I want to welcome you and say how wonderful it is to see everybody here. Everybody individually and everyone together. You may think that this is inspiring for you, it is more than inspiring for me. It lifts me out of the frustration of dealing with these evil, evil causes for the entire year and going to hearings that make you physically sick. I mean, this is just wonderful. And Robert, you said to me something so kind that you find it a pleasure to be here among people who appreciate what you're undergoing and completely sympathize. Well, actually, there's someone else here who hasn't had a property rights problem in their life except one issue. Sometime I'll describe that. And this is no relation to it but it really is wonderful for me to hold these conferences. And so, I really cannot tell you how happy I am to see you all.
I'm a softy, so about four or five people registered by telephone that I didn't know. They didn't arrive that knocks them out and there's two or three people that he had told me the person they would have come with didn't come so that knocks them out and right away that's a table of seven people and so that explains the number missing. And John and George aren't here yet.
Well, it seems like a disparate title to give to a welcoming address but it's "Liberties to Cherish and 'Protections' to Reject." I'm going to just start off with an ironic tale. First of all, Property Rights Foundation of America started six years ago having exhibits at a gun show! The New Eastcoast Arms Collectors Associates' gun shows. Their historic arms and things associated with arms and current weaponry, but particularly rifles and things that are certainly not pistols, although there are pistols. Everything is absolutely according to the law in the extreme and the crowd that comes there is an upstanding crowd. This weekend they're having their 100th show at the Saratoga City Center. They thought it would be just a great celebration.
But, guess what? Actually that's a Second Amendment issue. But for other people that's an issue of violence. And so, the City Center, because it's owned by Saratoga Springs being subjected to the council is now reviewing its position in the council of whether they would allow a gun show. So, now on the 100th show on that location instead of just having a clean, joyous celebration of this wonderful event, they have to worry about losing their venue. And they helped the City Center grow. So, that's the irony. So, it's something to celebrate but it's also a day of solidarity. So, in that sense it's positive, although it certainly isn't a secure situation.
So, that's a liberty to cherish. And the thing that I'll say about that rather than saying something about property rights specifically although that will be the second part of my little thoughts here today is that all of the protections in the Bill of Rights and the protections in the Declaration of Independence and Constitution are all woven together like a beautiful cloth. And so, you take away gun rights, you take away freedom of speech, whatever it is you lose, you lose the thing that upholds the others. The second thing upholds all the others. So, gun rights.
Just go back to the Warsaw Uprising. Imagine the success of the Warsaw Uprising in which every man, woman, and child fought to the death, imagine their success of they, those Jewish people, knew how a to load, how to make powder, make weaponry. They didn't have any background it that. But, nonetheless, they killed one thousand Nazi soldiers and took soldiers from the Russian front. It's a tremendous influence. But they were standing up just for the right to live. They only started. They knew they were going to die. Little children dragged Nazi soldiers aside and killed them. I mean, they just didn't stop. They gave their all and they had a tremendous effect, even though they all died in the end. So that's the only thing.
The most basic right is the right to life. Some of you are veterans and you understand how people are fighting all over the world just to live. And in this country, too. We should be aware if it comes to that.
So, now we talk about the other side of the coin. So, we don't have our basic rights or we are threatened to lose our basic rights. But also, we have all these "protections." And they're odd. They're sort of protections that come down on us. You know? For instance, I have in the packet Would you hold that book up the Adirondack Park Local Government Review Board made available enough copies for all of us and all the people that will get additional copies of the folders, a copy of this publication on the Adirondacks. Now, the Adirondacks is an example of a place which is being "saved." It's being "protected." We've got six million acres of state land and privately owned land. Now, the state owns half of it. Three million acres. They've got another 900,000 in conservation easements. Don't think that doesn't have an impact. And in that publication, if you look at one map you'll see the schools are closing. And I noticed on the map they had by town which schools had lost, how many they'd lost, and they count by number of students. So, one town had a little growth it had, I don't know, ten more students. It's over there by Piseco Lake, Lake Placid. I wonder how that could be. You know, there's not that many people moving in there. And look, the town next door had closed their school so they had zero. So, that's the result of "protection." You do it long enough, 1973 with extreme restrictions. You keep buying and buying and tying up the land which provide the timber industry a way to exist and provide the ability for hunters to hunt because they could rent camps and you close those camps. We changed the tide on a lot of that use of conservation easement land. They're now allowed to keep the camps on conservation easements. We did this. If Jim [Morgan] and Sheila [Galvin] were here today, Galvin and Morgan, they did the lawsuit for next to nothing that the state changes their policies on that.
But that's the protections that we certainly don't want to cherish. These are the protections we need to reject. So, you look in that publication and you listen to me if you don't believe me and you can look at that and it's all facts and figures, but they're not satisfied.
They always have to overkill. And so, what have they been working with the last three years? How to get wolves to stay in the Adirondacks. Make your mental map of North America, okay? You know the St. Lawrence Seaway comes across the St. Lawrence valley. It basically separates that part of the U.S. from Canada. Well, there's a constant migration out of Canada into the state of New York. And it doesn't go through the usual channels. It goes across the frozen ice in the winter. It's wolves! And they come into the Adirondacks.
Now, here's something I've been able to learn by going to those gun shows. Those guys all shoot. And after about three years of exhibiting they realize that this gal here is kind of, sort of, one of them and they tell me their tales. Well, they're up in the woods in their tree stand or they're hiding behind the brush and in walks a wolf in the little clearing. Well, you know, they know what a wolf is. They know it isn't friend to deer and, you know, they take care of the situation. And so, the DEC, the Department of Environmental Conservation, they know something goes wrong with this wolf situation. But they don't prosecute. Because what have they got, the state protection law? The state Endangered Species law? Where will that go? It will go to justice court, right? This is not my imagination, but why would they take that into justice court? A slap on the wrist. "Hey, Joe, you know, you've got to be more careful. These big coyotes, they could be wolves."
So, they don't do anything about it. They wrote a letter to the Fish and Wildlife Service three years ago. One hundred and ten pages including the attached special paper written just for the Fish and Wildlife Service asking them to protect the wolves in New York State. But for whatever reason, they used arguments related to the hybridization, to the particular species or subspecies. The Fish and Wildlife Service rejected it. So, they don't have any federal protection of wolves in the state of New York.
So, now fast forward, okay? Pete and I decided to punish ourselves for unimagined sins because I really don't think there's much that could justify punishing yourself this hard. We drove up to Raybrook. Now that, depending upon how you adjust to the speed limit could be between a two- and a two-and-a-half-hour drive. Raybrook is the headquarters for a lot of agencies of the state that are up in the Adirondacks. They wanted to make them all up there but they only have a few of them. And there you can go to the DEC headquarters and they were having a hearing. It was announced. Not very prominently but it was announced. It was on the state's ten-year wildlife program.
And so, there's a nice guy who announces all these programs to the audience as the hearing begins. His name is Dave Winchell and he was in charge of that hearing. But the funny thing is when we got there we couldn't get in. They tell Pete and Carol, "Well, that's not a public hearing. That's a meeting." And I said, "Well, it was announced in the Hamilton County News by the sports writer there." I could remember his name, still. And, you know, "It's supposed to be a public hearing." I know damn well it was a public hearing. But she wouldn't let me in. That was ten minutes. And while we weren't going away, and so, she finally walked in the room and came out and she said, "Well, they set aside two seats for you." Well, we were quite alone in that hearing. There were about twenty-five people there and they were 100% government officials from the environmental end of things or Nature Conservancy, Adirondack Council, and the whole rigmarole. And so, we sat there. I made a couple of questions during it but I was slapped right down. "Oh, Mrs. LaGrasse, don't you understand we're both the regulatory and rule making agency?" So, that's why they couldn't work with landowners to protect anything. They had to just do it by rulemaking and regulation. I just was making a polite suggestion these people who live near a preserve and like their land don't like to be threatened. They would like to maybe just cooperate. But that was, "Oh, Mrs. LaGrasse."
So anyway, the hearing winds to an end and the man in charge his name is Joe Racette, he's asked by the gentleman who handles all these hearings, Winchell Winchell says to him, "Joe, why don't you announce that it's time for some comments or questions from the audience?" And it was odd because it was a hearing but I didn't know what the goals of the hearing were. It wasn't like a snowmobile hearing where they tell you what trails are going to open, what trails are going to close. I couldn't really tell what it was about that we're trying to get to. They were talking nicely about habitats and wetlands. It was all beautiful and about birds and that was all beautiful. And they told about how some habitats came from the East and the birds came from the East and came from the West but they weren't really prolific in New York. Maybe they weren't endangered. A very intelligent woman whose father was one of the most intelligent opponents you could possibly have named Bob Glennon, she was describing all these things quite forthrightly and maybe, you know, you didn't have to protect this bird because it's on the southern edge of its range. It's mainly Canadian or maybe it only really exists in the boreal forest and you can't expect many up there because it's too cold or too hot or whatever. I'm a civil engineer, not a biologist. I follow it but I wouldn't critique it. So, it was honest but I didn't know what they were talking about as an actual plan. So, I was waiting and then there was no answer to that unless you knew what was already happening.
And so, the man answers Dave Winchell. And he looks at the
audience and just slows right down and he says, "Well, the
department's priority is protection of large carnivores. But we
can't say that publically because it wouldn't be socially acceptable."
"Carnivores? Large ones?" I'm saying to myself. "Why Pete, listen to that. I hope you got his picture," I whispered to Pete. This is a story. No one's ever said that from DEC.
"However, we can accomplish this goal, we are accomplishing this goal," he said. "Because we're protecting the habitat. We're focusing on connectivity." and he didn't say connectivity of forest because that is what is in their 404-page plan about connectivity of forests. It's forests for the movement of predators. Corridors. He said the word corridors. And then he kind of said a few roundabout things that didn't mean anything in particular. And then he said also by using global warming. So, there you are. So, that's the Department of Environmental Conservation of State of New York. Large carnivores. They basically mean the cougars and the wolves.
So, that's the protections to reject. We've got to reject this. We've got to not have happen to us what happened in the West. We're already getting so badly beaten down in Northern New York and, of course, picture that map I drew. This is to "benefit" that Appalachian corridor going all the way down to Georgia. And, of course, they have the side routes, too.
When Clay speaks this afternoon you will probably hear the best presentation, certainly east of the Mississippi, that you will have the possibility of hearing in a long time about what wolves are and all different things about their characteristics.
So, I hope you do enjoy the day. I do want to say a couple of other things. First of all, you may remember Bruce Dederick, Bruce Dederick was one of our founding board members. It was because of Bruce that we set up an accounting system that's all on the computer. He did that all and worked it through with me for years. He inspired the really hard work against the Heritage Areas and so I don't know, Jim Streeter, if you realize how much Property Rights Foundation of America put out on Heritage Areas but Jerry Solomon, our congressman, because of our work, stopped the Heritage Area for quite a while until Newt Gingrich made him stop standing in the way. Anyway, Bruce is gone, He died in February.
Another person who was involved in the possibility of the Property Rights Foundation of America existing and succeeding also died during the year. It was Senator Owen Johnson. Senator Owen Johnson gave the opening address. He was Vice President Pro Tempe of the New York State Senate. One of the most prestigious people in the legislature. He gave the opening address and he was threatened by the National Audubon Society. They even put out a press release and they sent it to him. WHe forwarded it to us and he said that it's there was all this big money group coming from the West going to fight against the environment and the State of New York and he shouldn't speak there, you know? Well, instead he forwarded it back to me and, of course, he spoke. What did it mean to him, a Long Island guy from Babylon? He had that district so tight. And, you know, he was a man of principle, a really dyed in the wool conservative. So, Owen Johnson's gone, too.
I don't know if without Bruce helping to make the finances systematic and Owen Johnson to stand up for us like that when we were under hardball attack from the environmentalists, we could have started out with quite the oomph that we did. It's important that we remember those names and realize how much they did for private property rights.
I'd also like to always thank our co-sponsors because there's a bill to be paid and they make it possible to a great extent. The New York Farm Bureau co-sponsored the first conference. That means that they've done nineteen co-sponsorships. Competitive Enterprise Institute. They've sent many great speakers and also co-sponsored for years and years, almost from the beginning. People like Sam Kazman, their counsel and R.J. Smith, such an expert on land issues. National Association of Reversionary Property Owners. They're a support for anybody who has a rail-to-trail issue. The Gardiner Citizens. Thank you, Pam. And also now the National Center for Public Policy Research. They've been supporting our work for years. And they've also helped us greatly financially. And we have two foundations that contribute to the work of the conference. That's the JM Foundation, which is not the usual name associated with JM, but it's Jeremiah Milbank. An organization that was founded for the disabled. And also the Great Circle Foundation which was founded for the purpose of helping groups that worked with the grassroots. That's the kind of things that make the conference feasible.