In the April 26 Post-Star editorial titled "Buying Up Land is not the Answer," the editors asserted that the state's purchase of conservation land may not be the best use of taxpayer's money. The editorial further stated that if land must be protected, only portions should be protected for trails and the remainder would be protected from "pollution" by zoning and subdivision regulations.
Lake George Land Conservancy's (LGLC) response is that our nonprofit mission is to protect the exemplary natural resources of Lake George. Since 1988 this small, local land trust has protected over 12,500 acres and nearly nine miles of shoreline.
Our seven showcase preserves are available free to the public. Generous LGLC members who love Lake George gave their financial support for these acquisitions.
We have worked closely with towns, individuals and community leaders to protect land and provide public amenities. Currently we are working with Bolton on a vision for a town-wide Hamlet to Cat Mountain Trail. On June 12, we are dedicating Peggy's Point, a lovely shoreline park in Hague which we are embellishing with a Friendship Garden for all to enjoy and participate.
Within another year, we hope to announce the creation of the first managed wildlife refuge on the Lake George in the town of Putnam. We are proud that so many visitors and residents, many of whom do not own shoreline properties, may enjoy Lake George by visiting our land. And, few, if any, taxpayer dollars have been spent on those properties.
Occasionally, we have the opportunity to assist the state by purchasing land listed in the state's Open Space Conservation Plan which was developed with broad public input including local community leaders.
The Berry Pond tract is one of only two properties specifically listed in that plan. Three tributaries of West Brook run through the property. To protect this portion of the watershed for West Brook, LGLC purchased the land under the West Brook Conservation Initiative, an innovative and large stormwater mitigation project which has been heralded as one of the most significant environmental initiatives ever built on the Lake.
We were fortunate that the Open Space Institute was willing to give us a loan for this acquisition. But while raising money to meet those payments, we must delay and possibly lose other important land projects.
Our Berry Pond tract also contains an essential snowmobile link to the Adirondacks which has been given credit in bringing more business to Lake George this winter. Our request to sell this land to the state has received broad support from the community leaders and organizations.
Another very popular LGLC recreational resource, known as Cat and Thomas Mountains, is nearly all of the watershed lands for the drinking water supply pond for the Town of Bolton and should be protected forever as NYS Forest Preserve.
LGLC would like to sell these two properties to the state within the next 12 months. I believe it is important to point out that our last sale to DEC was in 2004. We thank DEC for other lands they have protected in the Lake George watershed, including the Finch, Pruyn and International Paper parcels. The state's greatly reduced land acquisition budgets of the past few years has placed greater stress on their land trust partners holding tracts of interest to DEC.
The Post-Star editors wondered why not just purchase recreational easements on a portion of a property rather than purchase entire tracts. Sometimes this is an excellent idea. We are very sensitive to the importance of land to a community's fiscal health.
We will limit our purchases to only lands important for natural resource protection and/or recreational needs. Sometimes this may mean that we will subdivide a tract for partial acquisition or we may sell off a portion of an acquisition. We are now working on a project that meets this criterion.
The editorial appeared to state that restrictive Adirondack zoning is enough to protect land and water. It is not LGLC's position to stop development on those parcels where development is best suited. We do not take a position on regulations, but we do believe that some parcels deserve to be protected in their entirety. Examples include: Cat and Thomas Mountains for their importance to watershed protection; historic monoliths such as Anthony's Nose; land rich in wildlife habitat such as Gull Bay Heron Rookery and The Last Great Shoreline; and unique recreational assets such as "Jumping Rock."
The Post Star editorial calls out to stop "large scale state land purchases." I believe I have shown that, in fact, LGLC and the state have been very selective in the lands that we have purchased at Lake George. We are grateful for all who work with us to protect lands important to the communities, residents, visitors and wildlife.