The fallout of a resolution opposing the fee acquisition of nearly 75,000 acres of land near Tupper Lake and in the southern Adirondacks continues, with one area lawmaker blasting an environmental group's supposed "elitism."
Earlier this year, the Adirondack Local Government Review Board unanimously adopted a resolution opposing the state's impending purchase of former Finch Pruyn lands and acreage near Follensby Pond.
The resolution prompted outcry from one of the region's largest environmental groups, the Adirondack Council. The group's executive director, Brian Houseal, said the review board resolution was out of line, alleging the taxpayer-funded organization stepped outside its mandate under the state Adirondack Park Agency Act.
But last week, APA Chairman Curt Stiles said the review board was free to comment on issues pertaining to state land acquisitions.
The Adirondack Council also said review board Exectuive Director Fred Monroe should recuse himself from voting on such resolutions, noting that he belongs to an exclusive hunting club that would be removed from the Finch lands should the state follow through with the land purchase.
Monroe has since noted that as executive director, he doesn't actively vote on review board resolutions.
Then, late last week, Franklin County Legislator Paul Maroun got into the mix. The Republican lawmaker called the Adirondack Council "elitist."
"Someone has to start opposing the Adirondack Council's representatives for the way they treat local governments and local government officials," Maroun said in a statement sent to area news outlets.
The council had called the review board resolution "shameful" and "baseless."
Maroun disagrees, noting that he challenges Brian Houseal to put him "out of office" in his next election. Maroun adamantly opposes the state purchase of more land for the forest preserve.
"I am elected to represent my district and the only thing I have heard from most of the constituents from my district is that the state already owns too much land," he said.
Maroun claims that the state already fails in its duty to properly manage the lands it currently owns. He says there should be no discussion of purchasing additional lands due to the state's ongoing fiscal crisis.
Additionally, Maroun blasted the region's environmental organizations for doing "nothing to foster economic growth or prosperity" in the Tupper Lake area.
Maroun says he isn't against the procurement of "small, unique" parcels - but not "80,000 some acres."
Meanwhile, Adirondack Council spokesman John Sheehan says the organization respectfully disagrees with APA Chairman Curt Stiles, who last week said the Adirondack Local Government Review Board can, legally, comment on state land issues.
Sheehan says the council is on "solid ground" in its belief that the review board stepped out of line in issuing its resolution of opposition.
"However, if the chairman believes that the review board is doing something that they're entitled to do, I don't think that we need to do anything but disagree on that particular front," he said.
"It's something that I think, ultimately, will have to be decided by an independent third party," Sheehan added. "I don't think it's any reflection on Mr. Stiles that the review board has done what it's done - even though we don't think they consulted with him in the first place. We respect his opinion, even though we disagree with it."
Maroun says taxpayers in Franklin County have contributed money to the review board to aid in efforts to lobby Gov. Andrew Cuomo and lawmakers, the goal being to halt the impending fee acquisitions.
The land is currently held by the Adirondack Chapter of the Nature Conservancy. Officials with the organization note that some 90 percent of the lands in question are located in towns that previously approved the state's purchase.
Maroun, in the interest of being "totally transparent," revealed that he belongs to the River Ridge Hunting Club, located on the Follensby tract of land.