Last week the Adirondack Council criticized the Adirondack Park Local Government Review Board for urging the state to abandon plans to buy Follesnby Pond and some 65,000 acres of former Finch, Pruyn lands. The council argued that the board had overstepped its legislative mandate in commenting on state-land purchases. It also suggested that Fred Monroe, the board’s executive director, and George Canon, who until recently was the board’s chairman, had conflicts of interest in that both belong to hunting clubs that will be forced to shut down or move if the state buys the Finch, Pruyn lands. Monroe has issued the following written statement in response to the council’s critcisms.
The Adirondack Council press release regarding the Review Board resolution opposing fee acquisition of former Finch and Follensby lands is typical Council response to positions taken by organizations that do not hold the same views as the Adirondack Council. The truth is that neither Fred Monroe, the executive director, nor George Canon, the former chairman of the Review Board voted on the resolution. Mr. Monroe does not have a vote. Contrary to Council assertions, Mr. Canon was not even present.
The Adirondack Council has criticized the Review Board before for commenting publicly on state land purchases – in this case saying it had no business making a statement. It sounds like the Council is trying to revoke the First Amendment — not only free speech, but the right to petition the state government for a redress of grievances.
The major concerns of Adirondack local governments are the jobs and building rights that will be lost in the Follensby and Finch purchases. The lost jobs will further harm the Adirondack economy. The lost building rights will make the affordable housing problem in the Adirondacks worse. When the supply of building rights is restricted and demand remains steady, or increases, land prices increase.
The Review Board represents twelve counties. All Review Board representatives are appointed by those county legislatures. Those counties have a population of more than one million. One hundred and thirty thousand live in the Adirondacks. Counties, towns and villages have legitimate concerns. The representatives appointed by the counties did their jobs by considering the facts and unanimously passing a well-reasoned resolution.
The Review Board believes that the APA has a responsibility to insure compliance with the State Land Master Plan which specifically provides that the state should not usually make bulk purchases of highly productive forest land in fee because of the importance of the forest products industry to the economy of the Adirondacks. That provision has been ignored in fee purchases of state lands in the past. It appears that, unless policies change, it will also be ignored in the Finch and Follensby planned purchases.
The Review Board is statutorily (Executive Law Section 803-a) required to: advise and assist the APA; advocate for its constituents, and periodically report to the legislature, the governor and the counties that make up the board. That is what the Review Board did.
The Review Board executive director sits as a non-voting official at Adirondack Park Agency Board meetings, with a spot on the APA’s agenda each month for “Review Board Comments.” The comments that the Board offers are compilations of comments, concerns and approvals heard on specific issues and general issues from the constituents who are represented by the twelve members of the Review Board appointed by their counties. These are the people who live and work in the Adirondack Park, whose life and livelihood is affected, for better or worse, by each and every decision made by the APA.