My name is Carol LaGrasse. I'm the president of the Property Rights Foundation of America. I don't know if all of you know, but we have a nationwide organization in Stony Creek dedicated to property rights and we have a web site. And part of the reason why I'm here is to take notes to put an article in our New York Property Rights Clearinghouse and our web site about the Unit Management Plan planning process. I want to mention a bunch of issues, and they reflect the philosophy of access and respect for local communities, promoting the local economy, and protecting the local communities.
First, to start in a very simply and easily understood way, this issue of cemetery access, historical site access: We have local cemeteries on State land where the Town is afraid to improve the roads into the cemeteries so the people can pay their respects or view the historic sites.
I'd like to point out that, with respect to highways, Waite Road was closed for a short period leading into State land. It was historically an access to State land up by Hadley Hill and the State took no effective action to counteract that. We have two ancient highways going through from Stony Creek out towards Wells and Hope [Falls] that were originally to the county line. Those are highways in various states of non-use or perhaps abandonment.
I'd like to strongly protest the State's policy of being anti-ATV. I think that we should promote more use down here in this area by ATVers and that would reflect the interest of the local people in the way they would use the Adirondack preserve. In addition, the promotion of ski trails, horseback riding, mountain biking, and hiking to areas like the top of Baldhead, which is inaccessible unless you're a good bushwhacker and very healthy. Promoting all those activities in Wilcox Lake Wild Forest would take some pressure off the High Peaks.
We have unsigned areas as you drive out toward Harrisburg Lake. You go into a huge area of State land but noone would know it was there, because there's no markers, no ways to get into the State land.
There's the issue of disposing of disconnected State lands. Perhaps that's outside the scope of the Unit Management Plan, but we have disconnected small plots of State land that nobody can find and nobody uses and serve no useful purpose. Perhaps they could be disposed of.
It was mentioned in the introductory talkI arrived part way through itthat Wild Forest is more flexible than Wilderness, but it really wasn't clear precisely how much more flexible.
You mentioned that there's an RFP contract. You used the words, "We've got a contract." I understand from the request for proposalI just got a copy of itthat it's out to bid and that it's open to numerous bidders. So I'm concerned if the RFP process is sewed up.
I would like to point out that there's been, I think, a misconception promoted today that the disabled access is something that's discretionary on DEC's part and is sort of a gracious gesture by DEC. This is a settlement of a victorious lawsuit where disabled access and the use of the State roads that are used by motor vehicles is now going to be opened and the State has to provide a lot more disabled access. It's a five million-dollar settlement that the State has to comply with. This is not DEC or the APA being gracious. This is a court order that they have to comply with and that really shouldn't be a matter of that being something that DEC had some judgement about. [Interruption by moderator: TIME!]
My time is already up? I only have a few other points. I want to make one of my most important points in closing.
You'll recall that, when the blowdown occurred, the Governor promised the blowdown would be clearedthere was about a million acres of land, and about half a million acres severely damaged, basically flattenedand that the environmental groups brought their pressure on the Governor and he backtracked and he didn't have any salvage logging. Well, we live in an area with a high hazard from fire because of the State's wild management of its land and its policy of not allowing salvage logging.
I'd like to propose that we cut swaths of open area as fire breaks and that we have a more thorough unit management plan process for fire protection of the forests that are privately owned and for the communities. I'd like to propose that we open ancient highways and that we widen trails and that, in the process of providing more ATV access, we provide better fire protection access to the area. I don't want to see anything that happened in the West happen in the Adirondacks.
I'd also like to ask that we have thorough financial analysis of the of the implications of the Unit Management Plan process, including the lack of planning on the local economies, and that the whole process abide by the State Environmental Quality Review Act,do a thorough cultural, economic study of the impacts of actions and inaction and not be, illegally, confined to issues of biological preservation. Thank you very much.
Transcript prepared by Carol W. LaGrasse, February 12, 2007, from DEC tape of meeting.