The Adirondack Local Government Review Board unanimously passed a resolution last week opposing the impending state purchase of some 75,000 acres of Adirondack land from a conservation group.
According to the resolution, the state intends to purchase more than 65,000 acres of former Finch Pruyn timberlands and about 15,000 acres of land in the Follensby Pond area from the Adirondack Chapter of the Nature Conservancy.
Last week's resolution states that the review board opposes the fee acquisition of the lands in question.
It also urges the state Adirondack Park Agency to remain compliant with the State Land Master Plan by recommending against the state Department of Environmental Conservation's potential fee purchase of what review board officials call - quote - "highly productive timberland."
Fred Monroe is executive director of the Adirondack Local Government Review Board. He says Gov. Andrew Cuomo should commission a study on the economic and social impacts of further state land acquisitions inside the Blue Line.
Monroe adds that the state's current fiscal crisis is a good argument against purchasing more land.
"We know the state is experiencing horrible budget problems - there are plans to cut back on Medicaid, welfare, education, and we just paid $30 million out of the taxpayers' pocket to purchase a conservation easement on the remaining Finch lands," he said. "That happened on the same day that Gov. Cuomo reaffirmed layoffs for 900 state employees - and there's now talk about laying off another 15,000."
The review board resolution cites numbers released by DEC Lands & Forest Director Rob Davies, which state that working forests support three forestry-related jobs for every 1,000 acres of productive forest lands.
Additionally, Davies reports that 1,000 acres of productive forest lands support less than one tourism-related job.
Monroe says now is not the time to spend more than $40 million, claiming that such a purchase would put North Country residents out of work.
"We know that's what is going to happen, when you take that working forest and make it a non-working forest," he said. "There just doesn't seem to be a good reason for that. It's been well-protected for generations and managed by Finch before there even was a forest preserve."
Nature Conservancy spokeswoman Connie Prickett says her agency has been working on the Finch project since 2007 and has included local governments and town boards in the process every step of the way.
Prickett also notes that the overall plan for the Finch lands was presented as an integrated package. She says various easement and fee components bring a variety of economic and recreational opportunities to the table.
According to Prickett, all 27 towns with former Finch lands approved the state's anticipated expenditures of Environmental Protection Fund monies to move the current project forward.
Those towns, Prickett says, either passed resolutions of support or opted not to file objections. Additionally, some 90 percent of the acreage accounted for in the Finch deal is located within 11 towns, each of which passed active resolutions supporting the project.
Nature Conservancy Executive Director Mike Carr says the review board resolution is unfortunate, noting that his agency has worked hard with each municipality involved with the Finch project.
Carr says his organization - quote - "took the project to the streets."
"Through a series of meetings, we came to a consensus as to the disposition of this effort," he said. "The first part of it was the easement sale and the second phase, now, is the sale of these fee pieces to the state. We think this will be a big blast to the tourism and recreation economy in a lot of these towns."
For his part, Monroe says members of the review board have met with Gov. Cuomo's environmental secretary regarding last week's resolution.
Cuomo's budget will be unveiled today. Monroe says that if the new governor is serious about getting New York's fiscal house in order, he should consider calling for an in-depth study into the purchasing of land in the Adirondack Park.