sets tough land goal
wants to save 1 million acres, but state money is tight
Democrat and Chronicle
ALBANY (Monday, February 4, 2002) -- Gov. George Pataki
has set an ambitious goal for land preservation in New
York: 1 million acres over the next decade.
almost triple what has been preserved over the last 10
years and would be a heavy lift even for a governor who
has bought up far more acreage than his recent predecessors.
with no specific plan on the table and few clues in Pataki's
proposed budget, activists are scratching their heads
about just how the governor could fulfill this election-year
a wonderful vision, but there are some practical steps
that need to be taken," said Jeff Jones of Environmental
Advocates, a statewide lobbying group.
has burnished a record for acquiring lands and securing
conservation easements to limit development -- more than
300,000 acres during his seven years in office.
he pledged to go much further during his State of the
State address last month. "Today I am setting a goal of
preserving over 1 million new acres of open space over
the next decade," Pataki said, surprising environmentalists
and state legislators in his January address.
one pressured him to set 1 million acres as a goal. But
no one interested in preservation dared knock it either.
advocates are puzzled about where the money will come
obvious source is the state's Environmental Protection
Fund, but it is broke. When Pataki and the Legislature
patched together a frugal budget following the Sept. 11
terrorist attacks, the environmental endowment didn't
get any money for the 2001-02 fiscal year.
fund provides money for land acquisition, recycling and
landfill closures. It collects money through a tax on
who has said he likely will run for a third term, declared
that he wants to make amends by depositing $125 million
in the fund before the end of the fiscal year, March 31,
then add another $125 million for the 2002-03 fiscal year.
if the Assembly and Senate agree to Pataki's plan to put
$250 million into the fund, only about $66 million of
that can be dedicated to land acquisition. By scale, that
isn't much money if the governor is trying to fulfill
a pledge that would require the state to preserve about
300 acres per day. "No, it wouldn't be enough," said John
Sheehan of the Adirondack Council. "That would be status
quo spending at a time he's proposed to triple spending
for open-space acquisition in the state."
matters, Pataki has tangled the proposal with conditions
some Democrats and environmentalists don't like. About
$23 million in capital projects and other spending for
the Department of Environmental Conservation is loaded
into the fund. Also, he wants to transfer about $100 million
in unused money and accumulated interest into the state's
began negotiations last week with the Senate and Assembly
over adding the $125 million for the current fiscal year.
His office didn't immediately return calls to comment.
land deals loom, especially in the Adirondack Mountains.
Niagara Mohawk Power Corp. has discussed selling 3,600
acres along the Moose River in Lewis County. Also, Domtar,
a Canadian paper company, has for years been open to negotiating
a 105,000-acre tract east of Plattsburgh.
year, International Paper Inc. announced a tentative deal
to sell the state development rights to 26,500 acres in
Hamilton County. But it's been held up by lack of money
in the Environmental Protection Fund, activists said.
International Paper -- the biggest private landowner in
the Adirondacks with nearly 300,000 acres -- said just
weeks ago it wants to shed assets as part of a restructuring.
That could mean it's interested in making more deals.
Adirondack Park is a 6-million-acre preserve combining
public and private lands. The state owns 2.5 million acres.
no shortage of open-space parcels. In the fall, the Pataki
administration released a conservation priority list that
identified more than 120 tracts of land from the tip of
Long Island to Lake Champlain to Chautauqua Lake that
totaled more than 1 million acres.