Sunday, February 25, 2024

Protect: Search for next DEC head should be national

From left, Justin Driscoll, acting president and CEO of the New York Power Authority; Doreen Harris, president and CEO of the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority; and Basil Seggos, commissioner of the state Department of Environmental Conservation, testify before lawmakers during a joint budget hearing on Feb. 14 in the New York State Capitol in Albany.

With the news that Basil Seggos, the current Commissioner of the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC), is going to step down with the next two months, Protect the Adirondacks calls upon Governor Kathy Hochul to conduct a nationwide search for the next DEC Commissioner. With the many challenges facing New York’s environment and DEC’s serious environmental responsibilities, it’s critical that the next DEC Commissioner have a proven track record in successful management of an environmental agency, including assuring transparency and open engagement with the public, and a demonstrated commitment to upholding environmental laws and respecting court decisions.

Prior to being named DEC Commissioner, Seggos was a top environmental aid to then-Governor Andrew Cuomo, who installed him at the DEC without a nationwide search. The position of DEC Commissioner is one of the top environmental posts in the United States. Unfortunately, recent appointees to the post have been selected as the result of a secretive political process in which political and personal loyalty were the main criteria. Protect the Adirondacks calls upon Governor Hochul to break this chain of Albany-insider self-dealing and make New York’s environmental protection her top priority by conducting a nationwide search for a seasoned environmental professional.

“One of the hallmarks of recent years in the Adirondack Park is that the Department of Environmental Conservation and Adirondack Park Agency routinely cut corners and subvert the environmental laws they are supposed to uphold,” said Peter Bauer, Executive Director of Protect the Adirondacks. “Under Basil Seggos, the DEC was found to have violated Article 14, the forever wild clause, of the state constitution and regularly bent and stretched environmental laws in order to meet his political objectives. The Adirondack Park Agency has done the same. Under Seggos, the DEC has adopted a bunker mentality that excludes and evades public scrutiny and accountability and lacks transparency. We need fresh, new leadership at the DEC that will bring not only proven experience in managing a complex environmental regulatory agency, but also has a proven track record of upholding the rule of law and a commitment to reopening public engagement.”

“With the vast challenges facing New York State, now is not the time for another political appointment to the state’s top environmental job. The DEC is already top-heavy with political appointments, and we need a leader for New York’s top environmental agency who will be guided by science and who will scrupulously uphold New York’s environmental laws. This person must set an example throughout DEC that fidelity to the law is their top priority, not politics, not political deal making,” said Claudia Braymer, Deputy Director of Protect the Adirondacks.

Photo at top: From left, Justin Driscoll, acting president and CEO of the New York Power Authority; Doreen Harris, president and CEO of the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority; and Basil Seggos, commissioner of the state Department of Environmental Conservation, testify before lawmakers during a joint budget hearing on Feb. 14 in the New York State Capitol in Albany. Photo by Gwendolyn Craig

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Community news stories come from press releases and other notices from organizations, businesses, state agencies and other groups. Submit your contributions to Almanack Editor Melissa Hart at editor@adirondackalmanack.com.




54 Responses

  1. Keith says:

    Claudia Braymer is right on with her criticism of the current DEC and APA leadership.
    Lets hope Governor Hochul takes her advice and demands that these agencies represent all New Yorkers and not just the wealthy landowners that drive DEC and APA policy to keep the Adirondack Park, the way they want it and protect their land irregardless of the law.

    • Lillian Antoci says:

      It should not be someone hired because of political connections, favor, payback, or who they know. It should be someone who is strictly dedicated to the preservation of the beauty and forever wildness of the Adirondack. Just because you are rich, money should not be involved here nor any personnel connection to present officials.

  2. Tony says:

    Seggos should be in prison for conspiring with the Ausable Club to restrict public access to state land. While I agree there shouldn’t be any political cronyism, the danger in a nationwide search is that they may bring someone in who isn’t familiar with long standing culture of free and open access. Restrictive permit systems are much more common out west and the last thing we need is more of that kind of BS.

  3. Charlie Stehlin says:

    “One of the hallmarks of recent years in the Adirondack Park is that the “One of the hallmarks of recent years in the Adirondack Park is that the Department of Environmental Conservation and Adirondack Park Agency routinely cut corners and subverted the environmental laws they are supposed to uphold,” said Peter Bauer, Executive Director of Protect the Adirondacks. “Under Basil Seggos, the DEC was found to have violated Article 14, the forever wild clause, of the state constitution and regularly bent and stretched environmental laws in order to meet his political objectives. The Adirondack Park Agency has done the same. Under Seggos, the DEC has adopted a bunker mentality that excludes and evades public scrutiny and accountability and lacks transparency.”

    > How sad that we have sunk so low! New York State at one time was the role model, if not near, at the very top of the list, for environmental conservation, agriculture, public education, relief for the poor, preserving historical collections, ethical leadership…… You name it, all over the world New York was known for its outstanding qualities in their men and accomplishments. That lustre seems to be slipping away more and more. We are a microcosm of what the rest of the country is becoming….all about self-gain, power, corruption….at the expense of all which should matter most. How sad for all of us, for sacred havens, for futurity!

  4. Anonymous says:

    We need someone in there that will not only protect the environment but someone that is not money hungry…why…look at all these solar fields and all the trees and environment that is being destroyed. Not saying solar fields are bad but we don’t need as many. When tearing down trees pushes the wildlife out of their inhabitants there’s a problem especially when it’s done for just money. Our natural woods not only protects wildlife but it helps us survive. I’ve seen so many live good trees torn down with this. Where does oxygen come from? Trees have the ability to provide oxygen and help remove harmful gases making the air we breathe healthier. Our natural environment also reduces depression and anxiety which so many people suffer with these days.

    • Lillian Antoci says:

      I agree. We do not need big corporations and developers coming in and destroying, and changing the demographic layout of the land. No big hotels catering to the rich, and big housing developments, warehouses, and factories. The beauty of the Adirondack is in its simplicity and undisturbed beauty. Cutting down trees and destroying their habitat is not acceptable. It is supposed to be forever wild meaning leaving nature as is untouched by man’s hand and machinery.

  5. Lillian Antoci says:

    I hope this is true. We need transparency and open engagement with the public. I hope they hire someone highly qualified to maintain the beauty and laws of the Adirondack and keep it forever wild. It should NOT be because of who they know or what favor is due in return to someone. Political connection, politics, or favor should not be involved. We need someone with a strong backbone with the utmost respect for the land and its enforcement of the laws. They should not cave into pressure, bend the rules, or cater to the rich. Structures should be in keeping with the theme of Adirondack. and mega hotels or housing developments should not be allowed. My deepest fear is that we are losing piece by piece the simple beauty and life of the Adirondack.

  6. Larry Roth says:

    Seggos was a ‘good soldier’ for Cuomo, and Cuomo did a great job of making the APA conform to his will. DEC has been great for the rich and politically connected, and a strong advocate for the snowmobile economy.

    But as far as dealing with the ongoing climate crisis and all the ways the Adirondacks (and the rest of the state) are going to be affected, the agency needs a leader up to the coming challenges and the budget resources to be able to deal with them effectively.

  7. Pat Smith says:

    Governor Hochul is hardly an advocate for the Adirondack and Catskill Parks. Under Part O of this year’s proposed budget ORES would gain siting authority of transmission lines and would be able to use eminent domain to extinguish conservation easements in both parks.

  8. I think the park could handle some factories and warehouses. Don’t forget half the park is privately owned. At this rate towns should thinking about lawsuits on how to remove themselves from park jurisdictions

    • Lillian Antoci says:

      Some factories and warehouses! Once you open the gate, the flood begins. We need control or it will become another polluted, overcrowded, traffic, noise park. We barely have any open protected space left.

      • Have you been to the Adirondacks? Believe it or not there are still some industry here but nothing like it was. As a permanent resident of the park I find your comment your comment very telling. What I hear in that’s statement is “ keep going Peter. We will have every resident of the park eradicated sooner than we thought “

        • Paul says:

          Shawn I totally agree. Many of these comments are not very informed. Lots of just parroting things they probably see on the internet. The reality is that my home town, Saranac Lake, the largest town in the Adirondacks is considerably smaller and much less developed than it was at the turn of the last century (about one third the population at its peak). The lake in town has almost no commercial development on it any more. Most of what was removed is never coming back.

        • william hill says:

          That is exactly why Bauer and his cohorts want a national search. They don’t want anyone who understands the dynamics of the Adirondacks. I’m sure Bauer & Co. already have a short list of groomed candidates they will endorse.

      • Paul says:

        Barely have any open protected space left? Protected land within the Adirondack park has grown considerably over the last 100 or so years and continues to grow. I don’t know where you are getting this false information?

  9. Dan says:

    With all due respect, I 100% disagree that the search for the next commissioner be a national effort. I feel it should be a NY native who understands both upstate and downstate matters, which are in no way conceivable by someone outside of this state. Let’s keep NY matters in New York.

  10. Tom Paine says:

    Oh, you mean a candidate that will kiss Peter’s and the Environmental lobby’s rings.

  11. Keith says:

    As well as Ms. Braymer’s!

  12. Keith says:

    I reached out to both Bauer and Braymer to represent me in an open and shut case of the Livingston Lake Club in Day, NY having fraudulently acquired a Fisher Act Tax exemption on 800 acres when their in-holding has no “public, legal access for forestry management” as required by law.
    Anyone can view this 800 acre parcel on the Day, tax map 8.00 and see no road. The recently published APA roads map and inventory show no road. Yet an illegal driveway exists and they essentially pay no taxes on the 800 acres. Taxes are only being paid by the 7 individual, mostly out-of-state, vacation home owners for their small lakefront properties. The owner listed on the tax records is a prominent NYS law firm…I wonder why?

  13. Charlie Stehlin says:

    Dan says: “I feel it should be a NY native who understands both upstate and downstate matters…”

    It’s not about ‘up & down state’ Dan! It’s about a one-of-a-kind natural treasure, which more and more are becoming like the rest of what’s left of our natural treasures. It’s about “the next DEC Commissioner having a proven track record in successful management of an environmental agency..” as is stated above.

    What is the difference where he or she is from, so long as ‘what is ethically right’ gets done! < That rhymes!

  14. Boreas says:

    I don’t know if “appointing” the top Environmental officer for the state is the best method for this important office. Political appointments are just that – political. With any political appointee, many of the voters are automatically programmed to oppose every move they make. Perhaps a committee of various stakeholders across the state (NOT politicians), should ultimately accept or reject any candidates offered by Albany.

    • Adk Resident says:

      That’s the Senate’s role. You suggest Hochul do exactally what she did with JCOPE – establish an independent panel to vet and veto appointees to the board. An independent/non-elected group of people didn’t work too well for JCOPE. NY Courts determined that the process of gathering a group of law school chairs to determine who should form an ethics panel for state government was unconstitutional. the same thing would happen with a panel to approve a DEC Commissioner.

  15. Susan C. McDonough says:

    I hope that for the first time, a Commissioner is choosen who will consider the fact that the state’s wildlife belongs to ALL the taxpayers, not just the hunters and fishermen. The immense suffering that many wild animals endue in the name of “sport” to sell hunting licenses and push gun sales is not what a “Conservation Department ” should focus on. The “management” of “game animals” to satisfy the hunting community while it causes more deer/car collisions is not”conservation.” Using tax dollars for the importing and rearing of wild birds for hunters is another thing that needs to end.

    • Ethan says:

      Bingo!
      Ironically, those who suffer the most are those who are supposedly the reason for CONSERVATION in the first place.
      In addition to the birds you mention, the DEC also continues to allow too many species to be hunted with “no bag limits”. For example, bobcat numbers are down in NY, but that hasn’t moved them yet them to curtail or impose limits. It’s unbelievable.

    • Rob says:

      You are correct, the state’s wildlife belongs to all of us. Hunters & non – hunters. A new leader should look into protecting the animals for hunters & non – hunters. We need a leader who will look at this from a biological perspective, because hunting does control population of animals which is needed, and not someone who will look at the issue of needing to do away with hunting because of suffering for the animal. Believe it or not Sue I have not bought ANY meat products from a grocery store in over 15 years. My family lives on duck, goose, deer, elk, pheasant, fish, etc.
      And when is the last time any agency with the state has promoted gun sales??? I don’t remember that ever happening. Maybe you can enlighten me on that because NY is anti gun.

      • Dana says:

        “And when is the last time any agency with the state has promoted gun sales???”

        Is the State promoting gun sales actually necessary? Are there too few?

        • Rob says:

          I don’t think they HAVE or NEED to promote gun sales. What they have done is limit the legal gun owner, nothing to promote that is for sure. Are there too few?? Who knows, I’m not in the market & wont be

    • JohnL says:

      ‘Push gun sales’? Really, Sue. Why don’t you ask the laid off employees of Remington Arms in Ilion, NY if NYS ever helped their business by ‘pushing gun sales’. Also, Sue, while I’m at it, you’re exactly backwards by saying that the state Conservation Department management of game animals ’causes more deer/car collisions’. Actually, the Conservation Dept management of game animals, i.e. hunting, reduces the number of deer/car collisions by reduciing the number of deer to manageable levels.
      You might better stick with your ‘suffering’ argument, although I could also argue that the additional deer (and other animals) that get hit by cars due to overbreeding in the absence of hunting, also suffer as they crawl off to die in the woods.

    • Paul says:

      Tax dollars are not used for the pheasant release program. That is a falsehood that is always thrown around. That program is paid for by fees that hunters pay as part of their licenses.

      • Bob says:

        Putting aside that “fees” are taxes, the revenue NY collects from hunters does not come close to covering the expenditures on wildlife management, which includes the pheasant release program. The fees account for less than 30% of the outlays, with the remainder coming from the general fund and federal grants.

        • Paul says:

          Fees are not taxes, you don’t have to pay them if you choose. And yes, the program does cover the pheasant release program. All the money comes from the state conservation fund paid for by these fees from license, and additional funds that hunters and fisher-people also donate each year (I give 10 extra dollars each year, how about you?). This is all seperate from all the additional economic benefit from monies spent on hunting and fishing gear, dogs, and dog supplies, food, the list goes on and on. Look at the pheasant program budget if you don’t believe me it is public info. Cheer up!

  16. Keith says:

    Totally agree.
    Get the politics out of the DEC and APA and enforce the current laws fairly for all.

  17. Ryan C says:

    I just want a commissioner who understands that part of his job is to occasionally tell Peter Bauer to go to hell. The DEC has to protect everyone’s rights while also protecting the environment. Not just doing the bidding of special interests.

    • Dana says:

      So much for keeping politics out of it…

      • Tom Paine says:

        There will always be politics. It is a human to disagree. Some people are conservationists, and some people are hard line environmentalists.

        • Dana says:

          And some people are hard-line anti-environmentalists & anti-conservation. But the opening we are discussing is for a commissioner of the Department of ENVIRONMENTAL CONSERVATION. Think about it. Two words that automatically invoke anger in some people, and politics only make it worse because it is so tribal. It shuts down reasonable discourse and just leads to shouting matches, making compromise impossible.

          • Tom Paine says:

            As we have all seen compromise does not exist in Peter Bauer’s and his followers playbook. It’s his way or the highway. See you in court.

            • Rob says:

              Same as lot of people on here who want to do away with snowmobiles, boats, jet skis, etc.
              They don’t want the noise, or they don’t want bright lights. If you don’t agree with their thinking you are wrong.

    • Bob says:

      I am pretty sure that fighting Protect for 10 years in the courts on the snowmobiling trail boondoggle was telling Peter Bauer to go to hell. Turns out that the APA was wrong in doing so and had to pay a big chunk of Protect’s legal costs.

      • Dana says:

        Agree. Don’t make the laws if you have no plan to follow or enforce them. There is a difference between environmental activism/fervor and environmental legal watchdogs. Albany needs to make sure when they are drafting legislation that it is clear and difficult to circumvent and/or ignore. Environmental protection should not depend on whether the wind blows from the left or the right.

        • Tony T says:

          It was only found “illegal” after Peter found a judge in NYC who didn’t know the difference between “timber” and trees. A distinction that the DEC and Adirondack Mt Club (and every other human who hasn’t spent his life on concrete) had held since the park’s founding. The DEC wasnt doing anything wrong. Peter just changed the rules on them. The Adirondack Park was designed to prevent clear cutting. It does that just fine with plenty of room for snow mobile trails, hiking trails, and other activities.

    • william hill says:

      Bingo!

  18. Paul says:

    The DEC is responsible for a lot more than the Adirondacks? I would think a real focus should be on places like Long Island and much of our coastal areas, the places that are truly under threat in the near term. The DEC should not be about finding more land for people to hike and paddle but to figure out how to properly manage all the land we already have.

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