Environmentalists gained a key victory in the battle over state land purchases this week.
A bill introduced by state Senator Betty Little that sought to prohibit the state from purchasing forest land in fee title was voted down in a Senate rules committee Wednesday.
Green groups are pleased with the Senate's action, while Little plans to address the matter again next year.
Senator Little's legislation sought to amend New York's public lands law in hopes of limiting the state's interest in forest lands to conservation easements only.
In other words, the bill aimed to keep the state from acquiring fee titles to lands like the former Finch Pruyn timberlands in the southern Adirondacks, or the Follensby lands near Tupper Lake.
Scott Lorey is legislative director for the Adirondack Council. He says green groups had a number of concerns about the bill.
"We expressed those concerns to members of the rules committee, both Democrats and Republicans, and a number of them voted against the bill and it was held in the rules committee yesterday [Wednesday] afternoon," he said.
Lorey says supporters of land acquisition in the Adirondack Park are feeling optimistic about several pending land deals - he points out that the state Department of Environmental Conservation is dedicated to following through on several pending deals.
"Commissioner Martens has said that the state is still committed to carrying out land protection in the Adirondacks," Lorey said. "It's just a matter of when the money becomes available."
Environmentalists are celebrating the death of Little's bill, but Lorey says the fight isn't over yet.
"I think it's something she will continue to push on as she and others continue to try and save some of those hunting camps on some of the land that's slated to be sold to the state," he said. "It's going to be an ongoing battle in the near future."
Fred Monroe is executive director of the Adirondack Local Government Review Board. He was disappointed by the news of the bill's demise.
"It's very unfortunate that a majority of the senators don't see the value of taking a step back at this time," Monroe said. "The state is broke, we're in a horrible fiscal crisis, it just seems like now would be an excellent time to take a step back and take a fresh look at state land acquisition policies."
Little could not be reached over the phone Thursday, but she said in an emailed statement that was disappointed her bill didn't advance in the Senate.
She says her bill addressed what she believes is an important issue for her constituents. But she adds the measure currently lacks a sponsor in the Assembly.