We must leverage our Adirondack forest preserve revenues more effectively

NCPR reported this week on the fact that local governments in the Adirondacks receive tens of millions of dollars every year from Albany in the form of property tax payments.

The lion’s share of that money — roughly $65 million each year — goes to pay the state’s bill for owning the vast forest preserve.

We cited the example of Newcomb’s Central School district, which receives $2.5 million a year in payments.

Schools and local governments in Hamilton County, population five thousand, receive around $15,000,000 a year in property tax payments.  That’s about $3,000 per year for every man, woman and child in the county.

In exchange for all that money, schools and local governments are required to do almost nothing for the state of New York.  Yes, Hamilton County communities chipped in to help keep the Moose River Plains road system open last summer.

And yes, local governments often help with search and rescues and back country fire-fighting.  But for the most part, this money is all “profit” for Adirondack governments.

I’m not questioning whether the payments are appropriate.  Even now, when the state is $10 billion in the red, it seems fair that taxpayers across the state chip in to help communities within the Park.

After all, our stewardship of these lands comes at a big cost, in terms of lost development potential, isolation, and limits on many kinds of recreation.

But I wonder if we couldn’t use at least some of this money more effectively.

Currently, we eat up all that seed corn every year, pouring it into jobs at town highway departments, county health programs, and big school staffs.

(Sorry, Newcomb, but you’re kind of the poster child for this behavior, with roughly a 3-to-1 pupil-teacher ratio, and a price tag per student of $60,000 per year.)

What if instead of spending up all that money, we set aside, say, ten percent of the state’s forest preserve tax payments to create an investment capital fund?

At current payment levels, this would mean roughly $6-7 million of start-up money added to the kitty every year.  That’s money that would be available for local entrepreneurs, and also for outsiders willing to locate new businesses here.

Locals often complain about the Adirondack Park Agency and its stifling regulations.  But often the bigger hurdle for people wanting to invest here is the lack of capital.

The simple truth is that many banks are leery of putting their money in rural communities, even when someone has a great idea for a new venture.

Just this week, the Adirondack Daily Enterprise reported on two custom ski makers who grew up in the Adirondacks and would like to bring their project home from Connecticut.

If we had a pool of money available to help them, the deal might already be done.

The investment pool could also be used to help offset development and design costs for big, complicated projects like the Adirondack Club and Resort.

If developer Michael Foxman could have borrowed $2-3 million to offset the huge expense of designing and permitting such an expansive project, he might have been able to move more quickly.

The money might go to help local broadband initiatives, like the successful public-private partnership in Keene Valley.

And the capital pool could be used to help shore up existing businesses.  If we had a fund ready and available to support the Trudeau Institute in Saranac Lake, it would be a big bargaining chip.

Ideally, this would be an extremely-low-interest revolving fund, which means that we would create jobs and get much of our seed corn back to invest again and again.

(Yes, some of the money would be lost as businesses fail.  That’s part of capitalism and the free market.  Not all the people you bet on will be winners.  But without risk, there’s no reward.)

The truth is that Albany probably isn’t going to keep making these big property tax payments forever.  Political pressure to cap or even cut the payments has been growing for awhile.

Governor Mario Cuomo played with the idea.  So did Governor George Pataki.  And Governor David Paterson.

We should get a head start on that change, using some of our “free” forest preserve money to invest in future jobs, rather than spending it all up now.

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52 Comments on “We must leverage our Adirondack forest preserve revenues more effectively”

  1. scratchy says:

    You seem to implying that these payments are a giveaway to local governments. If the state didn’t own this land, then private landowners would own it. you don’t think that they wouldn’t be paying property taxes on it? If the state is going to purchase Forest Preserve land, then it needs to cognizant about the impact of taking that land off the property tax rolls.

    As far as capital investment pool, government generally doesn’t do a good job picking winners and losers. Better to use the money to lower taxes or improve services. In truth the money will have to go to pay for skyrocketing pension and employee health care costs.

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  2. Bret4207 says:

    Aren’t there Industrial Development Agencies in every county? I may be mistaken about all counties having them, but I know Newcomb has an industrial development site and I’m pretty sure Franklin Co. had a couple sites. Is there funding available somewhere that could be used for what you have in mind through whatever agency runs those sites Brian?

    Not to get off on a tangent, but you just had an unfunded mandates post. With their tiny populations and poor weather places like Hamilton County are tasked with mandates regarding road conditions that cost more than the norm per capita. Same for educational mandates, like those $12K defibrillators. My point is simply that rural, poor areas suffer more from State and Federal requirements. Isn’t that “free” money (from under assessed property BTW!) sort of a trade off? I’m under no illusions about the realities and I’m sure places like Newcomb, Long Lake, Morehouse, Piercefield, etc. will take it in the shorts one day soon.

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  3. Brian Mann says:

    Scratchy –

    I say explicitly in my post that the payments are fair and appropriate.

    There is no implication to the contrary. But I do acknowledge the very real fact that political pressure to curtail the payments will likely grow.

    You’re right that a very real debate would be needed over how to manage the fund. Who would review applications for investment?

    Who would make decisions, especially if it were a region-wide fund, as opposed to one that operated on a county-by-county or town-by-town basis?

    Those are thorny questions. But I still think it’s better to get some of this money back into the private sector.

    –Brian, NCPR

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  4. Jim says:

    I think the main reason you don’t see any major manufacturing or developments in the Adirondacks is the fact that we are to far from everything and our winters are to severe for most people. Just a thought.

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  5. Something that has puzzled me for a long time… When liberals push for social programs the conservatives cry that it is “government redistributing wealth” but when conservatives push for tax breaks, low/no interest loans, even outright grants from tax dollars to help development, that’s not “redistributing wealth”. I guess it’s a matter of who you’re giving the money to.

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  6. Brian, Why are you pushing the idea that the state is going to stop paying property taxes on its Adirondack holdings, or attempt to scale them back or cap them? The recent lawsuit to stop the payments led to a groundswell of support for them, from various sides, including all sides in the Adirondacks. In the absence of any evidence that state officials are pushing to cut the payments, the notion feels manufactured. My suspicion is, however, that it could convince some state officials the payments were too large if communities were able to put aside 10 or 20 percent toward a business investment account. The truth, in places like Newcomb and elsewhere, is that Adirondack communities are struggling to pay their bills and often are able to provide only low levels of public services. The huge state holdings in towns like Wilmington mean most of the town must stay undeveloped and the tax base is small. These towns don’t have the money to create investment funds, they barely have the money to pay crews to plow the roads.

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  7. Pete Klein says:

    Brian,
    Here you have me siding with Will. I hope you are not suggesting the state shouldn’t pay taxes on the land it owns.
    And oh by the way. It’s not just the 5,000 or so year-round residents in Hamilton County who are helped with the taxes the state pays. The same is true for all towns within the Park.
    Let’s remember all the part-time residents and all the visitors who also benefit. Why do you think all the environmental groups joined with local governments in the fight against the brain dead property tax cap for the state?
    Haven’t you ever heard of the old phrase: Let sleeping dogs lie? Let the dogs in Albany lie – something they are pretty good at doing in more ways than one. If they do decide to activate their cash hungry brains in gear to try something as stupid as capping or even going so far as trying not to pay their taxes up here, I think they would soon find Adirondackers (part-time and full-time) aren’t as easy to walk on as the Native Americans.

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  8. Pete Klein says:

    Oh, one other thought just for fun.
    If the state should prove it is stupid enough to not pay its taxes up here, I think the towns, schools and counties should foreclose on the state and auction of the property to the highest bidder.

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  9. Anonymousness says:

    The state can stop their payments to local governments, when the state allows logging in the forest preserve, and sells of it’s excessive holdings to private timber companies. That’s only fair.

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  10. mervel says:

    I think it is a great idea as long as it didn’t turn into another jobs program for economic development “experts”. The problem of course is as you mention, we spend all of it right now so to even set aside 5% let alone 10% would mean some place would have to cut back. Someone would lose their job or lose some pay and that would be fought. From what I can tell the payments now don’t do much of anything exciting except float the current boat.

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  11. Norbrook says:

    One things that caught my eye was your discussing the school districts. You seem to have fallen into the “unit pricing” line of thought – X students = Y per student spending, with Z staffing. The problem that line of thinking is that small – even tiny – school districts have the same requirements as a large school district. They’re required to have a Superintendent – with all the qualifications. They’re required to offer the same courses – with teachers certified to teach them – and other programs. Unless you’re proposing that we do away with those requirements, then in many ways, those school districts are “stuck” with the costs.

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  12. BRFVolpe says:

    Yes, we can let sleeping dogs lie, and continue to have to resort to short-term RE-ACTIVE band-aids, to stem the bleeding – whether it’s closing prisons, cutting state aid to school districts, or whopping real estate tax increases… and repeat the panic and quick fixes, a couple of times each decade.

    Using our hugest asset – public lands – not unlike reverse mortgages or home equity loans, seems plausible. Leveraging our assets, being PRO-ACTIVE, planning long-term, by towns and counties within the Blue Line, rather than primarily by accountants and lawyers from downstate, within Albany’s chambers, or environmentalists’ high-rises, should be implemented.

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  13. Paul says:

    The concept is fine in theory. But if the potential is there than other investors would already be investing in the area. I am afraid that Jim is right.

    “I think the main reason you don’t see any major manufacturing or developments in the Adirondacks is the fact that we are to far from everything and our winters are to severe for most people.”

    The only commercial potential that I see is in some level of exploitation of the natural resources of the area. The Mountains and the Lakes for tourism in a way that generates some real dollars. But they are all pretty much tied up in the Forest Preserve or encumbered by easements that protect them from real tourist development development. The plan to turn the Adirondacks into a PARK is right on schedule.

    Brian, BTW about 9 out of 10 of them will fail? The state doesn’t have the stomach for venture capital investments.

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  14. Myown says:

    It’s time again to consolidate small school districts and towns. The Newcomb school district is an example and so is the town of Morehouse in Hamilton co. According to the 2000 census Morehouse had 151 people. The State is an absentee landowner that doesn’t vote in local elections – similar to many seasonal residents. We need to show them their property taxes are being spent wisely and effectively.

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  15. Brian says:

    I’m checking in on the road from Plattsburgh, where Laurentian Aerospace is citing the zero-interest government financing as their eason for bringing hundreds of jobs to the North Country.

    So I think discounting the role that this kind of fund might have, because governments “can’t pick winners,” is a bit premature.

    To Will’s point: You may well be right. It may be that Albany will continue to pay this money indefinitely.

    But everyone I talk to says they’re worried. And others have pointed out to me that every governor since George Pataki has tried to scale back these payments — with the exception of Eliot Spitzer.

    So maybe this money will always flow. I’d like to think so. But as someone who considers myself a fiscal conservative, I wouldn’t urge anyone planning for our future to count on it.

    Brian, NCPR

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  16. Paul says:

    Brian, I think you are right to be concerned. The state can’t afford to make these payments. Sooner or later (maybe sooner if you listen to the Lt. Governor’s latest predictions) the bottom is going to fall out of the tub. 60,000 per student that is totally unsustainable and outrageous.

    Myown is probably right. The consolidations should continue it will be easier to close them down once there are fewer left.

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  17. scratchy says:

    Brian Mann,
    Sorry if i mischaracterized your view on the forest preserve revenue.

    Overall, some interesting comments. Very rural areas have difficult time achieving economies of scale and efficiently complying with state mandates, which is why per person/per pupil spending is often so high. Not to sound like a broken record, but most of these state mandates are conceived by NYC lawmakers who have no idea what life is like in rural areas and the impact these mandates have on such areas. Consolidating rural school districts may not always a good idea as children could have bus rides that last several hours.

    With respect to the capital fund, the Plattsburgh jobs haven’t arrived yet and remember the Pfizer debacle? Of course, the government occasionally gets things right with these type of programs, but remember how Empire Zone credits went to retailers, law firms, & even Carl Paladino’s company, many of which failed to create jobs? Sorry, but I happen to believe that the primary purpose of government should be to provide efficient, effective, & affordable services & not to fund the private sector.

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  18. Paul says:

    If the tax payments cannot be made the land must be given to the municipality that is owed the back taxes right? Then they sell it to the highest bidder in the tax sale. That might not be such a bad thing. Towns like Newcomb might actually get their futures back.

    I know that this sounds harsh but the reality is that this policy has always been unsustainable.

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  19. Paul says:

    I know that article 14 does not allow the state to SELL forest preserve land but can’t they lose it for failure to pay taxes?

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  20. Brian says:

    As I reported this week, one major state agency — the Hudson River Black River Regulating District — has already stopped paying property taxes in the Adirondacks because of its own fiscal crisis.

    Local governments and school districts are exploring their options for legal action, etc.

    But the people I talk to who know this issue well are not convinced that the state is legally required to pay full property taxes on its holdings in the Park.

    This appears to be a social contract, a political arrangement, but not a legally binding requirement. (This is probably something that would have to be tested in court, ultimately.)

    I want to say one last time before checking out to head off on an assignment, that I think the state SHOULD keeping making these payments.

    I think it’s a fair and equitable form of compensation, given the restrictions placed on forest preserve land.

    Honestly, I wish more of the conversation here had revolved around the question of how we should spend the proceeds from those taxes, rather than the question of whether the taxes are going to keep flowing.

    I should have focused my argument more carefully to say, simply, I think we could probably use some of that money more effectively to boost the private sector.

    Have a good weekend everybody,

    –Brian, NCPR

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  21. Paul says:

    Brian fair enough. I don’t think you can call it “fiscally conservative” to think that some percentage of these funds should be spent on a very highly risky strategy of venture financing in an area with very low potential for commercial success. If the state (or the towns) can afford to spend 10 or 20 percent of these funds on an almost certain loss of the money they didn’t need the money in the first place. But the idea is interesting on face. How to attract real investment in the area that is the billion dollar question. Have a good weekend.

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  22. ADKoldtimer says:

    I’m ashamed to read that many of my fellow Adirondackers are so willing to auction this magnificent landscape to private developers and logging companies, rather than thinking more critically about the many ways in which local municipalities currently mismanage the state funds.

    Cheers to Brian for raising the issue of how we could better use this well-deserved money.

    The suggestion that we let sleeping dogs lie, to me sounds like someone is afraid of the inefficiencies and corruptions in our local budgets that may be uncovered if and when they are scrutinized more carefully.

    Hope my comment ruffled a few feathers, as progress often does not come without resistance.

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  23. Pete Klein says:

    This is getting a bit exasperating.
    Consolidation is always brought up as the great solution for all of the problems of the towns and schools. With schools I would simply ask – how many hours and miles should be spent in transporting students to and from schools?
    For the towns you have a similar problem, although you could do something like was done years ago in NYC. To explain using Hamilton County as an example, you could eliminate all the towns and just have county government. In case you didn’t know, the Bronx is also Bronx County. Brooklyn is Kings County. Actually, the quickest experiment could start with the highway departments. In theory, the county highway departments could move to eliminate and consume all the town highway departments. This would be a logical first step.
    But to be fair. Does anyone want to be fair? Why not have the state and federal governments lead by example and start consolidating all of their thousands of departments. Do we really need the state police? How many branches of law enforcement do we need?
    What we have here coming from the state and federal governments is the old “Do as I say, not as I do.” This is what everyone is sick of.
    Our layers of government behave like the Catholic Church which condemns homosexuality but protects all of its gay priests.

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  24. George Nagle says:

    This is way off topic but it deserves mention.

    Pete Klein writes “Our layers of government behave like the Catholic Church which condemns homosexuality but protects all of its gay priests.”

    The Roman Catholic Church has no problem with priests being gay. The horrendous scandal is with pedophile priests and especially those known to their bishops as pedophiles whom the bishops fail to discipline, remove from contact with children, and report to civil authorities.

    Gay persons are no more likely to be pedophiles than are heterosexuals.

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  25. knuckleheadedliberal says:

    I think the Hudson/Black River Regulatory District problem is slightly different, not a good example.

    Still I largely agree with Brian M that there should be funds to help small businesses within the Park with capital. I would like to see a different model than the traditional EDC’s though. I believe a revolving fund with very low interest rates that would help provide micro loans would be far more productive. I wouldn’t limit those loans to job creation either; some of that money could be used to help pay for installing a new furnace, roof, or painting a private house. Maybe pay a third of the cost of an improvement. A fund that provided small direct loans to private homeowners would help everyone–lumberyards, contractors, of course the homeowner. It would also improve the housing stock within the Park, improve the tax base, and create a better more prosperous appearance for tourists and people who might decide to come live here.

    As someone who has a land-line at home, a land-line at my business and a
    cell phone that doesn’t work at my house or most of the places I drive to within the Adirondacks I am interested that Brian could check-in from the road. There are thousands of us who could save hundreds of dollars a year if cell phone companies would provide us service.

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  26. Bret4207 says:

    Perhaps instead of “funding” things, we should change regulations, fee’s and permits, and work towards enhancing the atmosphere for business to prosper in the North Country.

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  27. Barbara says:

    First of all, I have really enjoyed the excellent commentary–none of which was inflammatory, and I always enjoy Brian responding.

    Second of all, I have a suggestion and an observation I’d like to submit:
    My first is an out-of-the-box but might be a thought-starter:
    Perhaps we barter with the state – and they provide college scholarships to state colleges and universities to all students in the park.

    The second is an observation – while I recognize the impact second homes have on increasing the price of homes in the park, they also don’t tax the system for schools, minimally for hospitals, etc. Often their homes are the more expensive ones, thus more tax dollars from each of them. That, too, provides incremental resources to the towns.

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  28. Peter H. says:

    I hate to say it, but I think we may be facing a “new normal” with the current economic conditions, but I hope not. I also think that it is highly likely the state will default on property tax payments, and this will be devastating to the communities whose boundaries include so much Forest Preserve land. I am nearly sure that the the property tax payments are not a “social contract”, but are required under law. The communities had a right to veto Forest Preserve acquisitions, but did not do so because they were promised payments.

    These lands were valuable and productive forestlands, and they generated enormous revenues. All of the traditional economic resources were forfeited in the Forest Preserve agreements. Newcomb very specifically benefitted through a relationship with Finch Pruyn, and I seem to recall that the paper company was very generous and paid for many of Newcomb’s infrastructure improvements, like roads, bridges, ball fields, etc. That is type of arrangement has been lost forever.

    So what will the towns do if the state defaults on tax payments? Frankly, I’d like to see the towns EXPROPRIATE the land, and put it to good use, and rebuild the traditional economic resource base, whether it’s through mining, forestry, agriculture, manufacturing, recreational leases, etc. The Adirondacks can not survive on tourism, which is a very fragile industry, and it can not survive on public sector employment.

    The area has abundant renewable natural resources that are locked up in state ownership, and the towns should take ownership of the lands if default occurs. Keep in mind that a lot of Forest Preserve land was acquired by the state when private owners defaulted on their tax payments. Now the tables have turned. It’s time to put together a plan to regain ownership of the lands, rebuild the traditional economic base, and restore the economy.

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  29. Bret4207 says:

    Interesting idea Peter. I’ve thought along the same lines in regard to a sustainable forestry program on all those wooded State acres. The first response I always get is, “You can’t do that! The land is locked into he Forest Preserve in perpetuity”. Well, I disagree. Laws are changed, twisted, circumvented, abolished and stretched all the time. I’m sure there are plenty of smart, well educated lawyers out here who can come up with any number of ways to circumvent existing law. For that matter, bring it to a vote for a change of the NY Constitution or whatever document the Park is documented under.

    I’m sure if the State Government wanted to they could do whatever they wished.

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  30. Pete Klein says:

    To George Nagle,
    Yes, the problem is pedophiles but the Church doesn’t care all that much for gay priests if they are actively gay.
    While I did suggest that if the state were to stop paying its taxes, the towns, schools and counties should foreclose on those properties, I rather doubt forestry or mining companies would bid very much.
    The 1800’s are not coming back to the Adirondacks. Stop dreaming.
    Only developers of second homes would be interested and they might not be all that interested if the taxes were to shoot up to fill the vacancy left by the state.
    Tourism, including second homes, would become the primary economic force in the Adirondacks if the state were to high tail it out.
    If the state were to refuse to pay its taxes, every property owner (rich or poor) and every business would need to pick up the difference.
    On small business investment: it is already here in the county IDAs. There are many programs already in place but with few takers who qualify.
    You can complain all you want about tourism. Many do. Many wish the tourists and second home owners would stay home and just send the money they would have spent if they had come. But that is not about to happen and they are the only reason there is any kind of economy in the Adirondacks. Take the state taxes out of the equation and you put too much pressure on everyone – year-round, seasonal and by extension the tourists. If you think the APA is a problem, you haven’t seen anything like it would be without state tax dollars.
    Forestry? If it weren’t for the state purchasing conservation easements on land owned by timber products companies and thereby paying part of their taxes, you could lose them too.
    Again, stop dreaming.

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  31. oa says:

    “The Roman Catholic Church has no problem with priests being gay.”
    http://www.cathnewsusa.com/article.aspx?aeid=13552

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  32. Myown says:

    Peter and Bret,
    I agree with Pete – you are dreaming. If somehow all the Forest Preserve went to private ownership it would not magically fix the economic problems. If private ownership was the answer, all the rural towns outside the Park with no Forest Preserve would be doing much better than towns in the Park, and that isn’t the case. What makes you think timber companies would rush to buy state land – they have mostly been interested in selling. You can’t just say let’s log the Forest Preserve and expect it to be profitable. The glut of timber would depress market prices and lower land values.

    Like it or not, we live in a State Park. We need creative solutions that capitalize on that fact and look forward not backward.

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  33. knuckleheadedliberal says:

    The greatest value of having untouched forests will not come in our lifetime. The value of having truly wild forests will occur in several generations when we have vast areas that appear to be virgin. I envy those people of the future

    A few hundreds of thousands of acres of Wild Forest will be a gift to future generations, a gift beyond monetary value. The pact must never be broken.

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  34. Mervel says:

    Anyway I have to agree with the Liberal on this one. The value of wild forests is essentially far beyond our life and it is far beyond any monetary value we may currently put on it. The whole POINT of a forest preserve is to preserve the dam forests if that is a problem leave the preserve. I just don’t get it? Yeah we want people to do as well as they can within the preserve and we should look at ways to make that happen.

    But if you want to sell the forest to totally private operations than it is no longer a preserve it is nothing. As the earlier poster said if that would make a difference St. Lawrence County would not be one of the poorest counties in NYS.

    oa your link does not say anything about the topic? They guy was excommunicated because he joined a different church which is cool and there is a name for that we call them Protestants, they protest the Church. Which is all fine and good they are our brothers and sisters in Christ, but they are not Catholic.

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  35. Bret4207 says:

    Uh, I didn’t say get rid of all the State lands. I said consider a sustainable forestry on some of the forestlands. Logging the high peaks was never feasible, so don;t worry about that. But there are tens of thousands of acres that would benefit from a sustainable forestry program. Believe it or not there are very “green” people doing this stuff, often using draft horse power to skid with.

    Your answers indicate you have no knowledge of this subject. S long term program to produce high quality lumber would benefit the locals, the State and the forest.

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  36. Pete Klein says:

    Bret,
    The whole idea behind conservation easements is to open more land for public use while helping the forest products industry log at a profit.
    Scuttlebut has it that the state is close to a deal with TNC to pick up the conservation easement on Finch property, currently being managed by F&W Forestry. This will allow for the snowmobile connector trails between Indian Lake, Newcomb, Long Lake and beyond to become a reality.

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  37. Mervel says:

    How much commercial logging do they do in Yellowstone? Answer zero.

    It is not crazy to deny all logging in a protected forest reserve.

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  38. Bret4207 says:

    No, they don’t log in Yellowstone. That’s part of the reason they had those horrible fires out there a few years back. But, they do log lots of other land owned by the Federal Gov’t. They log National Forests all the time. It’s an option. Seems like the party of “NO” is in full force on this issue.

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  39. knuckleheadedliberal says:

    No Bret. The reason they had those horrible fires was the Forest Services policy of fire suppression for many years. In the natural western eco-system periodic fires burn dead wood and underbrush. These fires tend to burn through quickly leaving many large trees scarred but alive. Fire suppression allows huge amounts of dry dead wood and underbrush to accumulate so that when a fire gets out of control of everything burns.

    BLM and Forest land is logged–often at greater expense to the government than the value the government gets for allowing the logging–but National Parks are not logged as far as I know.

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  40. Bret4207 says:

    Well, loggers from out west claim that a proper system of sustainable logging reduces the build up of fuel on the floor and reduces the chances for conflagrations like we saw in YS. But it sounds like your mind is closed to any but your preconceived notions.

    I’m very surprised that a sustainable forestry program in the Adirondacks draws such responses. But, after thinking about it, why wouldn’t it? You guys have your minds made up and that’s all there is to it!

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  41. knuckleheadedliberal says:

    No Bret. Once again you are trying to put words in my mouth and thoughts in my head. You made a false statement and I corrected you.

    I didn’t say that sustainable logging was bad. In fact I whole-heartedly support sustainable logging in appropriate areas. I am not going to get into a debate about proper forest management practices and what exactly constitutes sustainable forestry. We have plenty of forests here to log forever, with proper practices and assuming that climate change doesn’t ruin the productivity and quality of our woods.

    My point was that places designated as Wild Forest should ALWAYS remain untouched.

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  42. Paul says:

    “My point was that places designated as Wild Forest should ALWAYS remain untouched.”

    knuck, Why? I still have not seen a good argument for this.

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  43. dave says:

    Paul, are you saying you have not seen good arguments for the idea of Forever Wild?

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  44. jeff says:

    It is wrong for the payer of taxes or PILOT to suggest that they won’t pay unless the money is handled in a certain manner. That the recipient chooses to opt for savings accounts etc. is a different story.

    National Forest timber harvesting is nothing like it was 30 years ago. The lands are now wildlands with some consession for harvesting. The allowable harvest is tremendously reduced.

    Ownership of forest land for timber management is not justified under current industrial models where over a 5% rate of return is expected.

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  45. Paul says:

    Dave, Why does forest land in the Adirondacks need to be in state hands, or used for nothing but hiking and looking at to be protected?

    For example some of the larger peaks of the Adirondacks could be used for ski area development and still remain protected, and generate badly needed economic activity.

    Some of the original arguments for the Adirondack Forest Preserve, for example protection of NYC’s water source, have proven to be baseless. At the same time these arguments were being made large wealthy landowners in the Adirondacks supported the idea in an effort to drive up timber prices and the value of their timber holdings at the same time.

    Dave, what are the good arguments? I think that many private tracts of lands in the Adirondacks are far better “protected” than many Forest Preserve parcels.

    Here is a nice example from one of our well protected wilderness areas:

    http://www.saveouradirondacks.org/photo/erosion1.jpg

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  46. knuckleheadedliberal says:

    Paul it is very simple, there is no point to having a wild forest if it is only temporary. Then it isn’t a wild forest.

    Either you can see the value of that or you can’t. If you can’t I feel sorry for you.

    And your link is just silly.
    In a Forever Wild tract there will be forest fires, land slides and avalanches, beaver dams that let go, windstorm blowdowns and erosion due to improperly designed foot trails and herd trails. Trail crews can fix the erosion due to humans and the rest can be left alone.

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  47. Mervel says:

    I agree with you on this one. We need to look at generations down the line. The fact is within the Adirondacks we have the largest stand of old growth, never been logged timber in the Eastern United States, right here in the five ponds wilderness area. There is an intrinsic value in that type of ecosystem.

    I am not against the logging industry at all but having national and state reserves is a different topic.

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  48. Bret4207 says:

    Knuck- if it’s Forever Wild, why do we have trails in there? I’ve hiked much of the trail system years back. Ladders and bridges, dams, washouts and riprapped areas. That’s not Forever Wild. That’s just a handy political term for foot traffic only. And look at the damage done by outdoors enthusiasts who pay nothing to use those lands. Things either need to go one way or the other- either get rid of the trail system, ladders and bridges, dam, and let it be “Forever Wild” or the hiking public should start paying their fair share to make use of this land.

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  49. Mervel says:

    I would not be against getting rid of the trail system as long as the public still had access to the lands on foot.

    Of course what you may end up with is a bunch of unmaintained herd trails which could be even worse.

    I also would be in favor of use fees for hikers.

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  50. Mervel says:

    Now if you could show that ATV’s for example were less damaging than intense hiking I think that ATV’s would be fine. From everything I have seen in the woods and read about however ATV’s are much worse than hiking trails as far as damage goes.

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