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Traditional foes debate Adirondack issues

The primary focus of the Common Ground discussion was the creation of a regional economic development plan.

Warren County Board of Supervisors Chairman Fred Monroe, who chairs the Adirondack Local Government Review Board, said it was time to relax restrictive state laws and unleash free enterprise.

"We have to get government out of the way," Monroe said.

Dan Plumley, the director of the newly consolidated environmental organization Protect the Adirondacks, offered opinions that to many seemed as a new direction for environmentalists, who have traditionally shunned economic development in the park.

"We believe that economic development and environmental sustainability are not mutually exclusive," he said. "It is important to promote development in the hamlets, but not in the backcountry."

Plumley and many other environmental leaders said that bringing young interns into their organizations has been a viable model for bringing young people into the park.

Plumley said that sustainable forestry would bring high-paying jobs to the region and add a great deal to the local economy.

Other primary areas of agreement among the parties involved were the need for greater broadband access and traditional infrastructure development, like municipal sewer and water systems.

Towards the end of the meeting, some of the more contentious issues were addressed, opening the door for future debates that could redefine the park. Adirondack Mountain Club Executive Director Neil Woodworth said he welcomes a debate about the State Land Master Plan and that the discourse would be good for everyone.

The master plan is often seen by local officials as an outdated document that does not allow for a community's viability. It is the basis of almost all of APA rulings.

APA Chairman Curt Stiles said that before the plan can be addressed the APA Act would first have to be changed.

"Regulatory reform is a passion I share with many of you," Stiles said. "It must be done with a bottom-up approach. We cannot continue to do business as we have always done."

Stiles said that the APA Act is packed with cumbersome language that is difficult to interpret.

"We will get to work on revising the APA Act by summer's end," he said. "But we have to make sure we look for some kind of consensus on this - it has to be done roughly right and directionally correct."

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