Sunday Opinion: Yes to War of 1812, no to Finch, Pruyn deal

Here’ s a quick survey of this weekend’s North Country opinion pages.

Plattsburgh Press-Republican

The Plattsburgh Press-Republican wants a big splash next year as we hit the bicentennial of the War of 1812.

We all know the result of that war. America withstood the invasion and solidified its standing as a nation among nations. We all know that the Battle of Plattsburgh, celebrated locally every Sept. 11, played an immense role in the Americans’ success by proving that a much smaller American force could defeat the juggernaut from the British Isles.

But that victory, in many ways, is one of our best-kept secrets.

The Press-Republican calls this a great opportunity to educate the nation about this conflict, and our region’s role in it — but the paper acknowledges that money for such a celebration could be tight.

Glens Falls Post-Star

The Glens Falls Post-Star, meanwhile, is writing about a more contemporary dust-up, over the future of land acquisitions in the Adirondack Park.

The newspaper has concluded that in a time of budget deficits and state lay-0ffs, purchasing the Finch, Pruyn lands makes no sense.

But at what point does enough access become enough? The state already owns 2.9 million acres of land in the Adirondacks, an area a little smaller than Connecticut.

There are already 2,000 miles of hiking trails – enough to hike from here to Florida and back – by far the most of any area in the United States.

Last week, snowmobilers praised the Finch, Pruyn deal for opening more land for recreation, but the Post-Star suggests that it’s time for sportsmen to pick up more of the tab.

If snowmobilers and outdoorsmen want more recreational opportunities than those that currently exist, they should be willing to pay for those opportunities themselves though land leases and purchases.

Watertown Daily Times

The Watertown Daily Times is looking at the apparent disconnect between voters’ attitudes over taxes and government services.

A new poll found that people prefer program cuts over tax increases, except when it comes to paying for the really expensive stuff, like Social Security, Medicaid, and the military.

Doug Elmendorf, director of the Congressional Budget Office, said:

“The United States faces a fundamental disconnect between the services that people expect the government to provide, particularly in the form of benefits for older Americans, and the tax revenues that people are willing to send to the government to finance those services.”

The Adirondack Daily Enterprise

The Adirondack Daily Enterprise is asking for suggestions for volunteer of the year in the Saranac Lake-Lake Placid-Tupper Lake area.

The Volunteer of the Year should be someone who has made a real, active commitment to helping out in his or her community. It could be someone who seems to always be helping out with one activity or another, someone who has demonstrated unwavering support to just one program for many years, or someone who has made huge contributions in the past year in a single area.

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16 Responses to “Sunday Opinion: Yes to War of 1812, no to Finch, Pruyn deal”

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  1. Alan says:

    The editors of The Plattsburgh Press-Republican should read Alan Taylor’s new history “The Civil War of 1812″ which confirms that the war was a botch plan by a heavily populated young US to take a far less populated Canada from Britain, a fairly successful way to solidify US control of the Mid-West, an opportunity to have both Washington and what became Toronto both see destruction with little or no lasting effect as well as a lesson that good trade and peaceful relations made much more sense. Invasion? No.

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  2. Bret4207 says:

    I have to agree with the Post Star in a sense, but they are targeting the wrong groups. Sportsmen (hunters, fishermen, trappers) already pay outrageous fees for licensing and there are excise taxes on hunting/fishing/trapping goods that most people don’t even know about. The group that needs to start paying is the hikers, canoeists, crosscountry skiers, etc. Those not in possession of a hunting/fishing/trapping license or using a registered ATV/snowmobile/motorboat should have to purchase a land use permit. Sportsmen are the only ones currently paying their way.

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  3. OMG! Once again I’m in agreement with Bret. I proposed a hiking license many years ago in a piece that I wrote for ADIRONDACK magazine (the journal of the Adirondack Mountain Club). I made myself moderately unpopular over the suggestion that, in the High Peaks at least, hikers should be required to have an annual hiking license.

    I made myself even more unpopular with our Canadian and out-of-state friends by suggesting that since they don’t pay taxes that support the Park there should be a higher license fee for them. I noted that Provincial parks charge use fees and they are higher for non-Canadians.

    It wouldn’t popular though. I recall hikes I took in the High Peaks when the folks I met were 75% or more Canadians. When I asked what prompted them to come to the ADKs rather than Algonquin Park or some or their other ones the answer invariably was “Because we can come here for free. We have to pay there”.

    FWIW I a dues paying member of ADK (the Adirondack Mountain Club) and my membership does support the maintenance of the trail system. If you believe in supporting public access and trails I encourage one and all to join ADK.

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  4. Sara says:

    Like Alan, I am reading Taylor’s book on the War of 1812. I can see why Alan might take issue with the word “invasion” in the broader context of the war and its original conception as a U.S. invasion of Canada, but the other thing that comes out of Taylor’s accounting of the War of 1812 is that each front and each battle was a war-within-the-war. The remembrance at Plattsburgh has a unique character as a result, for it was one of the few clear U.S. victories in a war where “winning” was an ever-shifting target.

    As for money being an issue in the effort to commemorate the War, that is unfortunately true. However there are competitive mini grants for tax-exempt organizations to run public programs, offered by the New York Council for the Humanities.

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  5. Pete Klein says:

    As to the last time the British invaded the United States, the Battle of New Orleans is better known than the Battle of Plattsburgh. This is largely due to Johnny Horton taking a little trip in 1814 and the movie, the Buccaneer, staring Yul Brynne as the pirate Jean Lafitte who helped win the Battle of New Orleans.
    Books, movies and songs do a lot to make something well known and popular.
    As to the Post Star, all I can say is more of the same old same old when it comes to the Adirondacks.
    I do find it interesting that the ARISE group is also complaining about the easement deal. Here is a group that solicits money in Hamilton County to help with Big Tupper Ski and then complains when Long Lake and Indian Lake get a good deal for snowmobile trails and other sporting access. Meanwhile we have Lake Placid and North Creek wanting more money for ORDA. I wouldn’t have a problem supporting the wants and needs of Tupper, Lake Placid and North Creek if they would support the folks in Hamilton County.

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  6. Myown says:

    No surprise with the Post Star attitude. And they apparently don’t even know what conservation easements are. From their editorial about the easements, “The money won’t be used to protect the land from unwanted development…”. If they had bothered to read the press release it says, “This agreement protects some of the region’s largest intact and biologically diverse lands from commercial and private land development.

    Nowhere in the Post Star editorial do they mention the recently acquired easements are in the Adirondack PARK and part of a larger effort to connect and expand trails to other communities and existing State lands. They give the impression the easements were for some isolated parcel just for a few snowmobilers.

    They then ask, “But at what point does enough access become enough?” Fair question, and I’ll say it again, we need a Master Plan for the Park that would answer that question.

    Finally, I agree with the concept of user fees. The problem is with practical things like How do you do it? Who will it apply to? How do you enforce it? Will it discourage tourism? Etc. Not saying it can’t be done, but certainly a challenge.

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  7. TomL says:

    I agree with James Bullard on the desirability of a user fee for public lands in the Adirondack Park, with a lower cost for state residents than out-of-state visitors. I would add a free pass for permanent residents within the Blue Line. Of course, there would need to be a legal obligation that New York State use the funds for management of the Adirondack Park state forest lands.

    In the western US, the National Forests require that users purchase a pass to park anywhere within the National Forest. The pass is hung from the car rear-view mirror, like a standard parking pass. No pass, and the ranger writes a ticket. It would be simple to implement, although there would certainly be alot of grumpy letters-to-the-editor from park visitors who want to preserve their New York State taxpayer – subsidized free use of a the park.

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  8. scratchy says:

    A user fee for public lands would hurt tourism and the local economy. At the risk of sounding like a voice in the wilderness, I’m going to make a proposal: rather than creating new fees, the state should reduce its expenses. It’s a simple, simple solution to the problem, yet hardly anyone seems to want to recognize it.

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  9. Paul says:

    scratchy is right. Don’t spend 30 million on easements we don’t need. Those could have been private easements and the land would have been better protected and not have the yearly price tag for taxes and maintenance that NYS can’t afford. The additional land also does not need to be purchased in fee, the Post Star is right on that point. Again, like Myown says easements give all that land ample protection, just take the state out of the picture. There is plenty of land available for tourists and other folks that want public recreational land. The trouble with much of that land is that it is all tied up in Wilderness land that, unlike National Forest land others describe, can’t be used for any recreation that will bring higher tourism income. The constitutional restrictions on the Forest Preserve prevent the type of development (ski areas as an example) that we see out west that drives the economy. Here folks seem to want a “park” that leaves any sort of true economic engine in low gear.

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  10. sratchy says:

    Paul,
    I concur, except for the last part. Sometimes its seems like people want the park’s economic engine to be in reverse or, at best, stuck in neutral.

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  11. Bret4207 says:

    Myown said- “Finally, I agree with the concept of user fees. The problem is with practical things like How do you do it? Who will it apply to? How do you enforce it? Will it discourage tourism? Etc. Not saying it can’t be done, but certainly a challenge.”

    No challenge at all. Apply it just like with a fishing license and have it cost the same as a fishing license, $29.00. (Yes, that is obscene, but that’s what you pay to not catch fish) You go to any place that sells the licenses, provide ID and pay for the license. Anyone under 16 is exempt, active military get a free one, senior citizens get a reduced rate. It get’s enforced just like it works with hunters and fishermen. Out of staters pay more. Will it hurt tourism? In a sense I suppose. It would only apply to State lands and waters for those not in possession of another type of license.

    Look at it this way- you’d only have to have it to use state lands. I am legally bound to have one to use my own property!

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  12. Paul says:

    scratchy, I stand corrected. “low gear” is overly optimistic.

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  13. Walker says:

    Personally, I’m all for keeping our economic engine in low gear! The idea that there is “plenty of land available for tourists and other folks that want public recreational land” seems ill-informed. The St. Regis Canoe Area, Low’s Lake, Lake Lila, and the High Peaks are all packed all through the summer! And those are just the ones I happen to know. We really need another Canoe Area at a minimum. And user fees collected via the hang tag idea sounds pretty workable to me, and unless they were outrageously high, I don’t think they’d keep people away significantly. If the tax averse are going to be running things for a while, DEC is going to need user fees to survive.

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  14. Myown says:

    Fred LeBrun of the Albany Times-Union has a slighlty different view than the Post-Star on the recently acquired conservation easements.
    http://www.timesunion.com/local/article/Trails-connect-the-dots-972356.php

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  15. Paul says:

    Walker,

    The reason these areas are more crowded is because they are the places with decent access. For all these “busy areas” there are ten other places that don’t have any use to speak of. If you improve access to some of these other places you might solve this problem. This 59,000 acre parcel would be added to the list of lightly used areas and won’t fix anything in the High Peaks. Hardly seems worth the tens of millions of dollars.

    “Personally, I’m all for keeping our economic engine in low gear!” Unfortunately lots of folks agree with you on this point.

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  16. Bret4207 says:

    Paul hits the nail dead on the head. Our “park” isn’t set up with easy access to recreation areas, simple as that. We don;t need more land, we need to be able to use the land we have. Common sense.

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