JOHNSTOWN - The Fulton County Board of Supervisors officially opposes the state's ongoing land purchases in the Adirondacks.
The county board passed a resolution last week opposing the $50 million state acquisition of the former Finch, Pruyn forestlands in the Adirondack Park, including acreage in Mayfield and Edinburg.
The state is buying the land to preserve it, like other state-owned Adirondack Park land.
County officials say the purchase harms the Adirondack Park's economy.
"The state of New York can't even pay their bills now," said 3rd Ward Supervisor Jack Callery. "This is absolutely criminal."
Callery was referring to the Hudson River-Black River Regulating District's failure to pay more than $1.66 million in county, town and school district taxes. The county had to cover the payments this summer.
The state is buying 69,000 acres of Adirondack land that once belonged to the Finch, Pruyn and Co. paper company. Areas being acquired include OK Slip Falls in Indian Lake, the Essex Chain of Lakes in Minerva and Newcomb, wild upper reaches of the Hudson River and tributaries such as the Cedar and Indian rivers, and Boreas Ponds at the southern edge of the High Peaks Wilderness in North Hudson.
The land also includes the 3,800-acre Benson Road Tract in Mayfield and the Thousand Acre Swamp Tract in Edinburg, which will be used for snowmobile connector trails.
The board resolution passed Tuesday says the land the state is buying has for many years been leased for recreational purposes by sportsmen's clubs. The resolution says the purchase may result in 300 lost jobs.
The county is asking Gov. Andrew Cuomo to "order a study of the economic and social impacts of state land acquisitions in the Adirondacks" before any additional purchases.
"There really wasn't any notification this was upcoming," Northampton Supervisor Linda Kemper said of the land-purchase deal.
Kemper said many officials in the Adirondacks have been asking for a moratorium on the purchase of more land.
"This was kind of shoved out of the blue," she said. "It just happened."
In fact, the purchase has been in the news since 2007, when The Nature Conservancy bought these lands as part of a 161,000-acre, $110 million package from Finch, Pruyn. Of that, 92,000 acres was sold for logging to Danish pension fund ATP in 2009, with the development and recreation rights sold to the state as easements in 2010. State Department of Environmental Conservation leaders have said repeatedly for five years that the state intends to buy the remaining 69,000 acres, which was seen as better for recreation and worse for logging.
Kemper said the state doesn't care about people "struggling" or the occupation of timber harvesting.
County Administrative Officer Jon Stead said the state is in the middle of a "scheduled payment deal" involving the purchase of the 69,000 acres that will last over a five-year period.
"This is prime land," said Bleecker Supervisor David Howard. "It will never be logged again. It's just one more nail in the coffin of any kind of economic engine in the Adirondacks."
Caroga Supervisor Ralph Ottuso said new taxes already are in the works to pay for this purchase. He said the purchase will shut down snowmobile trails and "a lot of the economy in the Adirondacks."
Kemper said state lawmakers have been noticeably silent about the state land acquisition.
"Unfortunately, our legislators don't seem to have a lot of interest in this," she said.
Some state reps whose districts include the lands, like Sen. Betty Little and Assemblywomen Teresa Sayward, have publicly discussed the deal, questioning it but ultimately supporting it.
Michael Anich covers Johnstown and Fulton County news for the Leader-Herald newspaper of Gloversville. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.