Posts Tagged ‘Conservation Easements’

Monday, February 14, 2011

A Land Purchase Guest Essay:Paradox, Irony and Hypocrisy in Adirondack Politics

What follows is a guest essay from Minerva carpenter Duane Ricketson, an original appointee to the Department of Environmental Conservation’s (DEC) Region 5 Open Space Advisory Committee in 1990 and one of the longest serving state appointees. He’s an Adirondack native whose family arrived in the region in the 1790s and who enjoys fishing, hunting, hiking and camping. Ricketson supported and worked with local leaders on the Region 5 Open Space Advisory Committee to get local governments and Adirondackers enfranchised in the process of open space protection, especially the local government veto, which he now sees as being usurped by the Local Government Review Board.

On the surface, the recent drive by Adirondack politicians and local media to stop the State from purchasing the former Finch-Pruyn lands from the Adirondack Chapter of the Nature Conservancy is simply a continuation of the storied battle between Adirondackers and the State of New York over buying land in the Adirondack Park. This time it opens a brand new chapter, however, because the actions of local governments are now being called into question by The Local Government Review Board. » Continue Reading.


Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Phil Brown: Aristotle and the Land Purchase Debate

Recently, Adirondack politicians have intensified their effort to block the state’s acquisition of Follensby Pond and some sixty-five thousand acres once owned by Finch, Pruyn & Company.

In the past two weeks, the Adirondack Park Local Government Review Board and the Franklin County legislature adopted resolutions opposing the purchases. The Adirondack Association of Towns and Villages is expected to vote soon on a similar measure, and it stands an excellent chance of passing.

The opponents say the purchases would cost forestry jobs, force traditional hunting clubs to disband, and in general harm the local economy. But their ace in the hole is the claim that the state simply cannot afford to buy these properties. » Continue Reading.


Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Adirondack Impacts of Andrew Cuomo’s Budget

Here are some of the Adirondack Park related highlights from Governor Andrew Cuomo’s 2011-12 Executive Budget, his first plan for closing the state’s estimated $11 billion deficit.

Cuomo’s budget plan would maintain the state’s Environmental Protection Fund (EPF) at $134 million, the same spending level as in the current budget, but would further reduce the budgets of the Adirondack Park Agency, the Department of Environmental Conservation, close several prisons (possibly including some in the North Country), and disband the Tug Hill Commission.

“We have to consider this a victory,” said Neil Woodworth, executive director of the Adirondack Mountain Club (ADK) said in a statement about EPF funding. “Under the circumstances, it could have been much worse. Deep cuts in the EPF would have had a substantial and long-lasting impact on New York’s natural resources. Fortunately, Governor Cuomo had the wisdom and foresight not to do that.” » Continue Reading.


Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Dave Gibson: Little’s Forest Preserve Logging Amendment

I’ll risk it and take the bait in responding to Senator Betty Little, Assemblywoman Teresa Sayward and others concerning a proposed constitutional amendment to permit logging and forest product utilization on newly acquired Forest Preserve.

Their simplistic ecological arguments for the amendment, such as wanting to see more rabbits on the Forest Preserve, or expecting that logging the Preserve would help the climate are being made up as they go along and will not withstand serious scrutiny. I prefer to focus more on their constitutional hurdles.

The Senator is clearly motivated to keep the Finch lands and Follensby Pond out of the Forest Preserve. Unstated may be a desire to maintain certain leaseholders occupying the Finch lands – such as the politically influential members of the Gooley Club west of the Upper Hudson. These are at least rational positions to take and, while I have a different viewpoint, I can respect theirs. They will also attempt to accomplish their objective of keeping the lands out of the Forest Preserve through legislation, and one would think that an easier step than a constitutional amendment. Perhaps they think not.

They apparently believe a good way to accomplish their objective is to create a separate class of Forest Preserve that on some date certain, after a constitutional amendment is approved by the voters some years hence, and after new Forest Preserve is acquired will permit the practice of forestry on the new land. They may feel that the public would accept this, knowing that the existing three million acres would still be “forever wild.” They may believe that all they need to do is neatly sidestep a sticky clause in Article 14, Section 1 of the Constitution, and exempt new lands from its provisions. That clause states: “nor shall the timber thereon be sold, removed or destroyed.”

But that’s not all they have to do. Theirs is no technical amendment. By attempting to exempt only new Forest Preserve from the strictures of Article 14, they must amend all 54 words of Section 1 of Article 14. They must roughshod over the very constitutional language which voters have refused to change – despite given numerous opportunities to do so – in 116 years.

Perhaps they are betting on a constitutional convention virtually doing away with Article 14 as we know it, and I’d say that’s a poor bet.

Section 1 unifies the Forest Preserve. Its first sentence states that “the lands of the state, now owned or hereafter acquired, constituting the forest preserve as now fixed by law, shall be forever kept as wild forest lands.” A simple exception clause for new acquisitions after some date would not do the trick. “Hereafter acquired” means just that. “Forever kept” means forever. The words pertain to any lands owned before, or acquired after the effective date of Section 1 of January 1, 1895. They were reaffirmed at the 1938 and 1967 constitutional conventions, and on many other occasions in the 20th and 21st centuries through passage of over 30 limited, site specific amendments which nonetheless preserve the overarching language of Section 1.

The second and final sentence of Section 1 is just as problematic for the Senator. “They shall not be leased, sold or exchanged, or be taken by any corporation, public or private, nor shall the timber thereon be sold, removed or destroyed.” Allowing DEC, a public corporation, to supervise and control logging on newly acquired Forest Preserve would constitute a clear taking of the lands. The legal agreements to permit logging activity by private parties on any parts of the Forest Preserve might likely constitute a lease, further violating that provision. The third and final clause of that sentence – the one that the Senator may think is the only hurdle – speaks for itself.

I conclude that pretty much all 54 words of Section 1 would need to be amended, rewritten and stripped of their present and historic meaning in order to achieve a separate class of Forest Preserve managed for forest products. The public may be willing to make occasional, limited, site specific amendments to Article 14 for worthy objectives that both meet a legitimate public purpose and enhance the Forest Preserve. However, the voters have demonstrated over a very long period that they are unwilling to make substantial changes to the “forever wild” policy because the Forest Preserve as now constituted provides such enormous benefits. It is the envy of the world. It distinguishes New York from all other states and from all other nations. It is woven into our social fabric, as well as our laws. It provides billions of dollars in ecological and recreational services. It pays taxes for all purposes. The voters would be especially unwilling when the reasons for doing so, on economic, ecological, social and public policy grounds, are so questionable.

Prior to 1983, Senator Little’s amendment might have a better public policy rationale and more public appeal. That was when the conservation easement legislation was approved that permits the State to acquire rights in land without the land becoming Forest Preserve, and which has been so effective in keeping forest management and forest employment alive in the Park, which are the stated objectives for the amendment. Putting more resources into effective programs like this would be the more realistic way to achieve them.

Photo: Article 14, Section 1, NYS Constitution.


Monday, January 10, 2011

Phil Brown: The Gooley Club’s Last Stand

I was skiing in the Whitney Wilderness on the day the Nature Conservancy announced that the state had purchased conservation easements on eighty-nine thousand acres once owned by Finch, Pruyn & Co.

My ski trip to Bum Pond, with my daughter Martha, was made possible by the state’s purchase of nearly fifteen thousand acres from the Whitney family in 1997.

Thanks to this latest land deal, the public will have the opportunity to enjoy new ski trails in coming winters.

The Nature Conservancy bought all 161,000 acres owned by Finch, Pruyn in 2007. Last year, it sold eighty-nine thousand acres to ATP Timberland Invest. On December 30, the state announced that it would pay $30 million for easements on the ATP lands. » Continue Reading.


Monday, January 3, 2011

Elk Lake: The First Adirondack Conservation Easement

The signing of an important conservation easement last week protecting a large percentage of the former Finch, Pruyn lands reminds me of a visit I paid to Paul Schaefer in March, 1990. At that time, Governor Mario Cuomo had proposed an Environmental Bond Act, which required legislative approval before going to the voters (it was ultimately voted down). How was the bond act being received in the legislature, Paul asked. I gave him the news that it was having a rough reception politically. Paul remained optimistic. The bond act was important because it would permit the purchase of conservation easements in the Adirondacks, and that should be enough to tip public support in its favor, he felt.

Later that year, Paul formed Sportsmen for the Bond Act. It was one of many highly focused organizations he created in his lifetime. This effort, one of the last he personally led, revealed an evolution in Schaefer’s approach to Park conservation. Since 1930, Paul had fought for any appropriation that would add more Forest Preserve, public land protected as “forever wild” by Article 14 of the NYS Constitution that would eventually be classified wild forest or wilderness. He persuaded many organized hunters to support his wilderness philosophy. But he also came to believe that many private holdings in the Park should be available for active forest management, which he viewed as complimentary, both ecologically and aesthetically, to adjacent “forever wild” Forest Preserve. » Continue Reading.


Thursday, December 30, 2010

Major Finch Pruyn Conservation Easement Deal Reached

The Nature Conservancy has announced what it calls “a historic land agreement with New York State that supports timber industry jobs, boosts the State’s recreation and tourism economy and, at the same time, preserves 89,000 forested acres concentrated in the geographic heart of the Adirondacks.” The agreement transfers a conservation easement of commercial working forest in the Adirondacks once owned by Finch, Pruyn to New York State.

New York State paid $30 million for the conservation easement, which includes specific recreation rights to the land, with money allocated for this purpose in last year’s Environmental Protection Fund (EPF). Twenty seven local towns where the properties lie have all approved the purchase which secures new public access to lands and waterways, including permanent snowmobile trails. The easement opens key access to the approaches to the Santanoni Range, Allen Mountain and the Hanging Spear Falls. » Continue Reading.


Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Commentary: Open Space Helps Local Communities

I want to address another of the primary criticisms over my recent commentary on protecting our open forests, from those who claim that more open space damages local communities. “They should just be honest and stop pretending that they care about the people and ‘culture’ of the Adirondacks,” one regular anonymous commenter said, echoing the criticism of others.

Even Brian Mann, who offered an otherwise thoughtful critique, titled his response “A vision of an Adirondack wilderness, with people.” The supposition there is that seeking to expand open space in the Adirondacks means excluding people. Not only is that supposition wrong-headed, it dehumanizes those who support wilderness protection. “They don’t care about people” the argument goes, as if we’re not people ourselves. This kind of argument appeals to the basest nature of some and draws a stark dividing line between “us” and “them.” It does nothing to address the concerns I raised about the development pressures we’re facing. » Continue Reading.


Monday, December 20, 2010

Commentary: Adirondack Development, Population Growth

I heard some harsh criticism over my last commentary on protecting our open forests. “There are far too many who are willing to buy into the idea that we have enough, or that what open forests we have should be opened to every purpose under the sun, essentially no restrictions except on houses and highways,” I argued, suggesting that the proposed 409,000 acre Bob Marshall- Oswegatchie Great Wilderness Area was a good idea.

One theme that seemed to emerge from the detractors was the imminent death of Adirondack communities in the face of more wilderness. “The problem is yet down the road and the end is coming shortly I fear,” one wrote. What end? “The end of the communities and the livelihood of the most endangered species in the park; the year-round resident.” Another decried “The end of sustainable communities” and “The end of multi-generational, year-round residents.” » Continue Reading.


Friday, October 29, 2010

Lake George Land Conservancy Honors John Apperson

The Lake George Land Conservancy has elected to celebrate the memory of John Apperson by naming a society in his honor.

“The John Apperson Society recognizes Apperson’s significant contributions to the preservation of Lake George and honors those who have followed in his footsteps,” said Nancy Williams, the Conservancy’s executive director. » Continue Reading.


Wednesday, October 6, 2010

An Onion River Lesson: DEC Needs Our Help

Onion River by Phil BrownPeople who oppose the state’s acquisition of land in the Adirondacks often complain that the state can’t manage the forest it already owns. So, the thinking goes, why buy more?

That argument always struck me as risible. Forests can manage quite well without our help. They did so for eons before homo sapiens existed.

I assume, then, the critics mean that the state has done a less-than-superb job creating and maintaining recreational facilities on the public Forest Preserve—trails, parking lots, signs, and the like. In this, they have a point. It was driven home to me last weekend when I paddled the little-known Onion River.
» Continue Reading.


Monday, October 4, 2010

Adirondack Conservation Easements: Trends and Expectations

Definition: “A conservation easement typically consists of permanently enforceable rights held by a land trust or government agency by which the landowner promises to use property only in ways permitted by the easement. The landowner retains ownership and may convey it like any other property, subject to the easement’s restrictions. Conservation easements have been made possible by enabling legislation in virtually every state” (from Reinventing Conservation Easements: A Critical Examination and Ideas for Reform by Jeff Pidot, Lincoln Institute of Land Policy, 2005).

Society has many expectations for large tracts of forest under conservation easement. The list often includes some form of public recreation on private ownership, sustainably harvested timber and pulp, biological diversity including diverse watchable and huntable wildlife, recreational leases, drivable roads, protected streams, ponds and wetlands, shared taxes, timely enforcement of the rules.

If that list is not long enough, some believe that these protected private lands can be managed to help slow or mitigate a changing climate that is likely to continue to warm for centuries, even if Homo sapiens cut emissions dramatically in order to maintain current atmospheric concentrations of carbon dioxide, which we are not.

During a winter 2009 workshop about Adirondack conservation easements, it was reported that there were 737,000 acres under some form of state conservation easement in all of New York State, with 98% occurring in the Adirondack region. An additional 100,000 acres were being negotiated. According to Regional Forester Tom Martin, in DEC Region 5 (two-thirds of the Adirondack Park) there were 365,000 acres under conservation easement with 113 different landowners in 2009. 340,000 of those acres were certified by third-party certification systems such as Forest Stewardship Council (FSC).

During the workshop, Jerry Jenkins of the Wildlife Conservation Society offered his opinion that easements in the Northern Forest have achieved a basic goal to conserve biodiversity. Jenkins’ report Conservation Easements and Biodiversity in the Northern Forest Region (2008 by the Wildlife Conservation Society and Open Space Institute) provides important background and recommendations. As Jenkins stated at the workshop, conservation easements negotiated in the future should also address the issue of carbon emissions, which have global consequences.

If conservation easements are to address climate issues, landowners must be provided with the information and spectrum of management options. Forestry management plans which utilize low grade trees as biomass feedstock are on the “front lines.” To satisfy the Chicago Climate Exchange, forests need to be FSC certified.

Certification provides the standards and incentives to capture this low carbon energy source and the practice of low carbon forestry. Would easement lands qualify for carbon offset markets? Jenkins noted that the dollar value to landowners may not come solely or even primarily from carbon offsets, but from the avoidance cost of replacing fossil fuels as primary heat source in the northeast. As Jerry Jenkins put it, “how much money can we save the local school board by putting in a wood chip boiler in place of the old oil burner? How can those savings be translated into financial benefits for the landowner?”

In September, 2010, the Adirondack Park Agency sponsored a field visit with the Adirondack Park’s largest private landowner and manager of lands under conservation easement, Lyme Timber. Lyme’s land manager Sean Ross led the APA to lands they have harvested north of Tupper Lake. Adirondack Wild’s Dan Plumley and I went along. These foresters manage blocks as large as 15,000 acres. Lyme owns 250,000-acres in the Adirondack Park.

In general, Lyme views the conservation easement positively, as well as the rigorous certification requirements of the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC). Ross made the case that the Adirondack Park’s protected status, including laws and publicly-owned Forest Preserve, were strong incentives to engage in easements and certification. Lyme’s field operations must be audited each year by the FSC or one of its third party certifiers. As Sean told us, FSC certification is an expected cost of doing business these days.

Why is Lyme in this forest land business? Trees are adding diameter and value yearly. This steady return on investment jumps when a large cherry or maple grows into a larger diameter class. Lyme’s markets are wherever they can find them – the Ticonderoga mill, nearby biomass plants, Canada and the world.

If he had the power to do so, what would he change about the conservation easement? Sean Ross said that he might take small parts of a given parcel out of the easement, and put other areas in it. Other than this, he saw no need for change. In answer to other questions, Sean Ross noted that fragmentation of land ownerships across the Northern Forest is making it challenging to manage lands for forestry. Asked if Ross could estimate Lyme’s minimum viable tract size, Ross stated it was around 10,000 acres.

Were there any collaborative efforts to conduct ecosystem-based, wild land planning for wildlife and ecosystem integrity on these lands, such as wildlife corridors? In response, Ross noted that Lyme was able to get a grant through DEC to hire a wildlife biologist that is exploring these issues for their Adirondack lands. He noted collaboration with the Cornell Laboratory of Ornithology and Audubon New York.

Lyme also participated in the 2009 workshop. During that meeting, its representative noted the time pressures to complete contracts, and to assess what’s important to conserve in a conservation easement. On the other hand, biologists at the workshop felt that on large forested tracts several field seasons were required to survey and document rare or unique ecological communities.

The 2009 workshop concluded by identifying the following needs and tasks:
• Studies to indicate whether easements in the Adirondacks are truly meeting stated ecological, economic and social objectives.
• Studies of how easement lands respond to climate change.
• Methods for compensating landowners for achieving easement objectives
• Funding for baseline documentation and monitoring programs for both land and aquatic resources.
• Completing a conservation easement registry program, already required by law.

Photo: Sean Ross of Lyme Timber addresses questions during APA-sponsored field visit in September. Photo by Dan Plumley, Adirondack Wild.


Friday, September 17, 2010

Paulist Fathers Ponder Future of LG Lands

The Paulist Fathers, the Roman Catholic order founded by the 19th century American transcendentalist Isaac Hecker, celebrated its 140th summer on Lake George in 2008.

More than 200 people boarded the Lac du St. Sacrement for a cruise that took them past St. Mary’s on the Lake, the 76 acre retreat on the east side with thousands of feet of undisturbed shoreline, and down the lake to the Harbor Islands, where the Paulists erected a chapel in 1903.

Now, two years later, the leaders of the order are debating how best to preserve those properties; if, that is, they can be preserved.

On Tuesday, September 14, the order’s new president and its officers met in New York to discuss a proposal that would allow St. Mary’s on the Lake to be used as a campus for local colleges’ environmental studies programs during the school year.

In December, a meeting will be held in Washington to discuss other possibilities, such as selling conservation easements to ensure the properties will remain undeveloped, or permitting weddings to be held at St. Mary’s and even at Harbor Islands.

“The Paulists have not decided what to do, but they have to do something,” said Michael Stafford, a Lake George attorney who serves as the order’s local counsel.
The Paulists’ new president, Father Michael McGarry, took office in May with a mandate to improve the order’s financial condition, said Father Ken McGuire, the director of St. Mary’s.

In a formal statement upon taking office, Father McGarry said, “We will no doubt have to make some painful choices about curtailing ministries in some areas. The most important thing is that the Paulist mission will not become diluted.”

According to Father McGuire, the tenuous state of the order’s finances should come as no surprise.

“We’ve always been a small community,” said McGuire. “At our largest, we had 276 priests; that was in 1976, when Time magazine said we were more influential than the Jesuits, which had 43,000 priests.”

No more than 127 priests now belong to the order, and of those 127, 53 of them are over the age of 70, said McGuire.

Some of them require care for medical conditions, which increases the order’s annual expenses, said McGuire, a spry, fit 80 year-old himself.

Those ranks have not been replenished by younger priests who will manage the order’s operations , such as the Paulist Press, the nation’s foremost publisher of theological works, or The Catholic World, its magazine.

Recruiting new priests is another priority of his administration, Father McGarry said in his inaugural statement.

“On a theoretical level, it is incomprehensible why men in their 20s, 30s and 40s are not entering the Paulist seminary because our mission is so exciting, so challenging and so fulfilling,” he said. “However, you look at the reality and realize the need to address the practical challenges to men entering the seminary,” McGarry said.

Every Paulist priest but one (who died in 1865) has spent at least part of every summer on Lake George, said Father McGuire, who is completing his 48th summer at the lake.

In the past, priests and seminarians tended to come for an entire summer; these days, they come, for the most part, only in August, when forty to fifty people might be in residence.

The days are unstructured; the priests are given three meals a day and encouraged to occupy their time as they see fit.

Some swim, boat and rock on the porch with a book, as anyone would while vacationing on Lake George. Others retreat to the Harbor Islands for privacy and contemplation.

“We have one priest who brings more books with him than clothes,” said McGuire.
Idyllic as it sounds, a vacation on Lake George is not always an easy sell, said McGuire.

“We think of Lake George as a million dollar vacation,” said McGuire. “But some of these modern kids need the cities where it’s daylight 24 hours a day; some can’t swim. A month in the country? My God, you’d think the sky had fallen in!”

Rather than allowing St Mary’s on the Lake to remain vacant in June and July, the Paulists host retreats for priests, nuns and lay people on topics as diverse as religion and quantum physics; peacemaking in the middle east; and dance as a form of meditation.

This past summer, McGuire himself, a cultural anthropologist who spent most of his career teaching at Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles, led a retreat entitled “Spiritual Discovery through Movies.”

Tuition fees range from $200 to $450 per person, depending upon the length of the retreat, and participants stay on the campus.

The oldest building on the grounds dates to 1875. In addition to a chapel, boat house and cottage, the facilities include two large two-story buildings, the Student House and the Priest House, which contain bedrooms, common rooms and kitchens. The Priest House was designed by Isaac Hecker himself and built with materials of his choice.

According to Father McGuire, he was especially partial to the wood of chestnuts, the tree that once flourished on the shores of Lake George.

Hecker’s bedroom is preserved in a condition very similar to, if not the same as, the state in which it was left after he spent his last summer on the lake, in 1888.

Even if underused, the buildings require maintenance and improvements, and some may need to be replaced, said McGuire.

Asked if the Paulists would ever sell the property, McGuire said, “Over several dead bodies, including my own!”

But, he acknowledged, at least one member of the Paulists’ previous administration had advocated selling the property to raise funds for the order.

“We would only sell it if we were to go bankrupt, and that’s a very, very remote possibility,” said McGuire.

Programs and activities that would make selling the property unnecessary, such as using it for an environmental education center or for weddings, must be scrutinized by attorneys to make certain they don’t compromise St. Mary’s status as a not-for-profit organization, McGuire said.

“We’re meeting with committed, serious members of the Lake George community to weigh these and other options,” said McGuire. “We need to think about what we want to accomplish here during the next hundred years.”

Photos of Harbor Islands and St Mary’s on the Lake, Lake George Mirror

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Monday, August 16, 2010

Commentary: The Adirondack Club and Resort

Michael Foxman invariably exudes confidence in his proposed Adirondack Club and Resort in Tupper Lake, and elicits great loyalty from many in the community who have a legitimate interest in reopening the Big Tupper ski center.

For all that, in my five years of observation he is one poor negotiator. Since the first conference between Mr. Foxman, APA and potential parties to a public hearing in April 2007, he has been unable or unwilling to substantively negotiate two major problems with what he wants to do: the lack of a permanent open space protection component in his proposals and his inability to allay concerns for water quality impacts from sewage, stormwater and steep slope development.

He blames “the process” for his inability to make much forward progress. From the beginning in 2005, he proved unable to win the trust of his neighbors, including abutters of Oval Wood Dish who happen to provide much of Tupper Lake’s drinking water. His payment in lieu of taxes scheme raised questions about fairness to taxing districts and residents. He paid for independent economic consultants ordered by the Town, and when he didn’t like their concerns, he temporarily stopped paying them. Despite the great recession, he seems supremely confident in his plan, the market value of the properties, resort markets, sales projections, and, ostensibly, the great tax boon this will be for Tupper Lake some day.

Fourteen months of mediation, the process he favored, resulted in useful exchange, yet few results. Overall, in the forty-two months since the hearing was ordered, he is not even close to a permit, or shown through detailed engineering how to get water onto the mountain and waste water off of it, or how he will pay for miles of infrastructure for a second village in Tupper Lake – for second home owners.

Once he exercises his option to acquire the bulk of the land from Oval Wood Liquidating Trust, Mr. Foxman may re-sell the properties to others. He will only exercise the option with that invaluable APA permit in hand. That permit can only be issued based on review of a lengthy public hearing record. That record will be developed at great expense over many months, and rests upon the ten hearing issues raised by the APA in its Feb 2007 decision to go to hearing, but undoubtedly other issues will be shown to be highly relevant, including energy, and wildlife impacts. The Law Judge in the case has to rule on each additional issue. Weeks of discovery, the process by which the parties to the APA hearing gain access to pertinent documents, are likely. Finally, it seems no hearing can start until the APA finds that Foxman and the LA Group have done the necessary engineering studies and completed detailed drawings of the water, stormwater, sewer, electrical and road systems.

Apparently the applicant has now delivered these to the APA, only to raise other impediments to starting the hearing process, principally his alleged future right to access and build on the Moody Pond Tract over lands owned by The Adirondack Conservancy. Meanwhile, the Franklin County Industrial Development Agency and Legislature must rule on the private bonds to pay for the tens of millions in new infrastructure.

ACR is not the biggest threat in the history of the Park. Horizon Corp would have built 10,000 homes in Colton, Ton-da-lay several thousand just north of Tupper Lake. That was all when the APA was brand new. After lengthy legal action, State objections to water supply and quality issues, and economic downturns, these behemoths were never built. Yet, this is the largest project to go to an APA adjudicatory public hearing, and tests the APA’s interpretation of the Act severely when it comes to the purpose of Resource Management lands, energy issues and fiscal and other burdens and benefits on a local community.

Were Mr. Foxman an experienced, well financed and Park-aware negotiator, had the housing bubble not burst into full recession, were the APA less risk averse, the public hearing called in 2007 might be over and a decision already reached.

My hope: a productive community dialogue on the future of these lands would occur. The housing component of the project would be downsized and largely concentrated around the base of Mt. Morris on good soils and with easier access for village services, with a wide protective buffer around Lake Simond and over 2000 acres of the project area, including Cranberry Pond, permanently protected, publicly accessible open space, a mix of conservation easement and Forest Preserve. Certified forestry, and public recreation would be encouraged, skiing started without the need to sell 38 (or whatever the number is now) great camp lots, posted signs few, and full taxes paid. My vision is hardly the right one, and may be unachievable. I do know that we are at least another year away from the APA’s review of any public hearing record.

Photo: View from Mt. Morris looking towards Tupper Lake.


Monday, May 10, 2010

Budget Crises Closes DEC Roads, Reduces Staff

Funding reductions to New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) resulting from the state’s historic budget shortfall will limit the agency’s ability to maintain roads in the Adirondack Forest Preserve, delay construction of recreational facilities on easement lands, and prevent the hiring of Assistant Forest Rangers this season according to media materials distributed late last week.

“Due to the inability to maintain or patrol roads and nearby recreational facilities, a number of roads will remain temporarily closed to public motor vehicle access,” the DEC announced. “These roads have already been closed for mud season, as they are each year. While gates on these roads will remain closed and locked to prevent access by motor vehicles, the roads and surrounding lands will be open for authorized recreational use by the public.”

Each of the roads that will temporarily remain closed has parking available near the gate. The public is asked not to block the gates or the roads, as DEC may need to access the roads for routine maintenance and emergencies. Road maintenance tasks generally include gravel placement to maintain road surfaces, road grading, culvert replacement and removal of road hazards such as leaning or downed trees. Maintenance of campsites along and near these roads also requires a significant effort by DEC staff, including the removal of trash.

The following DEC roads will remain temporarily closed to all public motor vehicle access:

* Moose River Plains Road System (all roads) in the Moose River Plains Wild Forest, the Towns of Inlet, Arietta, Lake Pleasant and Indian Lake, Hamilton County;

* Lily Pond Road in the Lake George Wild Forest, Town of Horicon, Warren County;

* Jabe Pond Road in the Lake George Wild Forest, Town of Hague, Warren County;

* Gay Pond Road in the Hudson River Special Management Area (aka the Hudson River Recreation Area) of the Lake George Wild Forest, Town of Warrensburg, Warren County;

* Buttermilk Road Extension in the Hudson River Special Management Area (aka the Hudson River Recreation Area) of the Lake George Wild Forest, Town of Warrensburg, Warren County;

* Dacy Clearing Road in the Lake George Wild Forest, Town of Fort Ann, Washington County.

The following DEC roads will remain temporarily closed to general public motor vehicle access, but may still be accessed by motor vehicle by people with disabilities holding CP3 permits:

* Scofield Flats Road, in the Hudson River Special Management Area (aka the Hudson River Recreation Area) of the Lake George Wild Forest, Town of Lake Luzerne, Warren County; and

* Pikes Beach Access Road in the Hudson River Special Management Area (aka the Hudson River Recreation Area) of the Lake George Wild Forest, Town of Lake Luzerne, Warren County.

As in the past, the Bear Slides Access Road will be closed to motor vehicle use by the general public but will remain open to people with disabilities holding CP3 permits.

In addition, ongoing parking lot, road, trail, and public facility projects in the following areas will be suspended pending funding becoming available:

* Black Brook Easement Lands in the Town of Black Brook, Clinton County;

* Kushaqua Easement Lands in the Towns of Brighton and Franklin, Franklin County; and

* Altamont Easement Lands in the Town of Tupper Lake, Franklin County.

The Department says it will provide “reasonable accommodation to individuals with disabilities upon request for access to programs on state lands where roads are closed.” For instance, people with disabilities holding a DEC Motorized Access Permit for Persons with Disabilities (CP3 permit) will be allowed to access recreational programs by motor vehicles on two of the roads that will otherwise be closed to the public. Those with disabilities who wish to access recreational programs in the Warrensburg/ Lake George area should contact Tad Norton in the Department’s Warrensburg Office at (518) 623-1209, and those with disabilities who wish to access recreational programs in the Northville/Raquette Lake area should contact Rick Fenton in the Department’s Northville office at (518) 863-4545.

Questions regarding the temporary road closures, should be directed to the regional DEC Division of Lands and Forests at (518) 897-1276 or the Region 5 DEC Office.