LAKE PLACID - Despite pleas from the environmental community, Adirondack local governments were hesitant last week to drop their calls for a moratorium on state land acquisitions.
At a panel discussion on the future of the Adirondack Park Economy, Open Space Institute Board member Joe Martens said Gov. David Paterson chose to strip $67 million from the Environmental Protection Fund tagged for land purchases not because of budgetary constraints, but because Albany is sick of the constant ranker caused by the land buys.
"Is it just because the state's broke? Maybe. I would be the first to admit that land acquisition is a tough sell when the state has a $10 billion deficit," Martens said. "But I think it's more than that. Could it be that some of the contentiousness about snowmobile plans, agency appointments and UMPs have soured Albany's appetite for buying more land in a place where people would rather fight than win?"
The state Senate has proposed to reinstate the EPF funds.
Environmentalists argue state land acquisitions are the essential component of the region's economy and the resource that draws people and cash to the park.
But Hamilton County Board of Supervisors Chairman Bill Farber noted the chances of local officials jumping on the "buy Forest Preserve bandwagon" isn't likely in the near future.
"That would be a heavy lift, it's not to say it would never happen," Farber said. "Right after the proposed moratorium came out we met with the environmental groups and I said look, if we don't stop fighting over everything and start to break down to the pinch points, it's always going to be absolute opposition - your side versus our side."
Adirondack Local Government Review Board Executive Director Fred Monroe lauded the Nature Conservancy's 2007 purchase of 161,000 acres of former Finch Pruyn property because significant local government input was taken into account.
Because of the wants of the six county boards and over a dozen towns involved with the massive parcel, nearly 100 miles of snowmobile trails are to be constructed and scores of hunting and fishing cabins will be spared.
And Martens said acquisition-based green groups are still learning.
"We try in every case to work with the communities and we are learning more along the way," he said.
Leases are not allowed on state-owned Forest Preserve.
Monroe said the Finch Pruyn case is a rarity and the concerns and veto power of local towns to override state land acquisition has traditionally been ignored.
The Nature Conservancy Executive Director Mike Carr said the camps located on the 93,000 acres sold to the Danish investment company ATP are likely to remain and easements are in the works for snowmobile operation on that tract.
Local officials said if the state Constitution was amended to create a land bank so land swaps could be undertaken without project specific amendments, it would go a long way in swaying their opinions on state land purchases.
State Sen. Betty Little and Assemblywoman Teresa Sayward have championed the land bank concept for years. If created, it would allow municipal projects, like sewer and water projects, to go forward without years of legislative delays.
Adirondack Council Executive Director Brian Houseal said his organization believes the Forest Preserve should be reviewed so the places where towns are being economically choked can be identified.
But he noted the land bank idea has a long way to go before ever becoming a reality.
"There's a lot of work before there could be an amendment for a land bank," Houseal said. "It's time to go through the park and take a hard and thorough look at how much land is needed for hamlets and working farms and what land is critical for climate change and biodiversity not only inside, but beyond the park."
The APA typically requires water and sewer facilities to be in place before even considering a hamlet expansion.