The Aug. 5 announcement by Gov.?Andrew Cuomo that taxpayers can now afford to pay $50 million to protect an additional 69,000 acres of land in the Adirondacks that were not in jeopardy of being developed continues a long history of questionable land acquisition supported by extreme environmentalists and ignorance of the fragile Adirondack Park economy.
With a state that currently faces unprecedented financial challenges, taxpayer-funded purchases such as these do nothing in solving the meaningful employment woes of the communities of the Adirondack Park. Removing 60,000 acres of productive forest from the wood basket that supplies fiber for making the world's finest paper, slash that will fuel the emerging bio-mass market, and the countless jobs that go with these opportunities, is not an economic hand-up, rather a boot across our necks.
The education of our children, taking care of the less fortunate and protecting the environment by using Environmental Protection Funds to upgrade sewer and water projects must be priority one - not more land purchases - particularly when the state already owns millions of acres of Forest Preserve.
The governor missed a unique opportunity here to provide the same recreational opportunities that are being touted with this deal at a fraction of the price by purchasing the conservation easements on the majority of this land and having one of the many interested timber investment groups make the Nature Conservancy whole, not the taxpayers of New York.
This would have made those truly unique areas forever wild, while insuring compliance with the State Land Master Plan by opposing fee purchase of highly productive timberland.
Now that the deal is done, we can only pray that a meaningful dialogue on lost development rights followed by Land Bank legislation can take place. The hardships created by the lack of thoughtful planning, as to the location of some state land ownership, range from municipalities in which the State Forest Preserve exceeds 90 percent of all lands, to communities where state land intertwines with community centers, preventing such basic needs as clean drinking water, reliable electric power distribution, safe roadways and other various circumstances that constitute severe need.
The barrier to correcting the problem of poor planning is Article XIV, which has created the necessity for multiple land exchange amendments to meet basic municipal infrastructure needs, most recently the passage of a bill required just to provide safe drinking water in the town of Long Lake. The Adirondack Association of Towns and Villages calls upon the governor and the state Legislature to work with the association to develop a constitutional amendment that will provide a land bank to resolve these issues in a more permanent way.
Brian Towers is president of the Adirondack Association of Towns and Villages and supervisor of the town of Wells.