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Friday, January 28, 2011

Board seeks to block land deals

The Adirondack Park Local Government Review Board this week passed a resolution urging the state not to go forward with plans to purchase Follensby Pond and some sixty thousand acres of former Finch, Pruyn lands.

The resolution, adopted Wednesday, argues that the purchases would violate the Adirondack Park State Land Master Plan, hurt the local economy, and burden state taxpayers.

“In these dire financial times, with the state facing bankruptcy . . .  the priorities of the state should not include buying any more land,” the board declares. It estimates that the deals will cost the region 165 jobs.

The board also requested Governor Andrew Cuomo to order a study of the social and economic impacts of land acquisition in the Adirondacks before approving any new land purchases in the region. (The full resolution can be downloaded by clicking the PDF link at the end of this post.)

Fred Monroe, the executive director of the review board, said he has talked to Cuomo’s environmental adviser about local governments’ opposition to the deals. Although this adviser was “non-committal,” Monroe said another Cuomo adviser does oppose further land acquisition.

Monroe said the resolution passed unanimously. He conceded that local governments had signed off on the Finch, Pruyn deal a few years ago, but he said they did so only because they wanted to negotiate the best deal they could.

The Adirondack Nature Conservancy bought all of Finch, Pruyn’s 161,000 acres in 2007. It later sold eighty-nine thousand acres to a Danish pension fund, subject to a conservation easement that allows logging but prohibits development. Last month, the state bought the easement from the conservancy. Under the terms of the easement, the public will be allowed to use some of the lands for recreation.

The conservancy hopes to sell most of the rest of the former Finch land, some sixty thousand acres, to the state over the next few years—at a price that is expected to exceed $40 million.

Monroe said he would like to see a timber-management company buy the land outright. His fallback position is to have the state enter an easement agreement with a private buyer. In either case, he wants the hunting clubs that lease much of the former Finch land to be allowed to remain. (Monroe belongs to one of the clubs himself. For more on the debate over the hunting clubs, see this story in the Explorer.)

The Finch lands contain such natural jewels as Blue Ledges on the Hudson Gorge, OK Slip Falls, the Essex Chain of Lakes, and Boreas Ponds. Monroe said he would not object if the state added Blue Ledges, OK Slip Falls, and perhaps a few other “truly unique” properties to the Forest Preserve.

The Adirondack Nature Conservancy bought the 14,600-acre Follensby Park in 2008, with the intention of selling the whole property to the state. The state has secured about $6 million in federal Forest Legacy monies to help pay for this property. The review board contends that the Forest Legacy program was designed to protect working forests, yet if the state buys the land, it will be off limits to logging.

Environmentalists argue that Follensby Park and the remaining Finch lands are treasures worthy of inclusion in the forever-wild Forest Preserve—for both their ecological and recreational value. The Adirondack Council and Adirondack Mountain Club, for example, see an opportunity to create a canoe wilderness in the central Adirondacks.

The review board may be fighting an uphill battle. Last weekend, a state official told me that the state has no plans to pull the plug on either deal. In fact, because the state has no other big land acquisitions in the pipeline, these deals could get done fairly quickly if sufficient money is allocated to the Environmental Protection Fund over the next several years. We’ll know more about the EPF when Cuomo releases his budget next week.

LGRB resolution PDF

Phil Brown

Contributor Phil Brown was editor of the Adirondack Explorer from 1999-2018. When he isn't at his desk, he's usually out hiking, paddling, skiing, or doing something else important.

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42 Responses

  1. Ruth Moser says:

    Absolutely continue this purchase. This land

    is an essential addition to the Adirondack Wilderness. As the population of New York and every other state continues to increase we need to add more wilderness to our holdings. This is for the people. Keep on with the deal!

    Ruth Moser, Hudson, NY where we are faced with politicians who want to force industrialization on our fragile South Bay and very limited Hudson River waterfront.

  2. Adirondack Jack says:

    Darn the torpedoes, full speed ahead with the financial ruin of the NYS economy. Only when the state economy sits in ruin will they sit and wonder what happened. The State already has more land than it can manage or that the taxpayers can afford. We desperately need leadership in Albany to steer us away from a “land poor” dying economy. Please wake up Albany before it’s to late.

  3. AnotherView says:

    There is no question the Follensby Pond and Finch, Pruyn lands should be acquired by the State. Both parcels are on the state’s Open Space Conservation Plan which is developed by committees that include local government and involve public input. Fred Monroe has a personal interest in the issue because he belongs to one of the elite hunting clubs that would lose their lease that gives them exclusive use of the property. If Monroe had any ethics he would recuse himself from the issue. He should be invested for conflict of interest and the State should stop wasting tax-payer dollars and eliminate the backward-thinking ethically-challenged Local Government Review Board.

  4. John says:

    The state should purchase easements on this land so the general public can access the river corridors. This would keep hte clubs open, and they provide millions of dollars in local commerce, and are excellent stewards. It would also keep sustainable forestry going.

  5. Timothy Dannenhoffer says:

    These people are part of an unfortunetely sizeable group of Americans who have SMALL imaginations AND poor character. They’d sell their soul for money. Everything has a price. Nothing is sacred. Nothing is priceless. Adirondack Teabaggers.

    There is NO guarantee that the economy of the Tupper Lake area will pick up even IF the state does not purchase this land.

    This is a time that the people of the Tupper Lake region will need to be creative to get their economy moving REGARDLESS of what happens to Follensby Pond.

    And holding this deal back – such an amazing addition to the forest preserve for nature, New Yorkers and tourists from outside the state – seems SO petty, narrow-minded and selfish. On TOP of not even guranteeing that it will have the intended effects of a better economy if they are successful in stopping this.

    They need to ACCEPT that they live in a park and GET ON WITH finding solutions AROUND this FACT.

  6. Timothy Dannenhoffer says:

    ADDITIONALLY, if Frederick H Monroe really does belong to a club which is on these particular lands AND he is the Executive Director of the Adirondack Review Board, he ABSOLUTELY ought to be staying neutral and quiet about this due to an OBVIOUS conflict of interest. He is biased. He has HIS interests in mind and not too many others.

  7. callmeal says:

    This seems completely out of the legislative authority of the Board. The APA has nothing to do with decisions on purchasing land and the LGRB is exists to advise the APA and legislature on APA matters. This guy always seamed fishy to me. His wife it the secretary and now he is trying to save his club on the gov’t dime. It’d be nice if the Attorney General took a look at what’s going on there.

  8. Paul says:

    “ADDITIONALLY, if Frederick H Monroe really does belong to a club which is on these particular lands AND he is the Executive Director of the Adirondack Review Board, he ABSOLUTELY ought to be staying neutral and quiet about this due to an OBVIOUS conflict of interest. He is biased. He has HIS interests in mind and not too many others.”

    Tim, folks that live in the Adirondacks have to help make decisions. Just like Curt Stiles (APA the commissioner) who built a new boat house for his family on Upper Saranac gets to decide how big the next guys boat house is these folks get a say because the live there. Maybe both are a conflict, but I think that most environmental groups don’t have a problem with an APA commissioner making Adirondack zoning decisions, and at the same time being involved in personal real estate deals in the Adirondack Park. So they should not have a problem with someone who has a personal connection to the land get to decide what happens to it.

    Curt and Fred both live in the park and both get to be involved in the decisions “ACCEPT that they live in a park and GET ON WITH” it.

    “These people are part of an unfortunately sizable group of Americans who have SMALL imaginations AND poor character.”

    Phil you really should delete these personal attack comments that Tim keeps submitting to the Explorer. Perhaps civility should start closer to home!

  9. RationalandLogical says:

    Good for the Review Board….it is so entertaining to read the elitist’s reaction when the people stand up for themselves. I say good for Fred Monroe and the Review Board. It is time that the masses take a stand.

  10. Paul says:

    “the LGRB is exists to advise the APA and legislature on APA matters.”

    callmeal, isn’t this exactly what they are doing in this case?

  11. callmeal says:

    Paul,

    What is the APA’s role in land acquisitions?

  12. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Pete Klein, Adirondack Explorer. Adirondack Explorer said: Some news … http://fb.me/zGtOqNLr […]

  13. Timothy Dannenhoffer says:

    “Phil you really should delete these personal attack comments that Tim keeps submitting to the Explorer. Perhaps civility should start closer to home!”

    I’m sorry I don’t sugar-coat what I see.

    And what I see is a handful of seemingly self-centereded individuals trying to obstruct the state from doing what is right – trying to prevent the state from purchasing NO BRAINER land – land pockets nestled into and adjacent to forest preserve land (and mostly wilderness) – from the Nature Conservancy because they want to save the clubs they belong to – while using the excuse that it will adversely affect jobs and the economy – which may or may not even be true.

    And in my OPINION, the economy within the Adirondack Park has to fit in and around the fact that the Adirondacks ARE a park.

    I have a RIGHT to point out what I see and you have the right to ignore it or disagree.

    Perhaps you’d just like to silence me because I articulate logic and reason – and it’s convincing?

    And let’s not lose sight of the fact that the Nature Conservancy hass BENT OVER BACKWARDS to be QUITE democratic about the process in which they determined how the lands would be split up and used. They have already sold the majority of Finch / Pruyn land to a private owner, and logging will continue on these lands. They have CONSIDERED the economy and jobs in their calculations of what land should go to what.

    On a separate and side note, CONSIDER that only 3% of old growth redwoods exist today. HALF of it still in private hands. And people that think the way you do think it’s unfair and outrageous that the “elitist environmentalists” would try to stop them from logging any more.

    It would all be so hysterical if it WEREN’T so outrageous and ridiculous.

    These people getting their way would be as dangerous to the Adirondacks as it would be if Glen Beck and Sarah Palin followers obtained majority control of our government.

  14. Shocked says:

    Paul:

    Now you are just making up stuff about the APA. The boat house regulations were in the works long before Stiles was even nominated to the APA board. Lake George rejected the new APA regs as being too lax, and imposed a tougher standard.

    Monroe, on the other hand, is ignoring the 27 towns that approved this agreement in 2007 just to save his personal retreat on former Finch property. And he is misspending public money to do it.

    The review board is supposed to advise the 12 park counties about the APA and the private land use plan. That is it. Every time it does something other that that, it is stealing public money to do it. Half comes from the 12 Adirondack counties, but the rest is from all the state taxpayers $50 grand plus a year from each.

    Monroe has three part time government jobs totaling $105,000-plus per year, plus his wife is the Review Board secretary who signs his expense checks — another $8,000 or so. Easy money if you can get it.

    So now he is using taxpayer money to save his private hunting camp — which pays no taxes — and claims someone else is hurting the economy??? the joke is on us.

  15. Fred says:

    The APA is charged with determining state agency compliance with the Adirondack Park State Land Master Plan (SLMP) The SLMP provides that “(Due to the importance of the forest products industry to the economy of the Adirondack region, bulk acreage purchases in fee should not normally be made where highly productive forest land is involved, unless such land is threatened with development that would curtail its use for forestry purposes or its value for the preservation of open space or of wildlife habitat.”

    The fact that that the APA has ignored its responsibility to insure compliance with that provision of the SLMP does not relieve it of its responsibility, especially in these dire economic times.

  16. Timothy Dannenhoffer says:

    The idea that part of the APA’s job is to protect forestry jobs at the expense of further conservation in the Adirondacks is absurd.

    ESPECIALLY if there is any truth to that.

  17. Timothy Dannenhoffer says:

    And, AGAIN, the Nature Conservancy AND the state of New York ought to point out that forestry jobs were considered when they sold the majority of the Finch Pruyn land to a private investor who will allow continued logging.

    Like children kicking and screaming wanting the whole bag of candy while there are other people who would like a piece.

  18. HikingBlog.net» Blog Archive » Board seeks to block land deals says:

    […] Source: http://adirondackexplorer.org/out-takes/2011/01/28/board-seeks-to-block-land-deals/ […]

  19. Paul says:

    Shocked,

    I was just giving an example of where an Adirondack shoreline homeowner gets to share in a decision that limits what his fellow shoreline owners can do in the future.

    The rule change may have started several years ago but the decision I described was made last year.

    “The idea that part of the APA’s job is to protect forestry jobs at the expense of further conservation in the Adirondacks is absurd.”

    Tim maybe between rants you should read the APA act.

    From the Act:

    “The basic purpose of this article is to insure optimum overall conservation, protection, preservation, development and use of the unique scenic, aesthetic, wildlife, recreational, open space, historic, ecological and natural resources of the Adirondack park.”

    Along with conservation and preservation the APA has oversight on (Tim if I can borrowto your CAPS thing) DEVELOPMENT AND USE OF THE… NATURAL RESOURCES OF THE ADIRONDACK PARK.

    Sure people have tried their best to portray the APA as only concerned with preservation but like it says here in the act part of their role is related to economic development.

  20. Paul says:

    Fred,

    Also from Environmental Conservation Law Article 49 Section 2: State Land Acquisition Policy

    “The department and the office shall first consider in each acquisition whether acquisition of conservation easement or other less than full fee title interests would fulfill the purposes for which the particular acquisition is sought. If it is determined that a conservation easement or other interest would fulfill such purposes, the department or the office will use its best efforts to acquire such easement or interest, where practicable.”

    The state has not made a case that outright purchase in this case is necessary to fulfill the purpose of this transaction. It is hard, but the state has to follow it’s own laws, they are there for a reason.

  21. AnotherView says:

    According to the LGRB website, Executive Law Section 803-a established the Adirondack Park Local Government Review Board, “1. For the purpose of advising and assisting the Adirondack Park Agency in carrying out its functions, powers and duties…”

    Clearly the LGRB’s function is to advise and assist the APA, not DEC. The acquisition of State land is the function of DEC not the APA. The LGRB is exceeding its authority when commenting on land deals or any other topic where the APA is not involved. In addition, LGRB Executive Director Fred Monroe has a personal interest in the Finch-Pruyn lands and therefore has a direct conflict of interest and should abstain from any LGRB discussion of the Finch-Pruyn lands.

    It seems like these are abuses of State authority and misuse of State funds should be investigated by someone like the NYS Attorney General.

    BTW, Executive Law Section 803-a also says of the LGRB, “Such board shall consist of twelve members, each of whom shall be a resident of a county wholly or partly within the park. No more than one member shall be a resident of any single county.” However, according to the LGRB’s website there are 21 members from 10 counties. If the LGRB is not properly organized and conducting business according the requirements of its enabling legislation, its actions are not valid and is another reason to investigate this State funded board that is being used to promote a narrow political agenda and personal interests.

  22. Paul says:

    The whole point of having a “local” review board is so that folks with a vested interest are involved. Everyone in NYS has a stake in these decisions, should we all abstain? The folks that are closely involved often have the best perspective. This mantra of “conflict” always seems to come up when someone clearly opposes the view being articulated. But AnotherView don’t worry this resolution will be given its due and then discarded with all the rest.

  23. Timothy Dannenhoffer says:

    “The basic purpose of this article is to insure optimum overall conservation, protection, preservation, development and use of the unique scenic, aesthetic, wildlife, recreational, open space, historic, ecological and natural resources of the Adirondack park.”

    Paul, the very first thing written there is “insure optimum overall conservation”.

    As far as development and use of resources is concerned they are to always see rule #1 – “insure the OPTIMUM overall conservation!”.

    It tells me that they need to use common sense with regards to what development and resource use they DO allow – while ALWAYS considering forests, wildlife, water quality and aesthetics within the park first.

    That’s obvious to most people. They’re called the Adirondack Protection Agency.

    They’re NOT there to give equal consideration to the interests of a relatively small handful of people who don’t believe in expanding, improving and strengthening the forest preserve. They’re there to protect the the Adirondacsk and especially the forest preserve.

    “OPTIMUM development and use of natural resources” IS NOT trying to stand in the way of premium / ideal land acquisitions for inclusion in the forest preserve.

  24. Paul says:

    Tim,

    Nice try but the act is what it is and environmental conservation law says what it says.

    If preservation was the only goal the only APA zoning rule would be “NO development is allowed”. That is not at all what we have or what is expected.

  25. Paul says:

    “They’re there to protect the the Adirondacks and especially the forest preserve.”

    Again not the case, as others have said here, the APA has very little oversight on the Forest Preserve. Private land is there main concern.

  26. shocked says:

    Fred:

    How about the section of the public officer’s law where it says public officials should always avoid any situation that even gives the appearance of a conflict of interest? If you are the Fred I think you are, you ought to know what I am talking about.

  27. shocked says:

    Paul:

    You just made AnotherView’s point. What has a deal for new public forest got to do with the APA? Zilch. So, why is the APA’s special adviser — the review board — butting in when every town involved has said they want this deal? Whose interests are the two review board honchos-with-hunting-camps protecting? Only themselves.

    There is only one possible explanation. Vested interest + public official = abuse of power. Every time. Like day follows night. Doesn’t matter which political party.

    How many news stories have there been about public officials with their hands in the cookie jar lately? Hard times can make that stuff worse too. You know that’s true.

    Don’t tell me they didnt realize what they were doing. They arent cornbread bumpkins. Both those guys have been in office for ages. 20 years anyhow. Too long probably.

    Its sad how we get used to having crooked politicians around. We act like they have a right to use tax money for whatever fool thing they want and then stiff us with the bill. Then they act like we are too stupid to understand the situation when we call them on it. We are not stupid.

    Makes me feel ripped off as a taxpayer.

    I wonder how the other 20 million people in New york who dont live in the Adirondacks feel about the money these guys are using to save their private lodge. You think maybe some of them know the new attorney general? I hear he’s from New York City.

  28. AnotherView says:

    And what’s worse, Fred Monroe’s false accusations forced the NYS Attorney General to waste even more taxpayer dollars by having to review land deals between the Nature Conservancy and DEC even though they had been previously reviewed and approved by multiple agencies, including the Attorney General’s office. Isn’t that ironic! Talk about the pot calling the kettle black. Clearly it is time for the Attorney General to investigate Mr. Monroe and his state-funded bunch of cronies who are so ethically challenged they don’t know the difference between public service and private interest.

  29. Paul says:

    AnotherView,

    The attorneys general doesn’t have to launch an investigation if they feel there is no cause? They should drop that current investigation if they feel there is no point to it. Also, if they see a problem here they should also do whatever they think is appropriate.

    Shocked, Zilch? The Adirondack State Land Mater Plan is drafted and approved by both the APA and the DEC. The APA must approve of any changes to that plan. Among other things the plan describes specifically what types of land should be purchased, how they should be purchased, and more. How is this zilch?

  30. Paul says:

    Also, there is only 17 million dollars in the EPF for land purchases statewide so this resolution is pretty pointless anyway. The TNC will have to hold this land for years if not longer, unless they want to find another buyer.

  31. Shocked says:

    Paul:

    Not correct. DEC wrote and interprets the SLMP, not the APA. The APA’s only role in the State Land Master Plan is to judge whether new Unit Management Plans — for specific areas of public land — or recreation plans like a mountain bike or snowmobile plan, meet the standards of the overall master plan.

    This purchase won’t be the subject of a unit plan for years after its purchase. Only then will APA have any say.

    If that’s Fred’s only defense, he’s going down, baby.

  32. Shocked says:

    Paul:

    Future state land purchases are described in the NYS Open Space Conservation Plan, not the SLMP. The master plan is only for existing state land, not future purchases.

  33. Timothy Dannenhoffer says:

    Regardless – let me put this question past anybody who would like to answer it –

    Doesn’t the purchase of these lands by the state SOLIDIFY what the Adirondacks are best known for – the relatively vast unfragmented forests and the spactacular scenic beauty of the area?

    Wouldn’t this be agreat thing overall – a net plus?

    What I’d like to see for the Adirondacks is highly protected solid core backcountry areas as wilderness in the forest preserve, a forest preserve buffer surrounding that which is slightly less restrictive, and then a buffer surrounding that which permits logging –

    with development limited as close to the center of towns and villages as possible.

    Tourism would be the a significant part of the economy, with other kinds of jobs that don’t require major buildup or development.

    This is why I think the development proposal for the Tupper Lake area to be such a TERRIBLE idea. It’s a step towards the Adirondacks being like the Catskills or the Poconos – 2 places I NEVER go to anymore because of what has become of them.

    Anyhow, discuss!

  34. Timothy Dannenhoffer says:

    1) Boreas Ponds is perfectly nestled between the undeveloped Elk Lake proprties and the High Peaks – anything but wilderness designation would be ridiculous.

    2) Follensby Ponds is nestled into an area that borders the High Peaks Wilderness – just across and running for many miles along the Raquette River. This should be wilderness as well.

    3) The pocket of land that is sandwiched between Indian Lake, Minerva, Newcomb, Long Lake and Blue Mountain Lake is in DIRE need of a wilderness area or a canoe area.

  35. Paul says:

    “Future state land purchases are described in the NYS Open Space Conservation Plan, not the SLMP.”

    Shocked, not correct. Take a look at some of the text from the SLMP:

    “The Agency has an important interest in future state land acquisitions since they can vitally affect both private and public land within the Adirondack Park. As a result the Agency recommends that the following guidelines should govern future acquisitions of state lands within the Park” (Read more on page 6 if you like)

    The LGRB is basically, as part of the agency, recommending that the whole agency consider changing the guidelines. How is that outside the prevue of the LGRB? Shocked, I know you want Fred to “go down” but it seems to me that he and the board are doing what the legislature has told them to do in the APA act?

  36. Paul says:

    “2) Follensby Ponds is nestled into an area that borders the High Peaks Wilderness – just across and running for many miles along the Raquette River. This should be wilderness as well.”

    I think this one would put an end to the “90 miler” canoe race that runs through this section of the Raquette each year. Organized sporting events are prohibited in Wilderness parcels.

  37. Council calls for Review Board probe @ says:

    […] lands. In a news released issued this morning, the council asks that the Review Board withdraw the resolution calling on the state to back out of the land deals.  Moreover, the council is calling for an ethics […]

  38. Timothy Dannenhoffer says:

    You may have a point Paul, but they get away with the Wakely Dam Ultra every year in the West Canada Lakes Wilderness.

    Maybe they could get a waiver for a one day event?

    I don’t know, but I wouldn’t want to see a one day event stop something from becoming wilderness.

    Motorized recreationists will put up more of a fight than paddlers. If you have wilderness on both sides of the Raquette for many miles I could see them asking motor boats to turn back around at a certain point.

  39. Franklin County opposes land deals @ says:

    […] action follows a similar resolution adopted last week by the Adirondack Park Local Government Review Board. Yesterday, the Adirondack Council accused the […]

  40. AATV to vote on land deals @ says:

    […] Towers, the president of AATV, said the draft resolution has the “same general thrust” of a resolution passed a few weeks ago by the Adirondack Park Local Government Review […]

  41. Tupper Lake opposes Follensby purchase @ says:

    […] the town’s resolution closely mirrors the one passed a few weeks ago by the Adirondack Park Local Government Review Board. Franklin County passed a similar resolution, and the Adirondack Association of Towns and Villages […]

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