Statement from Jerry Delaney, Chairman and Frederick H. Monroe, Executive Director:
New York State’s press release announcing the acquisition of 69,000 acres of productive, working forestland in the heart of the Adirondacks yesterday referred to the transaction as “unprecedented.”
We agree. Unprecedented in its utter disregard for the Adirondack economy. Unprecedented in its overall fiscal irresponsibility.
At a time when New York’s economy is in dire straits — and the small rural communities of the Adirondacks struggle to survive — New York State has chosen to spend nearly $50 million to add these lands to the state Forest Preserve and permanently remove them from wood and job production. New York State taxpayers will then be responsible to pay the maintenance costs and property taxes on the acquired lands.
The harm is multi-faceted and undeniable:
• More than 300 jobs will be lost. A report prepared by New York State’s own Division of Land and Forests found that every 1,000 acres of working forestland directly supports three forest-based manufacturing, forestry or logging jobs. In addition, it is projected that each of these jobs supports another 1.8 jobs in other industries. Together, this means the loss of more than 300 jobs, virtually all of them in small, rural communities with few other opportunities and, not surprisingly, little voting power.
• Forest products companies will face greater challenges. Every time working forestland is removed from responsible wood production and incorporated into the Forest Preserve, forest products companies in the Adirondack Region — from small, family owned sawmills to high-employment paper mills — must obtain their primary raw material from more distant forests, driving up their costs and further eroding their ability to remain in business.
• New biomass businesses will be discouraged from locating here. There is increasing interest in and demand for the use of wood and plant material — biomass — as an alternative to fossil fuels for energy production. But, understandably, biomass operators require some assurance that they’ll have a long-term, stable supply of wood available to them before making the sizable investment necessary to site and build their facilities. New York’s continuing infatuation with forestland acquisition is far from reassuring.
• Adirondack towns will lose recreational revenue. The recently acquired forests have for many years been leased for recreational purposes by sportsmen’s clubs made up of people from across the northeast. Not only do these people spend large amounts of time on these lands, they spend their money in local communities, providing much-needed revenue for merchants and sales tax for local governments. With the incorporation of these lands into the Forest Preserve, these leases and the revenue they generate will go away forever. Two hundred camps on the leased land will be destroyed. While Governor Cuomo is fond of quoting President Theodore Roosevelt, it’s a shame he wasn’t able to consult with the former Adirondack sportsman before getting rid of these clubs; we’re fairly confident Teddy would have been against it. After all he became President within hours after visiting an Adirondack hunting club.
What’s perhaps most troubling and bewildering about yesterday’s acquisition is New York’s two-faced stance when it comes to the value of working forests.
The State Land Master Plan clearly states:
“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.”
New York State has acquired 300,000 acres of highly productive forest lands since that Master Plan was adopted.
Not once since the possible acquisition of these lands first surfaced five years ago has anyone made a credible argument that the lands — most of which are far-removed from easy public access, and all of which are owned by the Nature Conservancy and under the jurisdiction of the Adirondack Park Agency — were under any serious threat of residential or commercial development.
Yet the state has still chosen to acquire the property and, in doing so, will accomplish exactly what its Master Plan says should be avoided — curtailing the use of the lands for forestry purposes.
It didn’t have to be that way. Timber Investment Management Companies have hundreds of millions of dollars to invest in forest lands in the Eastern United States and at least two would be interested in the former Finch lands subject to conservation easements to protect the resource and insure sustainable forestry.
Isn’t it time for New York State to follow its own Master Plan, especially since two courts have held that it has the force of law?
If you’ve been anywhere near a TV set in recent days, you’ve seen our state spending millions of dollars on advertising to convince someone that “New York is Open for Business.” Now they’ve dropped a cool $50 million to tell Adirondackers just the opposite.
The Adirondack Park Local Government Review Board was created in Executive Law Section 803-a in 1973 to represent the interests of residents and local governments in the Adirondacks. Eleven Adirondack counties appoint the voting members of the Board.