In his proposed 2010-11 budget, Governor David Paterson has recommended a moratorium on land acquisition and closure of the Adirondack Park Agency’s two Visitor Interpretive Centers.
“This is an all-out attack on the environment by the governor. This threatens to destroy the Environmental Protection Fund,” said John Sheehan, a spokesman for the Adirondack Council.
The EPF is used to pay for a variety of environmental initiatives, including land acquisition and preservation. The fund was allocated $255 million in the last fiscal year and $212 million in the current year. Paterson proposes cutting it to $143 million.
The Executive Budget Briefing Book states: “Recommendations include a moratorium on forest preserve and open space land acquisition.”
The big question is what this will mean for the Finch, Pruyn lands acquired in 2007 by the Adirondack Nature Conservancy. Paul Hartman, a lobbyist for the conservancy, said the organzation hoped to begin selling some of the 161,000 acres to the state in the next fiscal year, which begins April 1. Hartman said it’s now unclear whether that will happen.
Paterson wants to close the APA’s Visitor Interpretive Centers in Paul Smiths and Newcomb. The VICs house exhibits on the Park’s natural history and offer trails for hiking, snowshoeing, and cross-country skiing. The number of funded positions at the APA would be reduced from sixty-nine to fifty-nine, according to Sheehan.
Sheehan said fifty-four positions would be cut at the state Department of Environmental Conservation, which now employs 3,314. If the budget passes, he added, “the average forester will covering three hundred thousand acres–alone.”
Sheehan said the council and other groups will lobby state legislators to restore funding for land and the environment.
Paterson also plans to shut down two state prisons in the Adirondacks in 2011: the Moriah Shock Facility in Essex County and Lyon Mountain Correctional Facility in Clinton County.