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Proposed state tax freeze irks Adirondackers

Groups devoted mainly to protecting the forest preserve wilderness are also voicing the need to compensate municipalities for their contribution to the sustainability of the region.

"For more than a century, the Forest Preserve has provided a multitude of environmental, economic and recreational benefits for all New Yorkers, but Governor Paterson's plan would shift the burden of maintaining these crucial resources to residents of these sparsely populated areas," said Adirondack Mountain Club Executive Director Neil Woodworth. "This is not only unfair, it is bad public policy that would undermine local support for open space protection in the Adirondacks and Catskills."

"The state made a commitment in 1886 to pay full taxes on all Adirondack Forest Preserve; forever," said Brian L. Houseal, Executive Director of the Adirondack Council. "The savings to state government would be tiny, perhaps unnoticeable, but the damage done to local taxpayers and local economies would be dramatic, hitting hardest those towns with the fewest residents and the greatest amount of state land."

Sayward pointed to the increased burden it would place on taxpayers in towns like Newcomb in Essex County or Arietta in Hamilton County, both of which have 90 percent of their land owned by the state. Many towns in the Adirondack Park are at least 50 percent state-owned.

Also shouldering the burden would be large private landowners such as timber companies and conservation groups. One such group, The Nature Conservancy, also opposed the freeze.

"The state's commitment to communities who host Forest Preserve lands is critically important for the continuation of New York's successful open space protection program," said Kathy Moser, acting state director for The Nature Conservancy in New York.

"Continuing to support our local government partners in Forest Preserve regions will ensure the state can continue to protect ecologically and recreationally significant tracts of land and allow all New Yorkers to connect with these special places. We urge the governor and legislature to rethink this proposal before adopting the next state budget."

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