State mustn’t allow massive clear-cutting in Adirondack forests
In a unanimous vote Nov. 15, the state agency charged with protecting the natural resources of the Adirondack Park on behalf of all New Yorkers agreed to send out for public comment a new policy to greatly accelerate the clear-cutting of forests in the 6 million-acre Adirondack Park. A decision is expected no later than January.
If adopted, the new general permit will create a fast-track process to allow for large-scale clear-cutting of forests. Hundreds of acres may be cut at a time by large landowners without any review by the Commissioners of the Adirondack Park Agency (APA) or public notice and comment.
At present, any clear-cutting over 25 acres in the Adirondack Park requires an individual permit from the APA. There have only been two applications even submitted in the past 15 years.
Let’s set aside for the moment whether clear-cutting hundreds of acres in the park without any public review is a sound environmental policy. Why do this now and why do it at all?
What do we know? That timber investment management firms now control large holdings of private land in the Adirondacks. Clear-cutting provides more opportunity for these investment firms to improve their rate of return. A fast-track general permit has long been peddled by the forest industry to state officials under the guise of “cutting red tape.”
We also know that local government officials in the Adirondacks have criticized the governor for buying too much private land or placing it under state-held conservation easements — which some contend will reduce forestry jobs. Under the new draft policy, thousands of acres of forest on state-held conservation easement lands will automatically qualify to be clear-cut.
Gov. Cuomo has three of his agency heads on the APA and the governor appoints the other eight commissioners. If this new policy is adopted, none of the governor’s appointees will ever have to vote “yes” on the public record to approve the clear-cutting of forests in the Adirondack Park. The general permit only requires staff approval.
It gets worse: The state holds conservation easements on thousands of acres of private timberlands in the Adirondacks. In exchange for landowners giving up their rights to develop their property, (they can continue to conduct forestry) state taxpayers pay a sizable portion of the local property tax bill on behalf of the easement landowners. The state’s taxpayers also pay for the right for the public to recreate.
If this new permit is adopted, state taxpayers will, in effect, now be paying taxes to support clear-cutting on public easement lands.
Private landowners enrolled in another state timber tax abatement program may also qualify. That program, Section 480-a of the Real Property Law, requires local governments to give a property tax break to landowners that submit a forest management plan to the state. If the APA policy is adopted, local taxpayers could also be subsidizing the clear-cutting of forests in their own towns.
Clear-cutting the Adirondacks with your tax money is a bad idea.
The public can comment on the general permit (2012-G1) by Dec. 28. Comments should be mailed to the APA at P.O. Box 99, Ray Brook, N.Y. 12977. The draft policy can be found at the APA website at www.apa.ny.gov.
Bernard C. Melewski
The writer is an environmental attorney.
Don’t cut funding for gynecologic cancer work
Every seven minutes, a woman is diagnosed with a gynecologic cancer in the United States. That’s over 80,000 a year — mothers, daughters, grandmothers, sisters and friends. One-third of these women will die unnecessarily.
There is no early detection method for ovarian cancer, and still too many women do not have access to prevention and early detection services for cervical cancer care.
And yet, without intervention, funding to biomedical research and public health programs will be cut by 8.4 percent on Jan. 2. The very research programs that have brought us the HPV vaccine for prevention of certain cervical cancers, and the persistently improving survival for patients with ovarian cancer, will be severely compromised.
Congress must act together and devise a balanced approach to the budget. Only through balance can we avoid these devastating cuts, which threaten the future of women’s health. It is their responsibility to the community, and to the future.
At Women’s Cancer Care Associates, ongoing research projects and clinical trials employ people who are trying to find answers that we hope will provide positive economic and quality-of-life impact for our patients with gynecologic cancer and their families. A cut of almost 10 percent in funding to these programs would have a devastating impact on our ability to provide the most innovative options. It would reduce or eliminate the limited preventative services in place for cervical cancer screening and further burden the insurance industry with unnecessary claims.
I urge Rep. Paul Tonko and Sens. Kirsten Gillibrand and Charles Schumer to work together with their colleagues to stop these devastating cuts and protect the future of research and public health programs, thereby putting our nation on a sustainable fiscal path.
Patrick Timmins, M.D.
The writer is a gynecologic oncologist.
Marine group got bum rap with Toys for Tots
I would like to set the record straight about the Toys for Tots program and the incredible beating the Marine Corps League (MCL) is taking for it this year.
This program is a Marine Corps program, and comes under the “government”; they can, and do, pretty much what they please with their toys.
While the Marines were stationed here, the local MCL helped them count and package toys for organizations that requested them. If Fox Company was deployed, the few who were still here depended on the MCL to help them; without the MCL’s help, it would have been difficult to conduct the program locally.
Now that the government has decided to completely move Fox Company out of the area, the local MCL tried to step in and keep the program running this year.
The MCL is a nonprofit organization and must follow the National Toys for Tots’ rules. This means the MCL cannot arbitrarily give toys to just anyone; they have to verify that the paperwork is properly filled out, and that those requesting toys are qualified to do so. When the season is over, reports have to be filled out and sent to the national headquarters.
Yes, [local Toys for Tots coordinator] Bob Becker took over this year, and he is so very active in doing things for our veterans, that this was really “above and beyond” duty. The unflattering things said about him in the papers really upset me.
How many of the reporters came to the headquarters to see what is involved? How many spent even a few hours with the volunteers? To me, this is typical reporting — just give the bad “stuff” that sells papers and never mind the truth.
The only reason Bob Becker took over was so the children who look forward to a few toys at Christmas would not be disappointed. The Boys and Girls Clubs have denigrated the local MCL for not helping them as the Marines did in the past. They do their own fund-raisers, so what do they use that money for?
Yes, there are probably needy children who go to these places, but what about the rules and regulations? It is a tremendous amount of work to buy the toys, put the boxes out, pick up the toys, etc. This is done with all of the volunteers using their own gas and time.
The MCL does a tremendous amount of good work and helps local organizations during the year. To be maligned this way was very heartbreaking.
I am writing this on my own, but believe that a lot of fellow Marines feel the same way. We are mostly retired and older Marines, and really do not need this hassle. We need people to understand that this is being done because we do love the children, and do not want the local program shut down because the Marines are no longer here.
Wanda E. Hunter
The writer is adjutant for the Electric City detachment of the Marine Corps League.
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