Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Champion: Spilled milk and still spilling tears

Another article in today's Watertown Daily Times, "Wary legislators reject including rivers in Open Space plan" demonstrates the sort of rampant ignorance about State land acquisition and land preservation law that is the hallmark of local government in St. Lawrence County. While still lambasting the "Champion land 'steal'" in which New York State followed all the relevant laws and bought land from a willing seller at a steep price, the legislators again try to revise history to make this an upstate/downstate issue. In the words of County Legislature Chairman Thomas Nichols, "They're getting more creative at coming in and trying to sucker the locals and county government into giving up control of land," Mr. Nichols said.

Balderdash, as I will say in a professional column. This is land, for the most part, with limited development potential due to location and characteristics. It's traditionally forested land formerly owned by a timber company. The vast majority (110,000 acres) of the Champion lands are held under conservation easement and can still be logged by sustainable forestry methods and, with amendments to the easement document, opened for any public use imaginable. The State bought 29,000 acres, mostly along river corridors and the Massawepie Bog. Yet it's the same revisionist claptrap with no basis in fact or law. The leaders are still steamed that they did not get consulted about the State-level deal and that a number of hunting camps lost their exclusive use of the lands.

I formerly worked for an environmental non-profit. I have strong feelings in favor of certain ways to preserve open space. I am also open to discussion about the best way to utilize and develop appropriate areas within the Adirondack region. The issue that steams me is that Mr. Nichols and others do not want an open dialog on the issue--the goal, in my opinion, is to create "straw man" arguments and ramp us the "us vs. them" because that's what leads to reelection, if not forward-looking leadership.


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