We've seen and heard more positive than negative response to Gov. Andrew Cuomo's 2011-12 budget proposal, which he announced Feb. 1. We liked many things in it, too, but here is one thing we hope will be changed before this budget is finalized.
While slashing funding for schools and hospitals, the governor left the land-acquisition portion of the Environmental Protection Fund at the same level it was at last year. State land is wonderful, but it's a treasure we already have a great deal of - more than the depleted state Department of Environmental Conservation can adequately manage. Our state can't afford to buy luxuries every year. Under recent governors, New York has rapidly bought an amazing amount of land for the Forest Preserve. Let's stick with that for now, until we get ourselves back on our feet again.
In the meantime, the parcels in play won't be ruined. The remaining former Finch, Pruyn lands near Newcomb and Follensby Park near Tupper Lake are in the safe hands of The Nature Conservancy.
Since the Legislature is always pressured to add to the governor's budget, there might also be pressure to cut somewhere he didn't. Fred Monroe, executive director of the Adirondack Park Local Government Review Board, is pushing for such a cut from land acquisition, but he told the Enterprise this week he has no indication yet that this will happen - although Adirondack state legislators agree that it should.
Mr. Monroe met just before the budget announcement with the governor's environment secretary to speak about this.
"He listened politely, but we didn't get any feedback," Mr. Monroe said.
The main reason the Review Board is giving in these lobbying efforts is the forestry job losses that would ensue from making these lands Forest Preserve. That's true, but it's not an entirely convincing argument. Forestry doesn't employ many people these days, and those few lost jobs might - this is by no means certain - be made up for economically with tourism from new Forest Preserve. Plus, even more forestry jobs were probably lost almost every time the state bought land in the past; if that wasn't an effective deterrent then, why is it now?
A more convincing argument is that the state just can't afford to buy land right now. Those millions would be better spent easing the burden our budget crisis is placing on schools, hospitals or some other necessity.