February 16, 1931 – Rabenold to Hon. Herbert H. Lehman (Ltn. Gov)

  • February 16, 1931 – Elwood Rabenold to Hon. Herbert H. Lehman (Lieutenant Governor)

My dear Lieutenant Governor:

Mrs. Moskowitz has asked that I write you in the matter of the so-called Hewett Reforestation Amendment, Senate Inst. 33, Pr. No. 33 a copy of which I enclose for ready reference.

On behalf of the New York State Fish, Game, and Forest League, of which I am Third Vice President, we have asked Senator Baxter of Ballston Spa to introduce an amendment, which would eliminate certain language from the Hewett Amendment, as shown in brackets upon the enclosed copy of the Hewett amendment.

The first elimination, striking out the words “outside the Adirondack and Catskill parks, as now fixed by law,” would permit the use of the appropriated moneys for the acquisition by the state of land “best suited for reforestation” wherever such land would be situated, whether within or without the forest preserve counties and whether within or without the Adirondack and Catskill parks as now or hereafter fixed by law. The exclusion of the Adirondack and Catskill Park regions may be a serious limitation upon any general reforestation policy because there are today, within the present Adirondack and Catskill Parks, large areas of land “best suited for reforestation” in the interest of true conservation, – the development of game, wild life and recreation, as cited by the Governor in his recent address, and conservation of water supply.

The Baxter amendment supports a general, comprehensive policy of reforestation, applicable throughout the entire state, without exclusion of any area, leaving it to a land survey, as proposed by the Governor in a recent special message to the legislature, or leaving it to the Conservation Department to determine what particular areas in the state wherever located, are “best suited for reforestation,” and likewise the order in which the reforestation is to be done and the character of such reforestation, whether for production purposes or for development of game, wild life and recreation, or for conservation of water supply.

The inclusion in the Hewett amendment of the words of limitation whereby the appropriated moneys may be used only outside the Adirondack and Catskill Parks is of course connected up with the proposed amendment to Section 7, article VII of the Constitution to permit cutting of trees within the forest preserve counties outside of the Adirondack and Catskill Parks. And in order to mollify the feelings of that large body of people who instinctively would oppose any amendment of this Section 7, Article VII, it is proposed to extend the so-called Adirondack blue line so as to include an additional one million, five hundred and fifty thousand acres. But at the same time that such greater area remains safeguarded against cutting, the area is equally enlarged in terms of exclusion from the benefit of the appropriated moneys, so that instead of having an area of 3,104,000 acres constitution the present Adirondack Park, upon no part of which any reforestation could be done out of these appropriated moneys, there would be an area of 4,604,000 acres so excluded from any of the benefits of these appropriations, – notwithstanding that these areas constitute, as the Governor said, “priceless heritages of the people of the state,” and may hold within them the surest conservation of human life in terms of development of game, wild life and recreation,” and water supply.

The trouble with the Hewett amendment is that it is not in fact a conservation reforestation amendment at all. Although it has gained its principal support because d that guise. The Hewett amendment is in the interests of agriculture, to buy land, plant and harvest crops. The crops are crops of trees but they are crops, nevertheless, to be planted and harvested. The Hewitt Amendment does not aim at any general policy of reforestation; it is concerned solely with reforestation for productions purposes, and that means pulpwood and lumber. There may be incidents but this is the main purpose. If this were not true, there would have been no need for proposing any amendment of Section 7, Article VII, at least at the present time. Any general policy of reforestation would necessarily include the entire area of the state and take cognizance of any land wherever situated “best suited for reforestation,” with the result that if land were purchased and trees planted outside the forest preserve counties this would be done with the consciousness that these trees at maturity might be cut, as determined by the Conservation Department of otherwise, and under control of the Conservation Department: on the other hand if the land were purchased and trees planted thereon within the forest preserve counties this would be done with the consciousness that under Section 7, Article VII of the Constitution such trees at maturity could not be cut unless in the meantime there should be an amendment to such Section 7, Article VII. But certainly during the period, of at least 30 years, after planting of trees until they should grow to maturity even for pulpwood purposes, the state would have completed a land survey as urged by the Governor, a well-founded determination would have been reached as to those areas within the forest preserve counties which might be released from the constitutional prohibition against cutting, and the people of the state would have some demonstration of the efficiency and honesty of their government in the sound, intelligent management of public forests, upon which to base a relaxation of the constitutional prohibition.

The proponents of the Hewett amendment are not ready to support appropriations of money in earnest of a general policy of reforestation throughout the state. They insist upon knowing in advance that they shall be allowed to cut every tree that is planted with this money. They are not content to wait for a later determination as to what areas within the forest preserve counties may be released for cutting. They want to know now, and the bargain is written in the Hewett amendment, that the Constitution be amended now as the price of their support of appropriations for so-called appropriations. All of which means that the Hewett amendment is a commercial reforestation amendment, to finance for production purposes only.

What it comes down to is this: the Hewett amendment, without participation by the Governor, would issue a mandate to eleven consecutive sessions in as many calendar years, to appropriate a total of $20,000,000 for the purchase of land constitution an economic loss in the hands of their present owners, plant trees thereon, nurse, husband and protect these trees from fire, parasite and vermin for 30 years or more until maturity, and then sell them to timber men for cutting as pulpwood and lumber, thereby putting the state in the pulpwood and lumber business just as truly as if the state went into the business of farming by buying farm land, sowing this land to wheat and then selling the standing grain to farmers for reaping and harvesting. There certainly is a grave question of public policy involved here. Even the Farm Loan Board leaves the farm lands in the hands of the farmers who sow and plant their own wheat as well as reap and harvest it.

The second elimination proposed by the Baxter amendment would strike out all references to Section 7, Article VII of the Constitution, leaving that unaffected and thereby removing the aspect of commercialism which the Hewett amendment presents. The lumber interests supporting the Hewett amendment should be the first to disavow any efforts to secure public moneys in that way to finance their own business. Insistence by these interests now that the state must have the right to sell all the mature timber, when it is forgone that the state must sell to them, may rouse sharp memories of the conditions which provoked the present constitutional prohibition against selling.

The Baxter amendment puts this program of state reforestation upon the only basis of defensibility, as a comprehensive conservation measure in the public interest, relegating the utilization of the timber crop to as subordinate and incidental position, as against the Hewett amendment which makes the program of reforestation primarily commercial, for production purposes in the private interests.

The Baxter amendment, because first introduced this year, would of course postpone the initiation of the financial program for mandatory check in reforestation in the meantime because the legislature may make further appropriations for continuing the work as it has done for the last two years. The policy when established should be a sound policy. The Hewitt amendment proposes a wholly unsound public policy.

Very sincerely, Elwood M. Rabenold