Property Rights Foundation of America®

Statement in Opposition to Issuance of Tax-exempt Bonds to Finance
The Nature Conservancy Acquisition of the former Finch, Pruyn & Co. Lands

By
Carol W. LaGrasse
President
Property Rights Foundation of America, Inc.
Public Hearing
City Hall, Glens Falls, N.Y.
December 2, 2008

 

My name is Carol W. LaGrasse, president of the Property Rights Foundation of America, Inc., a not-for-profit educational organization based in Stony Creek, N.Y. I am a resident, property owner and taxpayer in Stony Creek, which is located here in Warren County within the "Adirondack Park." I am a retired civil and environmental engineer and retired Member of the Stony Creek Town Board.

This statement is in OPPOSITION to the issuance of tax-exempt bonds of up to $45,000,000) by the Colorado Educational and Cultural Facilities Authority to finance The Nature Conservancy's plan of finance for its acquisition of 160,540 acres of Finch, Pruyn and Co. lands located within the Adirondack Park.

It is against the public interest to issue tax-exempt bonds to facilitate the financing of the acquisition by The Nature Conservancy of the former Finch, Pruyn and Co. lands.

According to announcements by The Nature Conservancy and the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC), the Conservancy intends to transmit approximately 60,000 acres in fee simple lands to the state to become Forever Wild as part of the State Forest Preserve, never to be developed and never to be harvested for timber again. There will be almost no public use and access.

At least 90,000 acres, most of the rest of the land, will have the title split. The Nature Conservancy will sell perpetual conservation easements in these lands to the state so that the lands will never be developed, with the residual title to be sold to timber companies.

The contract with Finch, Pruyn Co. requires that all the lands supply wood for paper manufacture for twenty years, but at the end of the twenty years, the lands to become forever wild will never be harvested for timber again if the Conservancy conveys the lands to the state.

The people and communities of the Adirondacks suffer severe economic decline because of the land conservancies' and the state's excessive acquisition of private lands, coupled with the excessive restrictions by the Adirondack Park Agency, with which The Nature Conservancy works hand and glove. This decline is the result of land being removed from use by the people and businesses who live and do business here.

Employment is difficult to find, schools are closing and under pressure to close, and young people move out of the area because there is no future.

Land is unaffordable for houses for the ordinary people, because of the artificial scarcity created by the state acquisition in fee simple and conservation easements, working with The Nature Conservancy and other big land trusts..

The State of New York now owns approximately 3 million acres of land in fee simple known as the Adirondack Forest Preserve, all declared "forever wild," and removed from all development and timber harvesting, with the great bulk of this land extremely difficult to access by the public .

In addition to the land that the State of New York owns in fee simple, the state also owns approximately 700,000 acres of conservation easements on land in the Adirondack Park.

The 160, 540 acres of lands for which tax exempt bonding is contemplated if assumed (for the most conservative argument's sake) to be currently classified under the most extreme category of the Adirondack Park Agency's land use and development plan, or 42 acres per principle dwelling, would yield the capacity of almost 4,000 principle dwellings, which would be eradicated forever. This would foreclose over 11,400 people from otherwise living here if each household had a mere three people. This might seem like a small population that would be lost, but it is almost ten percent of the current population of the region. The number is actually greater, because the land has various APA classifications. And sustained logging could continue on these lands even if a house were developed on every hypothetical 42-acre lot.

Many of the properties being acquired formerly supported homes for Adirondack families and are located on good, developable land and on established highways.

The Nature Conservancy intends to transfer approximately 100 square miles of these lands to the State as Forever Wild. Eradicated forever would the be the sustainable timber and fuel production from these lands that have supported logging for Finch, Pruyn Co. for over 100 years, while being nationally recognized for the conservation practices that protected these lands and preserved their beauty.

Perversely, the most productive of the Finch, Pruyn Co. lands are the ones selected by TNC and the State for sale in fee simple sale to the state to become "forever wild." These forests grow some of the finest hardwoods anywhere in the world. Instead of serving people, this productive capacity will be allowed to rot.

The Nature Conservancy claims that it acquired these lands for educational purposes. This claim is spurious because the reason for acquisition is that The Nature Conservancy intends to flip lands to the government, which is what the Conservancy has done since it changed its mission during the 1970s to the preservation of biodiversity by buying and rolling over of giant tracts to government. In the case of New York State, the arrangements to accomplish are accomplished in top secrecy with the Department of Conservation without public access through the open government law. If in the end, The Nature Conservancy does carry out some educational functions with the properties, that will be a miniscule percentage of the purchase price of $110 million that it paid Finch, Pruyn for the land.

The Nature Conservancy and its cohorts, the Adirondack Park Agency and the Department of Environmental Conservation cooperate during the permit process to foreclose use of land and acquire land for the state, which is prohibited under state law, but this has never been investigated.

In addition to the damaging impact on the local economy and communities caused by The Nature Conservancy's acquisition of the Finch, Pruyn tracts, the acquisition will impose other adverse cultural impacts. The Nature Conservancy has announced its intention to eliminate 20 hunting clubs that have leases on the 130,140-acre "northern parcels." The twenty hunting clubs to be eliminated have 439 members, people with families and friends who share a multi-generational tradition together, as well as contribute importantly to the local economy.

In addition, by closing roads, as is DEC's practice when it converts land to "forever wild," ordinary people who would like to use the lands would be blocked from doing so. This is discriminatory toward hunters, to ordinary people who are not athletic, the elderly, the disabled, snowmobilers, four-wheelers, ATV users, motorized boaters, and float plane users. These people are part of the culture and economy of the Adirondacks, to be assaulted by the acquisition and flip of the land to "forever wild" status.

The lie that is promulgated by the conservancies and the Department of Environmental Conservation, DEC, is that land is going to be opened up for access by the people. But noone can reach the back country once DEC owns the land, because the DEC always closes the roads. Jack Leadley of Speculator, who is a highly esteemed woodsman, wrote to me that in all the 30-plus years and thousands of miles that he has hiked the back country, working his trap lines he has met less than five people. Nathaniel Dickinson, former DEC Big Game Unit Manager has told me several times over the years that he has met perhaps two or three people at the most in years of bushwhacking (off-trail hiking) through the Adirondacks.

In addition, the $875,000 annual interest that The Nature Conservancy has said it could save by having its loan financed by tax-exempt bonds is a potential threat. That money could potentially be channeled to more of Nature Conservancy's assault on the future of rural communities.

The Nature Conservancy and the DEC have been in continuing violation of the State Environmental Quality Review Act (SEQRA) by not analyzing the cultural, historical, social, and economic impact of conveying fee simple lands or conservation easements to the state within the Adirondack Park.

The Nature Conservancy and the State of New York also fail to do environmental review of the major negative environmental impacts of Conservancy's acquisition and flip of title to the state for the Forest Preserve. These negative impacts include the heightened danger of devastating forest fires as fuel loads are increased and access and firebreaks diminished, the decreased capacity of unmanaged mature and old forests to generate oxygen while increasing generation of carbon dioxide and other decay products, the negative effect on vulnerable song bird populations as open areas diminish when deep forests close in, the reduction in biodiversity in broad reaches of forests with little new growth, the loss of potential fuel production capacity when the nation is seeking energy independence, the harmful environmental impact of long hauls of raw materials from which forest products are manufactured as compared to managed forestry here in the Northeast near to points of use, the negative impacts of using raw materials from forests in countries where environmental impacts of harvesting are severe as opposed to the sustainable harvests from the mixed forests here in the Northeast.

A distortion has been circulated that the 100 percent of the local towns have approved the acquisitions. The truth is that local towns are not informed of the effect of failing to register their opposition, which the state interprets as approval under an unfair system that it has instituted.

I resent that the taxpayers of New York State are expected to subsidize The Nature Conservancy at every step of its machinations. They have a prearranged deal with the DEC to acquire and flip the land. They will recoup the full purchase price and then some as they attribute holding costs. And now, so that they don't have to dig into their annual revenues, which are upwards of $700 million, they expect we the taxpayers to subsidize their borrowing by paying additional taxes so that they can have a Colorado authority issue tax-exempt bonds for the purchase of land to desiccate our economy and further eradicate the future of our communities. This should not be permitted. It is against the public interest.

The Colorado Educational and Cultural Facilities Authority should NOT be allowed to issue tax-exempt bonds for The Nature Conservancy's project and the IRS should DISAPPROVE the issuance of such tax-exempt bonds.

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© 2008 Carol W. LaGrasse
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