Promoting Sustainability of Ownership and Stewardship of Private Lands in the Adirondacks Since 1990.
The Adirondack Landowners Association is focused on the unique responsibilities, challenges and opportunities of owning private land in a region that in both principle and practice is a park. Learn more. Consider joining today.
The Wheels of Government Move Slowly,
But They do Move.
By Ross Whaley, Senior Advisor to the ALA
It is 5:45PM on the last day of the current legislative session. As of now the Adirondack Landowners Association has had two wins, one loss, and an unexpected surprise.
The win was the State budget included a substantial increase in the Environmental Protection Fund (EPF). Of the $300 million that was appropriated to the EPF for the 2016-17 fiscal year, $12.8 million will be dedicated to prevention and treatment of invasive species. This has been center stage for ALA since Tom Williams has been President.
The loss was that no bill was submitted to the legislature for revision of Real Property Tax Law 480-a. While several ALA members take advantage of the tax benefits of the current RPTL 480-a unfortunately, the current law is expensive for DEC to manage and for landowners to apply for and maintain eligibility, payments to local communities are uncertain, it doesn’t offer any incentives for lands to be third party certified as to “best management practices”, nor does it encourage tree harvesting for wildlife habitat enhancement or other conservation benefits. The proposed law would solve many of these problems and expand the number of eligible land owners. While a revision to RPTL 480-a, was proposed by the Governor in 2015, it became stalled in 2016. ALA and its many partners supporting a change in RPTL 480-a will be working hard prior to the next legislative session to see if we can get this over the “goal line”.
The second win was in the waning hours of the legislative session. It was a bill for a constitutional amendment that would expedite expansion of broadband if it were necessary to cross the Forest Preserve along roadways for short distances, and would create a 500 acre land bank in the Adirondacks for community water projects or roads, bridges and culverts aimed at reducing flood damage or other safety concerns. In no instance would the Forest Preserve be used if there was a feasible alternative. For those projects when the land bank would be needed, the applicant would have to pay for the land and the money would be deposited in a fund to purchase additions to the Forest Preserve. There are serious limits on the land bank--no project could use more than 5 acres, no town could use more than 10 acres and no county more than 15 acres. This is too brief a description of the details in the proposed amendment and a separate bill which has implementing language. After six meetings, it appeared as though a consensus was reached between environmental groups, land owners, and local government officials from both the Adirondacks and Catskills. Since then there have been “end-runs” to undo the agreement. A compromise proposed by Senator Little carried the day, but the final version only allowed for 250 acres. There are more details regarding implementation to be resolved in the future.
The surprise was a last minute bill in the Assembly to change the APA law to require “Conservation-Design” considerations on subdivision plans. This idea has merit, but the bill was not well thought out, hasty and a surprise to almost everyone. It will not pass.
Now that the legislative session is coming to an end, we will be preparing for next year. The kick-off will be the Common Ground Alliance Forum that will be held at the View in Old Forge on July 19. Break out groups will be discussing topics such as:
- Responding to/Leveraging Changing Demographics
- ADK Park Agency Policy Changes, Reforms, Smart Growth
- “What is the Role of the APA in the 21st Century?
- Capitalizing on the Park’s Resources to Leverage Economic Investment
- Improving Community Health and Wellness
- Climate Change and Infrastructure
- Community Distributed Power Generation in the Adirondack Park
- Women in Adirondack Leadership Positions
You are all invited to attend the Common Ground Alliance Forum. You can register on-line at www.adirondack.org/CGA. If you attend, you will be greeted by ALA member Jennifer Potter Hayes who is the Executive Director of the View arts center.
From the ALA President,
I thought it would be appropriate to provide an update on ALA activities and initiatives as we begin the summer season. For many of you the next few months will be a busy period with friends and family, enjoying time at camp or traveling. It is also a good time to connect with your members and share information on what the ALA has been doing and what we have in store for the rest of 2016.
We recently held a successful spring meeting at Minnowbrook Conference Center in Blue Mt. Lake. The event was well attended and we were honored to have a number of special guests for the Friday night dinner, most notably attorney Diane Van Epps Finnegan. Diane helped to prepare the amicus brief submitted by ALA in support of the Brandreth Park appeal, regarding their lawsuit with Phil Brown over the right to manage access on the Shingle Shanty stream. Just prior to our meeting the NYS Court of Appeals rendered their decision on the appeal, vacating the lower court decisions and sending the case back to the trial court. While this may not be considered a decisive victory it was certainly a win, since it over-turned the prior rulings and made it clear that routes that canoes can be floated and carried over are not necessarily public highways. What will happen next remains to be seen, but it is clear that our efforts and those of the other groups who joined with us, certainly made a difference.
Our membership meeting on Saturday featured Mark Whitmore from Cornell along with Captains Dan Darrah and Harold Barber from the NYS DEC. Mark Whitmore’s presentation focused on the threat of terrestrial invasive species, most notably the Hemlock Woolly Adelgid. This bug has destroyed hemlock forests in the Appalachians and is now moving north into NYS. The ALA plans to help create awareness for this new threat as part of our overall effort to combat invasive species both in the Adirondacks and across NYS. Mark was followed by a presentation on the role of Environmental Conservation Officers. NYS has 9 regions within the DEC and each has a Captain who oversees the ECO’s in their region. While many think of these officers as ‘game wardens’, protection of fish and wildlife is only one part of their job…they also help with pollution issues, search and rescue and private land trespass problems.
Looking forward in 2016 we have a number of items on the agenda, including the Common Ground Alliance, the Adirondack Lakes Alliance Symposium and visits to member clubs and camps. Our winter meeting will once again be at the Adirondack League Club in Old Forge. We will of course, have our always popular auction eventalong with the normal Friday nite festivities. This year we will be presenting the ALA Stewardship Award to the Adirondack Lakes Alliance in recognition of their outstanding work in the fight against aquatic invasive species. Additional information about the meeting will be featured on our website….stay tuned.
I would ask that all ALA members make an effort to attend at least one of our two meeting events. Besides being a fun and entertaining time, it will give you the opportunity to meet other members, speak with elected officials and learn more about what ALA does for our membership. I would also encourage you to consider becoming an associate member to help further support our programs, and if you know of someone who is interested in joining the ALA, please contact Gwen Krause our membership director.
We are now in our 26th year…we have a membership that is growing, an engaged and committed board of directors and a greatly enhanced role among the Adirondack stakeholders and the leadership in Albany. Our Senior Advisor, Ross Whaley does an excellent job of representing our interests on a variety of important issues…he is a real asset to the ALA.
I hope you all enjoy a safe and happy summer and get a chance to spend time in the woods or on the water.
Save the Date: The Winter 2016 Adirondack Landowners Association meeting will be held on December 2nd and 3rd at the Adirondack League Club in Old Forge.
Here are some photos from our Fall 2015 meeting at Minnowbrook: