Say ‘No deal’ to state land purchase

To the Adirondack Journal:

A sellout is looming. Local officials are thinking of dropping their opposition to the state acquisition of the 100 square miles of former Finch Pruyn lands in exchange for government economic development funds.

Over a decade ago, the officials in the Catskill region, which contains most of the watershed lands for New York City, sold out along the same lines as Chestertown Supervisor Fred Monroe suggested recently (Adirondack Journal, Sept. 1). Monroe’s idea is that the state should cough up $50 million for economic development and infrastructure in the Adirondack region to match the amount that the state intends to spend for the Finch lands. The reasoning is that the loss of timber production and related economic activity on the Finch lands when the properties become “forever wild” should be counteracted with a state infusion of money.

About a decade ago, the idea of accepting a straightjacket on the local land in exchange for a small fortune of aid from the New York City and the state was tried in the Catskills with a particular twist: The city and state offered funds to build infrastructure for protection of the city’s water supply if the local officials would sign the Watershed Memorandum that the city had framed.

The local officials dropped their opposition to the agreement. They got lots of money to dole out for advanced private septic systems and to contract for sewage treatment infrastructure. However, when the money was used up, the terms of the Watershed Memorandum continued to batter the economy. At the same time, the city and state are getting critical control of the real property tax base.

No “deal” can compensate for the state acquisition of the fine timber producing land that Finch Pruyn owned. With almost three million acres of state-owned “forever wild” forest in the Adirondacks, plus over 700,000 acres of perpetual state-owned conservation easements where no one can live, our region is already drastically hemmed in. The state already shovels funds into the economy here, but businesses and schools keep closing—because the land base is being wiped out, leaving remaining property owners like “inholders” in a national park, and because of the regulatory hoops imposed by the state land use control agency, the APA.

Grasping control over the distribution of tons of money is a special form of pleasure for government officials. At the same time, the environmentalists know that the key to the success of their goal to restore the Adirondacks to pre-Colonial wilderness is to own the land. If the largest state acquisition in this century is endorsed by local officials, this “common ground” with environmentalists will be another nail in the coffin of the Adirondack people and culture.

Carol W. LaGrasse, President, Property Rights

Foundation of America, Inc., Stony Creek

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