May 20, 1929 – Herbert Lehman to JSA –
Dear Mr. Apperson:
I have not replied sooner to your letter of April 27th for the reason that I deemed the matter recited therein to be of such importance as to require a complete statement of facts from the authority of the state charged with the responsibility of the maintenance and preservation of the forest and park lands of the State in the Lake George area.
I should like primarily to assure you that I am aware of and appreciate your great interest in such matters and further that any suggestion or recommendation from you will receive my careful and considerate attention.
Conservation Commissioner MacDonald and I went into great detail and he has convinced me that he is thoroughly familiar with this situation and that the Department’s attitude is based upon a careful study of all the attendant facts. His views are not in accord with those held by you. He does not deem the acquisition of the lands in question by the State to be essential at this time. He states that the owner has prepared picnic grounds and camp sites which he maintains for the use of the public and has also built trails for public use leading to the various points of interest on the property, including the Black Mountain Observation station. He further states that the owner has taken all possible steps to see that the forest on this land is properly protected, having spent considerable money in protecting the pine timber from blister rust. Accordingly, the Commissioner feels that the scenery is being protected and that the lands are available for recreational use by the public. The owner, Mr. Knapp, is not willing to sell this property, so if the Conservation Department should determine at any time that its acquisition was necessary, it would have to be appropriated. It would seem, under the circumstances, that the public in this instance has the same use of this property as though it were State land and that the only benefit which would accrue through the acquisition of the property by the State would be to assure that the area would not be limbered. This is highly improbable but should lumbering operations be contemplated or commenced, the State has full authority to appropriate the lands at any time.
Such expenditures do seem to me to be generous. As you know, the State has acquired, by appropriations and purchase, and has under contract a total of 17,300.44 acres, which will involve an expenditure of at least $406,360. Commissioner MacDonald believes, and I am sure that you will agree, that this expenditures is at least a fair allocation of funds to the Lake George area.
An amount fixed approximately at one million and a half dollars, Commissioner MacDonald believes, should be used to perfect the title of the State to tax sale lands which have now become very valuable. An investigation has been going on in this direction for two years now and considerable has been accomplished. The Commissioner believes that the State’s holdings within the park area should be consolidated by the purchase of small areas of land which are entirely surrounded by State land.
The Conservation Commissioner is charged with the administration of the Conservation Law and is empowered under such statute to conduct his department and its affairs. He must assume full responsibility for his acts and so under all of the attendant circumstances, I believe that he should be the final determining factor.
In submitting the foregoing I trust that you will regard the conclusions reached as having been actuated by what is believed to be the best interest of the State and that you will understand that no power is vested in the Governor to review the acts of such commissioner in the orderly process of the Department’s affairs.
Yours very sincerely,
Herbert H. Lehman