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Property Rights Foundation of America®
Founded 1994

The Glossary
Environmental Repression
As Applied by the Adirondack Preservationists

Includes legitimate terms as well as pseudoenvironmental jargon and definitions of some handy new terms invented by preservationists to create a quasilegal credibility for environmental repression.

The Glossary draws mainly from examples used in New York's Adirondacks, with the buzz words, phrases, methods and coined ideas appearing in environmental campaigns all over the country.


Back Country — A new "zone" created illegally by the Adirondack Park Agency to regulate 86 percent of the private land in the Adirondack "Park" out of practical use. The new category, created by combining the 42-acre per dwelling resource management and the 8.3-acre per dwelling rural use land, is falsely portrayed as primeval wilderness when advocates of the passage of new legislation are speaking outside the Adirondacks. But much of the so-called back country has been developed as rural communities spread out over the countryside for 150 to 200 years.

Biodiversity — A term used by environmentalists to consider the number of different species and the number of individual biological organisms in an area. Like the criteria for wetlands evaluation, it has the potential of being onerously expensive to the landowner to hire consultants, and may be the source of arbitrary, sophisticated restraints on the property owner. Not legal for the Adirondack Park Agency to include in review considerations at present, but Governor Mario Cuomo's Adirondack Park bill would add it to permit considerations. A national buzzword utilized in land acquisition schemes.

Biosphere Reserve — This designation is a form of environmental "recognition" bestowed on a local region by the United Nations. With such a designation, the Adirondacks — as part of the Adirondack-Champlain Biosphere Reserve — became the increasing target of national and international pressure to take away private property and supersede local government with State and Federal management. Official pronouncements aver that the biosphere reserve program is an educational and scientific one, and that people and land together is the goal, but in reality the program works to create more restrictions and pressures to take private property. It is based on an ever-expanding "core" that gobbles up surrounding transition zones as they are restored to pristine condition.

Buildout — So-called "buildout" is the most extreme example of the "effect" of cumulative impact. Environmental preservationists harp on the fear of "buildout" by citing seemingly astronomical population figures for the future of the Adirondacks. "Buildout" means that the impact of zoning is evaluated in terms of "what if" every available parcel were built on to the maximum density allowed by law. Of course, nothing remotely resembling buildout in the overall ever happens, even in New York City.

"Buildout" is also used to distort predictions for the impact of proposed legislation, by stating that large numbers of people can still live in the Adirondacks under the legislation that would move them all into small areas where population supposedly could be concentrated nearly limitlessly. Audubon Society president Peter A. A. Berle claims that under legislation he proposed there will be room for plenty of people in the Adirondacks. Their living space would be not quite congenial, however, — crowded hamlets instead of out in the country in the woods that the people have lived in for centuries.

The Adirondack Park Agency is especially concerned about "buildout" on shorelines and roadsides because of "visibility," and denies permits when the law would allow lakeside lots. The Agency is considering establishing a formal method of limiting "buildout" along shorefronts on the basis of "lake carrying capacity." This would require legislation.

Charismatic Megafauna — A word coined by environmentalists for a rare creature such as the panda, or in the U.S. the spotted owl, that is appealing enough to exploit to whip up a national panic and raise a lot of money for environmental groups to save a "habitat" from "commercial despoilment." The idea is that it's nice to find a wolf or owl, and not have to rely on a moth or snail darter to get the government out against some building project or land use, because with a charismatic megafauna you have the public behind you.

Clustering — Arranging houses so that most of them are close together and the largest part of a lot is undisturbed. The Adirondack Park Agency demands that landowners crowd the houses together as a condition of permit approval, even though the law doesn't require clustering. The Agency rejected a project on Butler Lake in Herkimer County recently because the applicant would not put the 18 houses in one area of the 528-acre parcel. The owner said that clustering is not marketable.

Cultural Genocide — The term we coined describes the ultimate goal of the preservationists represented by the Twenty-First Century Commission report to Governor Mario Cuomo and organizations like the Adirondack Council, Sierra Club, Audubon Society and others to wipe out the land-based, independent, self-sufficient, community-oriented culture of the Adirondack Mountains. The proposals to debase and overwhelm town government, take away private land, and — perhaps worst of all, culturally — make everyone's houses invisible from roads and shores except in "hamlets" would effectively wipe out the culture of the Adirondack people.

Someday the people conspiring to displace rural people from their historic homelands will be recognized as criminals. Cultural genocide is a natural corollary of deep ecology and the animal rights movement, where people are devalued to a status equal or lesser than animals.

Cumulative Impact — A line of reasoning created by the Adirondack Park Agency to add illegal restrictions to private property in addition to the onerous regulations already in the Adirondack Park Agency Law, Wetlands law, Scenic and Wild Rivers law and so on. An environmental professor from Cornell University said that cumulative impacts had to be controlled because they are "individually minor but collectively significant actions taking place over a period of time."

"Cumulative impact" is one of the favorite new phrases of environmental preservationists. In practice they use the phrase to justify the critique of the environmental impact of a small project in terms of "what if" it were repeated over a larger area. Usually the critique is quite hypothetical.

Even if the application for permission to build is for something perfectly legal, the Agency will consider "what if" a few landowners nearby wanted to do something with their own property which were also legal. If cumulative impact is considered, the Agency would then deny the permit based on the accumulated effects of all the actions taking place, even though the Agency already has an overall land-use map tying all the parcels together and allotting each parcel its meagre development rights. In this way, the Adirondacks would be protected from what the professor said it suffers from most, "nibbling," development a few acres at a time. The Agency would like to formalize this concept into new Adirondack Park law.

Detrimental Reliance — When a person asks the Adirondack Park Agency a question and gets a wrong answer, then goes out and spends money on that basis before discovering the right answer. For sixteen years, Fitzgerald and McConnell of Chestertown in the Adirondacks relied on the Agency's incorrect answer to their letter. In 1991, when they came to sell the property they bought on the basis of the letter, they discovered its value was one-quarter, of they expected (or $300,000). They went to the Agency to make up for their loss and the Agency claimed that their advice didn't count because it was not an official ruling. Later the Agency made a concession to the investors minimizing their loss.

Easement — An easement is a deed to part of the value of a parcel of land, such as the right to put an electric line through, build on the land, or cut lumber. The State and groups like The Nature Conservancy buy conservation easements to prevent development and keep the land natural or "wild." An easement can be taken by eminent domain or first-option-to-buy, even though many local landowners do not realize this threat when easements are proposed in new legislation. Easements can be bought willingly or "willing sellers" can be forced by economics and tax pressures.

Preservationists promote conservation easements as a non-threatening way to acquire the bulk of value of land and "perpetuate the forest industry." But forest industry companies find they need cash flow at times and there is no buyer for their nearly worthless land with the easement encumbrances except the State.

Conservation easements remove about 50 percent to 90 percent of the value of the property, leaving 10 percent to 50 percent to the property owner.

The State acquires features such as recreation rights, development rights and logging rights, sometimes all of them at once, leaving little for the owner. On the other hand, the State may pay a hefty sum for development rights and not buy the right for the public to set foot on the land where the public pays a lot of real estate taxes.

Eco-terrorism of Cultural Landmarks — When outside environmental activists come into an area and destroy the beloved landmarks of the local people to demoralize them and endanger public or private property. Thus tie cables were cut off, two of the four legs and several cross members of the Pharaoh Mountain Fire Tower in the Adirondacks were cut. Although the State Department of Environmental Conservation has the tower slated for destruction against the will of the local people, the Department repaired it temporarily.

Eminent Domain — The State has the power to forcibly take land and houses by eminent domain for the purpose of preserving forests and wilderness. In 1990, the environmental bond act legislation solidified the State's power to take land. The Department of Environmental Conservation claims that eminent domain was only used twice in the Adirondack Park, but there is no way to verify this. How many landowners caved in when the threat was presented?

At present, the Adirondack Park Agency is forcing property owners to forfeit 100-feet wide strips of land to the state by declaring all the land along roads "forever wild" in exchange for being allowed to deed off legal parcels of land in the so-called "back country." Victimized landowners are justifiably calling this "eminent domain."

Endangered Species — The Nature Conservancy has studies all over the U.S. and when needed to arouse public action or stymie a project, the group can dig out a wildlife form such as a moth as in the Clinton Pine Barrens in the Adirondacks to create a panic over "development" threatening the species. The species utilized to create the panic can be merely rare, but be called endangered, or if there is no data about an area, the preservationists can say it is a good place to reintroduce a long-gone endangered species such as the timber wolf as with the high-fevered drive to acquire the Whitney's timber management tract in the section of the Adirondacks that preservationists want to designate "The Bob Marshall Wilderness."

First Option to Buy — This is an agreement in a deed that a party has the first choice to buy a parcel when it is offered for sale. Also called "right of first refusal." It is usually a willing seller agreement, but the "first option to buy" idea took a new turn when Governor Mario Cuomo proposed that the State simply take first option to buy all the parcels of 500 acres and over in the Adirondacks. Landowners of 500 acres or more make up 1,600,000 of the 3 million acres of private land in the Adirondack Park. When land goes for tax sale in the Adirondack Park, the State already has first option to buy, just for the cost of the back taxes.

Footprints — A new word coined by preservationists for little bits of construction and human impact that disturb the land only slightly.

GIS (Geographic Information Systems) — Computerized "resource inventories" of everything from "wildlife resources" to "scenic vistas," characterized by valuations using terms as vague as "harmony" or "balance." All the computerized resources attached to the land can be overlayed and interacted using a master coordinate system. Data innocently collected for legitimate governmental purposes such as tax assessment can be applied to regional planning and control by accessing computerized centralized data banks.

Guidelines — These are regulations issued by the Adirondack Park Agency but couched under another term to avoid having to hold public hearings on new regulations. During 1990, while reviewing the North Hudson McDonald's application, the Agency unilaterally issued guidelines for all commercial development along highways in the Adirondack Park. The guidelines include pavement coverage and architecture (exterior building materials and form of building to harmonize with locality), and effect on views, for instance. The word "guidelines" is a smart euphemism for illegally created regulations, semantics used to cover up for not following the State administrative law.

Habitat — The place where a creature lives, including all the room and accoutrements a viable population, whatever that is, of it needs to keep on going. Routinely distorted by environmentalists to exaggerate the space requirements, the degree of pristineness and the degree of isolation from people, "habitat" requirements are a very effective aspect of utilizing the endangered species issue to keep land away from private use.

Hard-edged Hamlet — A European situation misapplied to the American countryside by preservationists who want to herd rural people into little ghettos. This is a favorite term of professional planners who harken back to the layout of land in medieval Europe with little walled villages and open fields of grain and pasture in the countryside. In the Twenty-First Century Commission report to Governor Cuomo, George Davis pretended that the Adirondack region fits this pattern and proposed to lock all the people in the little hamlets and zone the area outside for 2,000 acres per house.

Home Rule — Powers reserved to Town and Village government by the home rule clause in the New York State Constitution. The U.S. Constitution reserves powers to the states and individuals if they are not specifically delegated to the federal government: The basic principal of democracy is that home rule brings power to the people.

Housing — The preservationists who want to take the land away from rural people like Adirondackers promise "housing" and other "benefits" in return. The "housing" is not houses like their very own that Adirondackers live in at present, however modest, but government subsidized rentals in crowded hamlets. Adirondackers are independent people who do not want "housing" provided by the government.

Inholders — People who own homes and land inside a national park. Like the residents of the Adirondack "Park," they find their rights as citizens reduced and their local laws superseded by higher laws, in their case, those of the federal government.

Inverse Condemnation — A legal term for condemning property without using eminent domain. It means to zone the property so strictly that the owner is forced to sell to the State. The Governor's Adirondack Park bill is designed to do just that. Inverse condemnation is a violation of the Fifth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.

Mandates — State legislated services implemented locally, with the cost borne by the local taxpayer through the real estate taxes. For example, New York State requires a $1 million landfill closure cap for a small town, Stony Creek (pop. 600) in the Adirondacks. Mandates can bankrupt towns. The average cost of New York State mandates to counties is about 75 percent of the entire county budget.

A new federal mandate requiring water filtration may bankrupt towns and small resorts.

State mandates have the potential to cause property to go to the State via sellers looking for tax relief, or the property may go through tax foreclosures.

Monkeywrenching — A tactic whereby the private property of loggers and others who make their living in relationship to the land is vandalized. The logger may have his life savings tied up in the equipment, which is rendered inoperable. Earth First activists practiced this on the West Coast. Spikes were driven into trees, endangering mill operators when logs are sawn.

Non-Jurisdiction — The flicker of hope of anyone who lives under a regional planning agency. A letter of non-jurisdiction is something impossible to get promptly from the Adirondack Park Agency. Now that one-acre wetlands come under the Agency, very few projects escape review. Even if the Agency has no jurisdiction, projects and property sales are held up interminably because the Agency abhors stating in black and white that it has no jurisdiction.

Offsets — The State may require that an applicant give something in return for granting the applicant the desired permit. For instance, the State allowed the Iroquois Gas Transmission System to go through forest management lands illegally in exchange for the utility buying and donating land in the Adirondacks to the State. A spokesman for Conservation Commissioner Thomas Jorling said that the Commissioner wanted a utility to donate forest land to the State to balance the loss of rain forest in the Amazon. Offsets are probably illegal, as reflected in the U.S. Supreme Court Nollan decision. The Iroquois Gas pipeline is not being revealed to be an environmental desecration all along its route.

Open Space — A new term used to falsely describe all of the 86 percent of private land in the Adirondack Park which is classified in the Adirondack Park Agency Law as Resource Management and Rural Use. In this way, when discussing new legislation like the Twenty-First Commission proposals or programs like the United Nation's biosphere reserve designations, proponents make it falsely sound like few people will be affected, because supposedly it is all wilderness and no houses. (See "back country.")

Permit Conditions — Acting extralegally, the Adirondack Park Agency imposes conditions on applicants rather than simply giving them the permit they are entitled to by law. Permit conditions may be to do a very expensive survey of biological and historical resources, or to give the State a "forever wild" encumbrance of 100 feet all along the roadway, or to cluster houses, all of which the Agency is not empowered to require under the Adirondack Park Agency Law. The use of this type of extra-legal permit conditions is in violation of administrative law, in that regulations are imposed for which there actually are no regulations, and is in violation of court precedent under the U.S. Supreme Court Nollan case.

Preservationists — People who are one step to the extreme from environmentalists, who advocate that people live in harmony with nature. Both groups are more radical than old-time conservationists, who stood for the sustainable use of the earth's resources. The preservationist advocates that vast areas of land be preserved outside the use of human beings. Preservationists specifically advocate that land they care about that has had human influence be restored to a natural state or wilderness. The preservationist carries to the extreme the 19th century vision, "In wilderness is the preservation of the world." People are not only missing at the center of their world vision, but the constitutional rights of people may be trampled on for the good of the natural world they want to see. The preservationist's world may be envisioned under a form of government very reminiscent of a classical socialist state, although works like "Socialist" and "communism" are carefully avoided in public presentation

Reclamation of Water Bodies — New York State Department of Environmental Conservation applies the pesticide Rotenone to ponds to eliminate fish species considered undesirable. All the fish in the pond including perch, smelt, salmon, and bullhead are killed. The treatment is followed by restocking with species such as the heritage strain of trout. Another goal of "reclamation" has been to protect salmon breeding areas.

A number of environmentalists have been arrested trying to block the poisoning of ponds in this way. Groups like Earth First take direct action while Legal Action for Animals went to court, so far unsuccessfully, to stop the pond reclamation. Earth First members were also arrested protesting the application of lampricide to the Boquet River, which feeds Lake Champlain.

Red Lining — Bank policy not to loan for new business and residences in certain geographic areas. Originally applied to ghetto slums, redlining came into areas slated for State acquisition like New York's Adirondacks.

Reserve Easement — This type of easement allows the property owner to keep only that part of the value of the land that is specified. When the owner sells the easement to the federal government, which is going to use this type of easement for its new Forest Legacy land acquisition program in the 26 million-acre Northern Forest Lands, the owner specifies that he wants to keep timbering rights, for instance. If he forgets to reserve the camping or hunting rights, he is left with no more right than the members of the public. In an ordinary easement, the buyer specifies what he takes and the property owner is left with all the rest. It will be very easy, once the federal government takes the easement, for the state or federal government to come up with the pittance to buy what remains when the property owner cannot find another buyer.

Scenic Vista — The view.

Subdivision — Anyplace except in the Adirondack Park this means a new breakup of a large parcel of land into smaller plots. In the Adirondacks, the Adirondack Park Agency created a new definition that where one owner buys several adjacent parcels and wants to sell them separately he has to apply for a permit to subdivide them. Niagara Mohawk Power Corporation had to spend thousands of dollars to dispose of old parcels to the tenants because the Agency required that it create a major management plan when the Agency declared it had jurisdiction of the "cumulative impact" of the many parcels in the Ni Mo "subdivision."

Superagency — Governor Mario Cuomo's Twenty-First Century Commission report recommends sinister efficiencies for government of the Adirondack Region. Among these special forms of government for the Adirondacks, were a dual superagency combining the functions of the Adirondack Park and the Department of Environmental Conservation, plus some of the functions of the Department of Health.

Called the Adirondack Park Administration as it carried out its all-pervasive functions to regulate private and public land, it would reign in Ray Brook alongside a new agency ominously called the Adirondack Park Service which would absorb much of the function of DEC over State lands. Combined and coordinated, the duel agency would run the Adirondack Park, effectively controlling the lives and property of the 130,000 residents in the 110 towns and villages.

The plans include other changes in government structure that would remove many powers from town jurisdiction and shift them to county and state control. Cemeteries would be shifted out of town control, even.

The State and its duel-named superagency would have a further level of efficiency unmatched anywhere in the state because every other state agency from the State Police to BOCES school programs would reorganize its administrative system so that each agency would have one zone exclusively for the Adirondacks, effectively isolating the region.

Many aspects of the superagency can be accomplished without legislation. The Governor's Park bill has some aspects of the proposal.

Transferable Development Rights — A concept in the Twenty-First Century Commission report to Governor Cuomo that was discredited for its ramifications on tax assessment and title searching, but which is still advocated elsewhere in the U.S.

Owners could sell transferable development rights separately from the land. The rights would be lifted from land in "back country" and be allowed to be used in the small percentage of private land where construction would be allowed. The State could also act as a buyer of last resort.

Transitional Assessment — A real estate tax term that must be understood because it applies in many of the Adirondack and Catskill towns where the State owns much of the land. If the transitional assessment is dropped in certain towns, private taxes would double, with devastating results.

When the State started assessing its own land in 1962 and dropped the value of what it owns, a State law protected local towns from a big tax shift with a fill-in assessment called "transitional" to keep the State's assessment where it was, The transitional assessment was supposed to be phased out by two percent yearly but was kept, and when the Adirondack Park Agency Law came in, a compromise was struck to make the law more bearable. Considering that the restrictions in the law would restrict the local economy, the transitional assessment was considered to become permanent as part of a gentlemen's agreement.

The transitional assessment costs the State about $7 million yearly by the State's figures, but no one has independently calculated the real cost, which could be less, considering that the State's land has not been adequately assessed by local assessors.

Governor Mario Cuomo has tried to drop the transitional assessment in his budget for four years. The New York State Department of Equalization and Assessment played with the equalization rate formula in 1990, changing the application of the transitional assessment, and causing a big jump in taxes in some localities of from 50 percent to 70 percent.

Travel Corridors — Preservationists believe that people's houses are eyesores that must be invisible from "travel corridors." State, county and even dead-end town roads are potential "travel corridors," as well as waters so shallow as to be "navigable" only by canoe. Recreational values take precedence over families. Their homes and community pride are sacrificed in the face of environmentalists who believe that travelers should see only trees.

The Governor's Twenty-First Century Commission recommended "remediating" houses that could be seen from highways. Berle's Adirondack Park legislation calls for an Adirondack Park Agency permit before conveying any piece of land along shorelines unless in a hamlet. The Governor's Adirondack Park bill calls for Agency jurisdiction and total discretion over approval of any house within 660 ft. of a roadway or shore-front. Regulations could severely affect existing structures.

Viewshed — A new term reminiscent of dictionary words like "watershed." Viewshed means the vista of what a person can see in every direction from a given spot. The regulator can actually inventory the collection of things and the area making up the viewshed. Use of the term "viewshed" enables the regulator to appear rational (and legal, in the case of the Adirondack Park Agency, which has no authority to regulate viewsheds) when restricting the construction of a single family dwelling a mile or more from a "scenic river," etc.

Wilderness — The word "wilderness" has a special meaning in the Adirondacks. Whereas elsewhere in the world and in the dictionary it refers to primeval, untrammeled land where people have made small imprint, in the Adirondacks it is a term which can be trumped up to designate land bought by the State for the forest preserve. Once the State buys the land, if the Adirondack Park Agency decides with the Department of Environmental Conservation to classify it as "wilderness" on the Adirondack Park State Land Master Plan, everything man-made must be removed and a wilderness created.

The State's regulations say that "non-conforming uses resulting from newly classified wilderness areas must be removed as rapidly as possible." Houses are torn or burned down, landmarks destroyed, and even town highways bulldozed away. This effectively creates the scene for the end of the community memory of settlements that once occupied the so-called "wilderness." The Pharaoh Lake Wilderness classification of land in the towns of Schroon and Horicon set the stage for the heated dispute between local Adirondackers and the State and its preservationist allies such as the out-of-state Earth Firsters over the Crane Pond Road and the Pharaoh Mountain Fire Tower, which the State plans to eliminate.

The State master plan places the "highest priority" on acquisitions that allow "primitive areas" (where existing structures can remain) to be "upgraded" to "wilderness" class.

February 1992

Carol W. LaGrasse

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