Letters to the Editor, by Carol W. LaGrasse, Daily Gazette, Schenectady, N.Y., December 15, 2000.
Thank you for your editorial on November 21 pointing to important policy issues the state Legislature should address to make the State's wetlands regulation fair to property owners.
It was a victory for property owners that DEC backed down last month on its expansion of jurisdictional wetlands in Saratoga County. DEC's concession to the public outcry over its overzealous re-mapping demonstrates the effectiveness of ordinary citizens who stand together in defense of their rights, even though these citizens had relatively little experience in politics!
It shouldn't be necessary, however, for good citizens to rise up in protest about government actions! The fault in the case of wetlands law can be traced back to the naivete of many of us during the 1970's in allowing law to be enacted that gave vaguely defined powers to DEC to establish jurisdiction over wetlands on private property. A particular plant (which grows in uplands as well), a soil type, or the soil moisture can each be used to precipitate jurisdictional wetlands. DEC also thinks that the minimum jurisdictional size of 12 acres can be conjured up by joining little wetlands along a brook like a string of beads.
DEC's ability to define private property as jurisdictional wetlands needs be tightened up, and property owners should be given financial aid to make possible a technical challenge of a designation.
The Legislature had the right idea in 1975 to allow for tax reduction on wetlands, but failed to prescribe the mechanism to achieve this. Now the Legislature should formalize a system of tax abatement for owners of jurisdictional wetlands.
Earlier this year, Assemblyman Robert G. Prentiss courageously
took the lead and garnered a great deal of support for his package
of important reforms to the wetlands law. In the coming session,
it is necessary that reforms be tackled in both houses of the
Legislature to establish clarity of definition of wetlands, technical
assistance, tax abatement, and just compensation for owners of
Carol W. LaGrasse
President, Property Rights Foundation of America, Inc.