Martens to head Conservation Department?

The Albany Times-Union is reporting that environmental advocate Joe Martens could be Governor-elect Andrew Cuomo’s pick to head New York’s Conservation Department.

According to the newspaper, Martens isn’t a sure-choice, but his name has come up repeatedly during talks over the position.

Martens currently heads the Open Space Institute, which has helped to engineer major land conservation deals in the Adirondack Park.

He also serves as president of the Olympic Regional Development Authority Board, which operates sporting venues in Johnsburg, North Elba and Wilmington.

Despite his work as a conservation leader, he has drawn accolades from some local government leaders in the Park.

Cuomo has begun naming his cabinet and top advisors, but has yet to pick leaders for the DEC or the Adirondack Park Agency.

The DEC was hit hard by lay-offs and cutbacks over the last year and was rocked in October by the firing of commissioner Peter Grannis.

36 Comments on “Martens to head Conservation Department?”

  1. Brian says:

    What? No Michael Foxman or Sandy Lewis? Outrageous!

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  2. Brian says:

    (And for what it’s worth, I believe Mr. Grannis’ actual name was Alexander B. I assume “Pete” was his nickname.)

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  3. Bret4207 says:

    Why are the heads of DEC always “environmental advocates”? Why not someone form another field, any other field?

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  4. phahn50 says:

    Bret – wouldnt you want someone who was knowledgeable and interested in the field? I suppose if you were a republican you could appoint a natural resource exploitation expert. Someone to make money out of the state land holdings. But the head of the DEC essentially is a state parks commissioner, not a resource management director.

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  5. Brian says:

    So Bret wonders why they always pick someone knowledgeable about environmental conservation to head the Department of Environmental Conservation. Hmm… it baffles me too.

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  6. Myown says:

    And why do they always pick an economic development advocate for economic development positions? What’s up with that. :-)

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  7. phahn50 says:

    Brian – a new administration is a time for optimism and hope. And it is the holiday season – also a time for hope and joy, not wondering why they didnt pick Michael Foxman for DEC commissioner (he may still get the job).

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  8. Brian says:

    phahn: I assume you know my suggestion was tongue in cheek.

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  9. phahn50 says:

    Brian – so was mine ;)

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  10. Bret4207 says:

    Wow. You guys sure told me.

    Okay, so now maybe you residents geniuses can READ what I wrote, “Why are the heads of DEC always “environmental advocates”?” Environmental advocate does not translate to environmental CONSERVATION. Conservation and advocacy have little to do with each other. My question is why pick activists and advocates ( 2 forms of the same creature) instead of someone who doens’t come in with an agenda already in mind? I’m sure there are any number of qualified people who are far more unbiased in their views than an environmental advocate. All this does is further politicize something that needs far less political input.

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  11. phahn50 says:

    Bret – you want your commissioner to be an advocate for the department. The Governor makes the decisions etc but the … Most environmental advocates advocate for conservation, so Im not sure what else you want. During the Pataki administration the SUNY board of trustees and Chancellor advocated for budget DECREASES. That was an anomaly, but it was carrying out the wishes of the governor (or more correctly his coalition supporters).

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  12. Mervel says:

    What is the DEC supposed to do?

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  13. Brian says:

    “Conservation and advocacy have little to do with each other. ”

    Most people think it’s sensible that the DEC head be an ADVOCATE for CONSERVATION. The Department of Environmental Conservation head SHOULD have an agenda in favor of environmental conservation. Just as an economic development head should have an agenda in favor economic development. That’s how a governor balances competing interests, by giving them each a voice… though I realize balance is not what you want.

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  14. Mervel says:

    Here is the mission:

    Mission: “To conserve, improve and protect New York’s natural resources and environment and to prevent, abate and control water, land and air pollution, in order to enhance the health, safety and welfare of the people of the state and their overall economic and social well-being.”

    DEC’s goal is to achieve this mission through the simultaneous pursuit of environmental quality, public health, economic prosperity and social well-being, including environmental justice and the empowerment of individuals to participate in environmental decisions that affect their lives.

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  15. Mervel says:

    I think it is a badly written mission and goal and it is no wonder no one really knows what the DEC is really supposed to do on a day to day basis. Why not just give it to the DOH, social well being? What kind of junk is that? It supposed to protect the environment of NYS.

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  16. Bret4207 says:

    No Brian, balance IS what I desire. Instead we get activists whose desire is a furtherance of their agenda, in this case environmental preservation as opposed to conservation. The head of DEC should not, for instance, be anti- hunting/fishing/trapping/snowmobile, etc. But we’ve had people who were just that recently. If anything we should look for people with a broader background than just being an environmental activist or heading up an activist group.

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  17. oa says:

    That guy who owns the mining company that killed all the miners in Utah would be perfect for this job, or at least Labor Commissioner.

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  18. Mervel says:

    Labor for him.

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  19. John says:

    You guys are confusing Conservation Programs with Conservation INVESTMENT Programs. There’s a big difference. Conservation implies good stewardship, which private landowners provide, and the state is incapable of providing.

    Conservation INVESTMENT programs, on the other hand, are designed to support large non-profit investment, and the only way that happens is when the state buys land from the non-profit (and hence destroys traditional economic resources, and reduces stewardship through neglect).

    I’m all for conservation, but am adamantly opposed to large scale conservation investment and state ownership.

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  20. phahn50 says:

    Im in favor of the state buying up as much large scale land tracts as possible for recreation purposes – a very traditional economic resource.

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  21. Mervel says:

    Me too.

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  22. Pete Klein says:

    Most of the above is quibbling with words and their similar/dissimilar meanings. A rose by any other name is still a rose.
    You could rename the DEC to the Department of Environmental Stewardship and still end up with the same agency we now have. Same would go for the Department of Environmental Protection.
    I suppose you could call it the Department of Environmental Destruction and that might satisfy some. After all, this is what was happening before the state began to pick up chunks of land after the Lumber Robber Barons raped the land, then defaulted on paying the taxes because, as far as they were concerned, the land wasn’t worth anything.

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  23. scratchy says:

    I think Bret may have somewhat of a point. There are many qualified individuals with scientific backgrounds for the DEC position who are not affiliated with any activist organizations. Of course, non-partisan individuals are always less likely to be appointed to government positions than individuals with more partisan backgrounds.

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  24. Bret4207 says:

    If the citizens of NYS were to have the chance to vote on land acquisition I could see it. If NYS would refuse to pay taxes on that land it would make more sense too. After all, where is the sense in taxing the people to pay the taxes on land owned by the people? It’s a net loss anyway you look at it. I’d also like to see a Proposition for selling off State forest lands, but that’s just me, the guy that doens’t see any sense in the State owning lands it can’t afford.

    As for the rest, the head of DEC or APA or any other agency shouldn’t be an activist one way or the other. We’ll never get a completely unbiased person, but putting an activist in charge of an agency is just wrong.

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  25. Pete Klein says:

    Actually, the Federal government owns all the land in the USA and allows the states to own all the land within each state so that they may collect the property tax. The states in turn allow the counties, towns and schools to collect the tax so they may have funds to operate. This all gets a little confusing but the so called property tax is in actuality a rent you pay on the land to the Federal government via schools, towns, counties and the state.
    If you think about it, it sort of makes sense, especially since it was the only revenue the various levels of government had before the introduction of income and sales taxes.

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  26. Myown says:

    So according to Bret, an economic advocate/activist such as a member of the Chamber of Commerce or business owner should be disqualified from an agency economic development position because they would be too biased.

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  27. Bret4207 says:

    If they are an activist, that is they espouse or display a mindset that indicates they have a clear bias that could affect their performance as a fair and impartial head of the agency in question, then yes. We don’t put people in charge of agencies that have a conflict of interest, or at least we say we don’t. Look at all the Goldman-Sachs guys that wound up in charge of our current economic mess, yet GS seems to be weathering and benefiting things rather well. Same thing with environmental advocates in charge of an agency like DEC,

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  28. mervel says:

    I think in other smaller or rural states you may want a technocrat to run the DEC, someone who just gets the job done and knows how to do what the DEC is supposed to do.

    However I think Albany is too big and there is too much money involved, the leaders of these divisions, be it the DOH or OCFS or Agriculture have to get in there and advocate for their department, we are talking millions and millions of dollars; it is more important that they know the political ins and outs than it is that they know the details of their department.

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  29. Bret4207 says:

    Oh good Lord! I disagree completely. That’s part of what got us where we are today.

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  30. Mervel says:

    The department without the best political leader dies withers and is de-funded. I am not saying I agree with the system; but given the system you need men and women who can work the system for the department.

    What got us here today is rampant corruption, eastern elitism and a belief that government is a good solution for many of our problems. Government always serves the powerful. Anyway be that as it may if you care about the DEC you will want a political player in charge.

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  31. Bret4207 says:

    With respect Mervel, if we keep putting political hacks in charge we’ll be the ones withering and dieing, not them or their dept’s.

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  32. mervel says:

    Hahah, good point.

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  33. oa says:

    Exactly. Put somebody who wants to cut state pensions in charge of the pension fund.

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  34. mervel says:

    Ron Swanson.

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  35. Bret4207 says:

    oa- that last post would meet the definition of trolling you try and apply to me so often.

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  36. oa says:

    Guilty. But it was fun.

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