Judge Upholds State's Champion Land Purchase

Attorney General Spitzer and Department of Environmental Conservation Commissioner John Cahill today announced that a state court has upheld New York State's purchase of Champion International Corp. forest lands in the Adirondack Park -- the largest land conservation acquisition in the state's history.

"I am heartened that the residents of New York will continue to be the proud owners of thousands of acres of spectacular Adirondack Park land," said Spitzer. "The Champion forest lands include lakes, rivers, wetlands and wildlife habitat that are worthy of our most careful stewardship. This court decision enables the state to continue to protect this precious resource."

DEC Commissioner Cahill said: "This decision is great news for the environment and economy of the North Country and it is a clear victory for the citizens of New York State. I am delighted that Governor Pataki's vision of expanding recreational tourism opportunities in the Adirondacks can now move forward at full speed."

On July 1, 1999, the state purchased 29,000 acres of forest lands from Champion and negotiated conservation easements on an additional 110,000 acres of Champion lands in Franklin, St. Lawrence, Lewis and Herkimer Counties. The state paid $24.9 million for the land deal.

The Champion land acquisition gives the public access to large tracts of forest and pristine streams and rivers that had previously been in private hands for over a century. It also allows for continued commercial logging on land that is covered by conservation easements.

The land purchase was challenged by a group of citizens and hunting clubs who objected to the state's action, claiming that the state did not follow proper procedures in acquiring the land. The plaintiffs also sought money damages for themselves.

However, in a June 30 decision, Acting Albany County Supreme Court Justice Dan Lamont dismissed the entire lawsuit. In his ruling, Justice Lamont noted that the litigation was a "procedural mess" and dismissed it for untimeliness and lack of jurisdiction, among other grounds.

The case was handled by Assistant Attorneys General Lawrence Rappoport and Lisa Burianek of the Environmental Protection Bureau.

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