I just finished reading your latest editorial piece, “The Other Endangered Species,” in the September/October issue of Adirondack Life magazine. I’m writing to say that your premise is all wrong.
You wrote that it’s time to end the discussion of whether or not the Adirondack Park “as a conservation model” is a success or a failure. You say “the various factions in the Adirondacks need to accept that the human community is in peril.”
Brian, the Adirondack human community is not in peril, human communities in the Adirondacks are not endangered, and there is no chance, despite your claims, that the Adirondacks “will be reduced to a patchwork of ghost towns and hollow vacation resorts.” » Continue Reading.
Tupper Lake is hurting. Logging no longer employs as many people as it once did. The Oval Wood Dish factory closed years ago. Young people leave because they can’t find work. Over the past decade, the community lost 7 percent of its population.
Enter the developers behind the proposed Adirondack Club and Resort. They want to build a year-round resort with 650 residential units in the vicinity of the Big Tupper Ski Area. They also plan to refurbish and reopen the beloved ski area. » Continue Reading.
They’re at it again. A small number of so-called “property rights advocates” are spreading falsehoods about development in the Adirondack Park, the Adirondack Park Agency (APA), and our local economy to further their wider anti-conservation political agendas.
This time it’s a column by Karen Moreau, a Hudson Valley attorney who is president of the newly-formed Foundation for Land and Liberty. You remember them, the group Plattsburgh Press-Republican reporter Kim Smith-Dedam called “a new legal resource founded to protect one of the oldest American rights.” It turns out that Karen Moreau, and apparently her Foundation for Land and Liberty, has no hesitation about misleading the public when it comes to the Adirondacks. Take a look at her commentary at the NY Post (surprise, surprise, Fred Monroe’s go-to tabloid). It’s full of lies, obfuscations, and what NCPR’s Brian Mann calls “goofy” accusations. Pull up a stool and let’s review a few:
Claim 1: There is a “de facto ban on development in the Adirondack Park.”
On what planet does one have to live on to make this claim? Most of the men I know have spent the last ten to fifteen working in the housing construction industry. Until the last year or so they were busy building thousands of first and second homes. NCPR’s Brian Mann, who called Moreau’s commentary “full out flat out errors,” offers a more accurate perspective: “Over the last decade, in-Park communities have seen a massive influx of private capital, investment and development to the tune of billions of dollars. Investors have built and bought their way to one of the most robust second-home markets in the US. Literally thousands of homes have been built, many with APA permits and many more in parts of the Park where no permits are required.”
Claim 2: “Approval for nearly any kind of land-based investment in the “park” lies chiefly with a single agency — the Adirondack Park Agency.”
As Brian Mann indicated in the quote above, the APA is responsible for oversight of a small portion of development in the Adirondack Park. The APA reviews applications on only about 20 percent of permit-requiring development activities in the park. Not to mention the fact that the APA overwhelming approves those projects, and by that I mean the APA approves nearly every single application it sees. In other words, the APA simply works to keep development activities in some general bounds of good environmental stewardship (and not very effectively at even that). The APA very rarely reject projects – almost never.
Claim 3: “APA enforcement actions, with the threat of millions of dollars in fines against ordinary citizens, has literally ruined lives and contributed to a stagnant and declining upstate economy.”
I challenge Moreau to provide the evidence that our economy is anymore stagnant or declining than any other rural area around the state. To the contrary, as Brain Mann noted, “the state of New York spends hundreds of millions of dollars each year in the Adirondacks — far more per capita than in any other part of the state.” The single case she uses to back her “threat of millions of dollars in fines against ordinary citizens” claim is the Sandy Lewis case. A millionaire financier who fought tooth and nail and won his case against the APA, including legal fees – no life ruined there. Civil penalties in 2009 ranged from $100 to $4,000 – that is the fact. Enforcement is down overall from 496 cases in 2008, to 467 in 2009, and just 392 cases as of the end of October this year. And by the way, the APA has won against more than 100 lawsuits, and has lost less than five.
Claim 4: An alliance of green groups, the DEC, and the APA “has delayed for seven years the approvals to develop the Adirondack Club and Resort [ACR] in Tupper Lake, which would create hundreds of jobs.”
Apparently our great defender of property rights doesn’t care to mention that the ACR developers have won the right to SEIZE the private property of others for their own profit. Forget for a minute the “hundreds of jobs” nonsense, according to Brian Mann: “A significant part of that delay (not all, to be sure) was caused by the developers, who asked repeatedly for the permitting process to be delayed, took long periods to respond to requests for information, and then asked that the process be diverted into alternative mediation.”
Claim 5: “The notorious bureaucracy has deterred anyone from even bidding on Camp Gabriels.”
This is an unbelievable assertion, and frankly, laughable. The APA has nothing to do with the sale of Camp Gabriels. This claim really makes me wonder just how woefully misinformed Moreau and the Foundation for Land and Liberty are about the Adirondacks.
Claim 6: “The state’s been fueling the APA’s power by buying up land and rewarding the wealthy and powerful Nature Conservancy with millions in profits for their role in facilitating the transactions.”
This has already be shown to be a baseless assertion, one that even the editorial board of the Adirondack Daily Enterprise (ADE) couldn’t accept. Repeating it shows Moreau to be dishonest and clearly not interested in the facts. As the ADE editorial put it, that assertion “smacks of gossip.” I second their call: “if it’s true, prove it with a credible source.” Moreau won’t because it’s not true. Just ask Fred Monroe, who told the ADE: “I don’t know if that’s true at all.”
All that aside, you’d think a “property rights” advocate would accept that people have the right to sell their land to whoever they like – including the state and the Nature Conservancy. If you think the state shouldn’t acquire more land, fine, but don’t make up lies to bolster your opinions.
We deserve more honesty from those who oppose outright, or seek to scale back, the Forest Preserve system and Adirondack Park conservation. Considering the track record lately, I don’t think we’ll get it.
North Country Public Radio‘s Adirondack Bureau Chief Brian Mann has apparently begun campaigning for the election of some Adirondack Park Agency (APA) commissioners. One of his first public forays into the debate came in August at the Adirondack Museum during a presentation he called “Adirondack 3.0” – billed as a lecture on the “reinvention of the Adirondacks.” His latest came on the NCPR blog in a piece entitled “Yes, some Adirondack Park Agency commissioners should be elected“. Read the whole piece; but here’s the gist of Brian Mann’s argument:
“A far better way to choose in-Park commissioners would be to hold direct, Park-wide elections, allowing Adirondackers to cast their own ballots and make their own picks.
Imagine for a moment the kind of democratic debate that would ensue. Locals would have a chance to discuss openly their concerns, their desires, and their ambitions for the Agency.
Supporters of strict environmental protection inside the blue line would be forced to find electable candidates, who can engage communities directly, reaching out and making their arguments.
They would have the chance to do some educating, but they might learn a few things themselves about local attitudes toward conservation and the outdoors.
Opponents of the APA’s broad mission, meanwhile, would be forced to go beyond ad hominem attacks and zingers.”
It’s hard for local media to not be part of a story. Any reporter worth their weight in salt knows that they frame the discussion of their story from the start. For example, Brian Mann isn’t calling for an expanded role for the APA, or for requiring those towns who still have no serious zoning and planning in place to enact them. What he is calling for are elections to decide the future of the Adirondack Park, America’s most important state park.
I suspect Mann’s arguments are authentic and genuine, but I think it’s the worst idea to come up the pike since David Paterson tried to stop paying local taxes on state land. It’s no surprise they share the same flaw – they seem to forget that the Adirondack Park isn’t a political entity with competing constituencies, it’s a unique natural place with a statewide, regional, and even national historical and cultural significance. Despite the occasional angry bumpersticker to the contrary, the Adirondacks is a park, and an important one.
That park, the country’s largest National Historic Landmark, is all of our responsibility to manage and maintain. Offering an opportunity for one special interest group to use their media and financial friends to get their candidate elected in an attempt to dominate decision-making at the Adirondack Park Agency threatens to destroy an already weak institution; the only institution holding official responsibility to protect the Adirondack Park – our last public wilderness in the east – from over-development.
Perhaps advocates of elections for APA commissioners don’t appreciate the two great forces at play in these mountains. On one side, the constant march of development that has left this small part of the Eastern United States a virtual oasis of woods in a sea of a suburbia of 100 million people. On the other side is the natural world itself, which for millennia had staved off the harshest scars of development by being remote and rugged.
The battle began to shift after the Civil War as we abandoned our fear of the woods and came to revere them. Travelers, once forced to travel on foot or by rough road, were soon arriving by steamboat and rail, and by the 1950s, some roads were choked with cars.
In the 1960s, the Adirondack Northway (Interstate 87) opened a pipeline for development to move north and the accompanying second home market spread a kind of dispersed suburbia into the heart of the Adirondacks.
It was in response to this turn in the long arc of Adirondack history that the Adirondack Park Agency was established in 1971. Its purpose was to limit the worst of the development excesses in the Adirondack Park – excesses that were just then beginning to take hold.
So by geography and history this place was marked-off and it now remains the only wilderness park there will ever be as the 100 million people that surround us continue to multiply.
It shouldn’t need to be said that we have a duty to the eastern half of America not to screw it up by turning it over to a regularly scheduled local media circus fueled by special interest money.
UPDATE: Brian Mann has a thoughtful response to this post over at The In Box.
The past decade has been one of rapid transformation in the Adirondack Park according to North Country Public Radio’s Brian Mann, who will discuss this phenomenon and its implications for the future in a program entitled “Adirondack Park 3.0” on Monday, August 2, 2010 at the Adirondack Museum in Blue Mountain Lake.
Part of the museum’s Monday Evening Lecture series, the presentation will be held in the Auditorium at 7:30 p.m. There is no charge for museum members. Admission is $5.00 for non-members. NCPR’s Adirondack Bureau Chief, Mann has been on the front lines during ten years of change in the Park. He will lead a discussion of how environmental stewardship and community sustainability are being changed by new technology, new ecological threats, and a new political landscape.
Brian Mann has covered rural America for twenty years, working for public radio stations and networks from Alaska to New York. His award winning stories appear regularly on National Public Radio’s Morning Edition and All Things Considered. In 2005 and 2006, Mann won four separate Edward R. Murrow Awards.
In addition to his work for NCPR, Mann is a commentator for Mountain Lake Public Television. He is the author of Welcome to the Homeland: A Journey to the Rural Heart of America’s Conservative Revolution. He lives in Saranac Lake, N.Y. with his wife and son.
The Adirondack Center for Writing at Paul Smith’s College has launched “The ACW Connection Series,” a monthly profile of a North Country writer whose career has been influenced in some way by ACW. The series began by featuring Kate Messner, author of three children’s novels (and five more on the way). Messner met an agent through an ACW workshop in Lake Placid, and got a helpful critique of her manuscript which was later published through North Country Books, and went on to win an ACW Literary Award. Messmer signed with an agent from the Andrea Brown Literary Agency, the same agency from which she’d received the critique in Lake Placid that got her rolling. This month’s featured writer is regular Almanack reader and occasional commenter Brian Mann, who offers his own story of making connections through ACW. According to the Mann’s ACW profile, he “came to the Adirondacks after working as a public radio journalist in Alaska and Missouri. He founded the Adirondack news bureau for North Country Public Radio and has won three national Edward R. Murrow Awards. His work appears regularly on National Public Radio. His 2006 book, Welcome to the Homeland, was widely reviewed. Mann is Adirondack bureau chief for North Country Public Radio and has built a thriving business as a freelance writer and producer. He was a recent panelist at an ACW Journalism Conference at the Blue Mountain Center, which was a great success, where he spoke about nuts and bolts issues of multiple sales, quality control, contract arrangements, and deadline management. He also took part in a blogging panel discussion at the conference, as he actively maintains the blog titled The In Box.”
Those with an ACW “Connection” that they would like to share, about how the Adirondack Center for Writing has had an impact on their career, should contact ACW at 518-327-6278 or [email protected]
There’s been a lot of discussion in recent months about the exportation of the “Adirondack model” – the sense that the environmental conservation model used here in the Adirondack region can be exported to other places in the world. It’s an argument that North Country Public Radio’s Brian Mann called “one of the great orthodoxies of Adirondack theory.”
Recent interviews by former Adirondack Park Agency chairman Ross Whaley to support the 600 page tome The Great Experiment in Conservation have left a sense that the Adirondack experiment – that combination of public and private lands, overseen by a combination of local and regional authorities – can not be repeated. » Continue Reading.
Howard Berkes, Rural Affairs Correspondent for National Public Radio has said that “Brian Mann has lived the rural life and the political divide that splits urban and rural places. It splits his own family. Mann shows that family harmony isn’t all that’s at stake in the urban-rural divide. The nation’s political future depends on this political and cultural gap. “Welcome to the Homeland” dives into the gap, and comes up with perspectives that just might surprise rural and urban folk who believe they already have each other pegged.” » Continue Reading.