The chairman of the state Adirondack Park Agency Board of Commissioners says a taxpayer-funded local government group is free to comment on issues pertaining to state land purchases inside the Blue Line.
Curt Stiles was at this week's meeting of the Adirondack Local Government Review Board.
His comments follow a flurry of media reports in which representatives from a regional environmental organization blasted the review board for passing a resolution opposing further state land purchases in the Adirondacks.
The review board resolution opposes the pending fee acquisition of land in the Follensby Pond area and Finch Pruyn timberland in the southern Adirondacks.
The Adirondack Council issued a statement condemning the resolution, claiming that Executive Director Fred Monroe had a conflict of interest regarding the Finch deal because he belonged to a hunting club that would be removed should the deal go down.
The council also said the review board should not be commenting publicly on state land purchases.
Adirondack Council Executive Director Brian Houseal says the board has one lawful function - to monitor and report on how the APA administers and enforces the Adirondack Park Private Land Use and Development Plan.
But Chairman Stiles disagrees.
At Wednesday's regular monthly meeting in Johnsburg, Stiles said he supports the review board's right to voice its opinion regarding state land acquisition.
Keith McKeever is spokesman for the park agency.
"At this week's meeting, Chairman Stiles was not defending their resolution or supporting their resolution," he said.
"But he was clearly indicating that he feels as though the review board does have the right - based upon the APA Act and the State Land Master Plan - to do what they did in issuing a resolution," McKeever added. "So again, he wasn't supporting the measure, but he was providing his position, which he's been clear on now for many months. That is, the review board has the right to express its opinion on state land acquisitions."
Monroe says he's had numerous discussions with Stiles on whether or not it's appropriate for the review board to weigh-in on land purchases.
He says he has the chairman's support.
"State land purchases are such a large part of the agenda at the agency and they have such a big impact on the park's residents and we're sitting at the same table discussing things," Monroe said. "He has defended, in the past, the right of the review board to comment on these things. He thinks it's legitimate."
The state plans to purchase a total of about 75,000 acres from the Adirondack Chapter of the Nature Conservancy.
Officials with the Keene-based organization say 27 towns associated with the Finch lands approved the impending fee acquisitions. Further, 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.
Recently, several townships and some counties have called for the state to halt the pending purchase due to New York's fiscal crisis.