buying private land and opening it to the public is not “non-use” despite your efforts to characterize it as such. I don’t recall any recent purchases by NYS that did not allow public access. Can you name any? You seem to be intentionally conflating public access and motorized access. The “terrible loss of balance” does not exist.

              But I do feel, as others do, this parcel should stay in the proper private hands if the current owners don’t want it spoiled.

              • Chuck Parker Chuck Parker says:

                I guess it is a matter of semantics and who you are.

                I to agree that the parcel in question would best be served in “private hands”

  2. Chris says:

    Bait and switch

  3. Contrarian says:

    Disagree.

    First, the state poorly manages the forest preserve we already have. The High Peaks are a mess. Lake George Wild Forest and Pharaoh Lake Wilderness seem headed in that direction. All we’re hearing is how badly overstretched forest rangers are as it is and now the Council wants to add even more land to their charge?

    The first priority should be on beginning to properly steward the forest preserve we already have. Even a fraction of that purchase price would pay for a lot of badly needed forest rangers.

    Second, in the Times-Union, Ms. Whitney’s widow said he did not want to sell to the state because of how badly it managed their previous property (William Whitney Wilderness).

    From the TU: ‘Hendrickson said that he would not consider selling to the state again, believing a private owner would offer better protection for the land. Prior to announcing the land was for sale, Hendrickson called Gov. Andrew Cuomo to tell him.

    “Little Tupper Lake was the home of brook trout,” Hendrickson said. “It was protected for more than 100 years. The state bought it and someone from the public introduced bass and now the trout are extinct from that lake. I have a hatchery with Little Tupper brook trout. I stock the lakes so they’re not completely extinct. I don’t want to see it happen again. It didn’t make me very happy.”’

    • Vanessa says:

      Hi Contrarian! Nice to get to know you in this forum. I agree regarding the state doing a poor job with wilderness already acquired, but I think private development is the alternative and the biomass needs to be preserved 100%. I don’t see who else does that besides the state, which is at least theoretically accountable to people and then the land will be constitutionally protected.

      Your point about the cost is also super valid – see my separate comment below.

  4. Glenn says:

    Cuomo is a POS. When are people gonna
    wake up and realize it?

  5. Chris says:

    These comments make me sad but I understand where they are coming from. My first reaction was of course this tract should be in the public trust. It’s just unfortunate that the state can’t get out of it’s own way when it comes to conservation and natural resources management. Maybe a private conservation minded owner is the best outcome. Also, social media and the rise of the outdoor industrial complex has created land management challenges on practically all public land.

  6. Bill Starr says:

    I agree with Mr. Hendrickson the Whitney family has been superb stewards of their estate and I further agree with his anger about some moron dumping bass into Little Tupper Lake thereby destroying a pristine, and rare, brook trout fishery. I can also see DEC not resisting the temptation to also stock all of those pristine brook trout lakes on the estate with rainbow and brown trout and some Frankenstein hybrids.

    My hope is that Mr. Hendrickson is indeed sincere and will follow through with not selling to the state. As Gov. Cuomo is claiming each day that the state is broke where will the $180 Million come from? However I have no doubts that the Adirondack Park Agency (APA) will do everything in their power to make the sale of the estate to a private entity nearly impossible. I also have a gut feeling that in collusion with state officials the various environmental groups are searching for a way to force the sale of the estate to the state.

    The empowerment of these environmental groups is directly proportional to the amount of state owned land within the Adirondack Park. It is also questionable if all these green groups combined actually represent 50,000 New York State residents. Typically each of these group’s members are also members in many of the other environmental groups too whereby making it possible for one individual to be counted several times.

    If they want it bad enough then defund the police Governor so as to come up with the cash. When I say defund the police I refer to the Forest Rangers (who are police), the Environmental Conservation Police and the APA which is a state enforcement agency. The green groups will say that not buying the Whitney estate will be the next great environmental crisis in the Adirondacks when in truth this $180 Million land purchase is only essential to them and not to the people of New York.

    Bill Starr
    State Director, Emeritus – Forest Fire Lookout Association

  7. Boreas says:

    “Among the benefits of public ownership of the Whitney Estate would be a motor-free wilderness…”.

    Recent history in NYS land acquisition does not support this statement. I only see this happening with a private trust given the current motor-friendly administration.

    • Balian the Cat says:

      Boreas makes a very important point here.

    • Boreas says:

      Sorry Bill – this wasn’t supposed to be attached to your comment, but rather the article in general.

    • Steve B. says:

      The current Whitney property is not motor free currently and only a portion could be considered as wilderness under the state guidelines. In addition to some logging as they desire, with attending new road construction and existing road maintenance, there are numerous in-holdings with road access that would remain. Some of the lakes also see motorized boating currently, though both road and lakes are private. Part of the debate should the state purchase, is similar to the Essex Chain, how much to keep as allowing motorized access, how much as Wild Forest and how much Wilderness.

      Is it better for the state to purchase if possible ?, marginally a Yes, if only for the enhanced recreational opportunities, boating, biking, hiking as well as camping. I’m aware that many are unhappy with how the Essex Chain area turned out, I’m not one of them. I think there’s a balance of possible activities available that were not possible under private ownership, could see similar choices being made for the Whitney property.

  8. CK says:

    I think a IMBA Epic quality long mountain bike trail would be amazing. Just saying… Shameless user group self-promotion and tribalism

    What would the state do with the 17 bedroom mansion if it purchased the land?

    Is there a non-profit conservation avenue? TNC? Land trust? Etc.

    • Steve B. says:

      I could certainly see expanded canoeing routes being developed with the Adirondack Mt. Club owning Deerland and running as an interior wilderness lodge. The Appalachian Mt. Club has been doing this in northern Maine in areas adjacent to the AT. Seems popular.

  9. Charlie S says:

    Glenn says: “Cuomo is a POS. When are people gonna wake up and realize it?”

    So what do we do Glenn! Put a republican in power? There’d be nothing left in one generation if we did.

    • Jim A says:

      while you are probably correct, Republican Gov Pataki, in my opinion, did more to preserve the ‘Daks than the Cuomo administration. That being said, he may well be “one of a kind”.

      regarding the damage done to the brook trout fishery, it is the selfish/stupid very small % of the public that is the problem. Same problem in the High Peaks – but there its not a small %, unfortunately…..

  10. Charlie S says:

    Bill Starr says: “As Gov. Cuomo is claiming each day that the state is broke where will the $180 Million come from?”

    We can use some help from the Fed’s maybe hey!

    • JohnL says:

      Yeah right, Charlie. Especially since the pandemic has hit, the Feds are just swimming in extra money to give to one of their favorite states to buy land for recreational use.

  11. Charlie S says:

    “regarding the damage done to the brook trout fishery, it is the selfish/stupid very small % of the public that is the problem. Same problem in the High Peaks – but there its not a small %, unfortunately…..”

    Just yesterday I was talking to my niece who was sharing her angst over the trash left behind where she camps at Lake George, and other areas. I told her about the time eleven years or so ago when I was camped up from Moose River in the Moose River Recreation Area and found two loaded diapers in that crystal jewel just offshore. I was able to retrieve one but couldn’t get to the other. Selfish, stupid & small-minded too Jim A.

  12. Charlie S says:

    “the Feds are just swimming in extra money to give to one of their favorite states to buy land for recreational use.”

    Sarcasm! That was my point JohnL Political boxing with extra jabs from these cronies in power now. I’m sure it’s going to get prettier as the erection nears….as always.

  13. Vanessa says:

    Two separate reactions: don’t be shocked that this is coming from your resident “pinko commie hippie”, but! – this estate is absurdly priced! Neither the state nor anyone should buy it without negotiating way down on the cost per acreage. I believe Boreas already pointed out its 5 grand per acre. I guess you’re paying for the old fancy house?

    There are much better uses of state money, including towards good environmental stewardship. Hire rangers for fudge sakes, to call again for a much needed line item.

    However, ultimately I don’t see how a private entity is going to protect it as well long term, and I agree keeping it non motorized would be excellent. The ADK is an extremely unique and important carbon sink for the whole planet, not just the US. We need as much untouched wilderness as possible to survive climate apocalypse.

    Hopefully it will sit on the market during the COVID economy and some plan can be reached.

    Regarding the Bond Act – also disappointed, also not surprised. We’re really, really not out of the woods in terms of the economic impact of COVID. As many have said, a recovery needs to be green and to create sustainable jobs. I hope the Act can be revisited later in the year *cough COUGH how about sometime after November 4th, just a thought cough* when things are more stable federally, and after more aid has been provided to struggling states…

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