Property Rights Foundation of America®
Founded 1994
P. O. Box 75, Stony Creek, NY 12878 (518) 696-5748

UPDATE December 2, 2000
Contacts: Carol W. LaGrasse (518) 696-5748 Madeline Sheila Galvin (518) 439-7734

Appeal of lawsuit challenging State acquisition of Champion International lands


The lawsuit that PRFA organized to challenge the State acquisition of the Champion International lands is back in court, and PRFA's press conference on November 21 at the Legislative Office Building to announce the appeal has been covered in the newspapers throughout the New York State Capitol Region and northern New York.

The lawsuit is part of the ground-breaking work of the Property Rights Foundation of America to carry out our vision of preserving private ownership of land and defending economic freedom.

In the course of acquiring 139,000 acres of land owned by Champion International Corporation in the northwestern Adirondacks in July 1999, the State of New York violated several key requirements of the State Environmental Quality Review Act, the Environmental Trust Fund law, the Clean Water/Clean Air Bond Act, and other laws which were passed to protect local communities, their economy, tax base and culture; and the hunting clubs on the land used by families for several generations.

The State also violated the "Forever Wild" clause of Article XIV of the New York State Constitution applying to the Forest Preserve by acquiring conservation easements that allow logging on much of these lands.

Our purpose in bringing the "Forever Wild" part of our litigation is to preempt the environmental groups from doing this sometime in the future when the title to many hundreds of thousands, or even over one million, acres of land in New York is split in conservation easements deeded to the State and the residual title kept privately for limited logging. I have been concerned for many years that the environmental groups would sue in the future, causing the easements to revert to the third party intermediaries (land trusts) and that, after this, the entire title would fall to the State.

Late in 1999, plaintiffs Howard Aubin, Carol and Peter LaGrasse, Jane and Vernon Rose, Azure Mountain Club, Benz Pond Hunting Club, Madawaska Hunting Club, St. Regis Club, Quebec Brook Hunting Club, and St. Lawrence County brought an action in Albany County Supreme Court challenging the acquisition on the basis of the State's violation of these and other laws.

In February of this year, Judge Dan Lamont dismissed the lawsuit on technical grounds. Because the Court erred in key technicalities, the plaintiffs served their notice of appeal in August. Determined to bring the full merits of this important lawsuit before the Court, the plaintiffs, represented by attorneys James E. Morgan and Madeline Sheila Galvin, filed their appeal with the Supreme Court-Appellate Division, Third Department on November 16.

Since the State acquisition of conservation easements on 110,000 acres of these former Champion International lands from The Forestland Group, environmental organizations are suddenly complaining that the forest is being clear-cut and that wetlands are being harmed, according to the Albany Times Union in November. Where were these environmental groups when we predicted that selling the equity of timber industry-owned land, as conservation easements, would reduce the commitment of the timber investment group to the land, resulting in a reduction in stewardship, foreclosing the long-term sustained harvest, and threatening the future economy of the forest industry-dependent local communities?

- Carol W. LaGrasse

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