FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
December 7, 1999
CONTACTS: Carol W. LaGrasse
Madeline Sheila Galvin, Esq.
Galvin & Morgan, Attorneys
ST. LAWRENCE COUNTY VOTES TO JOIN LAWSUIT CHALLENGING STATE ACQUISITION OF CHAMPION INTERNATIONAL LAND
The St. Lawrence County Board of Legislators voted unanimously yesterday to join the lawsuit brought by several Adirondack region residents and hunting club members to challenge the State's $24.9 million acquisition of the Champion International four counties in northwestern New York.
The 139,000-acre acquisition, which was executed on July 1, was the State's largest preservation purchase in history.
In resolving to join the lawsuit, the County legislators officially noted:
that "this Board has on numerous occasions condemned the State of New York for its voluminous land acquisitions within the State,"
that "this Board has been advised that State laws and the State Constitution have been violated by the State of New York in this purchase," and
that "this Board believes that to join this lawsuit would be in the best interests of the citizens of the County of St. Lawrence."
In addition, several hunting clubs existing on borrowed time on Champion lands have decided during the past few weeks to join the lawsuit: Benz Pond Hunting Club, represented by William Manning, president, Potsdam; Azure Mountain Club, represented by Joseph Trivilino, secretary-treasurer, Ogdensburg; and Quebec Brook Hunting Club, represented by Thomas Howard, secretary-treasurer, Lisbon.
The lawsuit is based on the charge that the State violated its own laws in acquiring the Champion lands. "The State failed to abide by the State environmental quality Review Act, requiring social and economic impact analysis of major actions," according to Carol W. LaGrasse, the President of the Stony Creek, N.Y.- based Property Rights Foundation of America, and one of the parties to the lawsuit.
She said that the State is mandating that 298 hunting camps be demolished, but the cultural impact on the traditional hunting community was overlooked. Economic impact on local communities of losing the local year-round recreational business of these hunters and their families was not considered, either. This is especially important because the region is one of low per capita income.
The State also violated the requirement for local approval of the purchases under the 1993 Environmental Trust Fund legislation and the 1996 Clean Water/Clean Air Bond Act. Funds from these sources as well as the 1986 Bond Act were earmarked for the grandiose purchase.
The lawsuit also charges that the purchase violates the "Forever Wild" clause of Article XIV of the State Constitution, which prohibits commercial harvesting of timber on State-owned lands in the Forest Preserve. As part of the purchase, the State has acquired conservation easements in 110,000 acres of the Champion land, where it will allow restricted logging. The way the transaction was structured, the land would revert to the intermediary land trust, the Conservation Fund, if the constitutional challenge were to be brought in the future. Brought within the statute of limitations, this lawsuit, however, seeks to nullify the transaction entirely as well as settle the question before the State acquires hundreds of thousands of acres of easements.