by Mart Allen
TOUGH TO BLOW THE WHISTLE….
November 6, 2001
In the lives of all of us we have to make difficult choices. John Wayne put it better than I ever could when he said, " A man's gotta do what a man's gotta do." I am at one of those junctures and the decision to do what I am about to do is one of the hardest I have ever made.
It, like most really hard choices, involves hurting people or institutions we love and respect. It takes awhile for prudent people to take action preferring instead to work their way past what they perceive to be onerous situation. Other means of resolving the problem are normally explored before arriving at the point where I am now. I have attempted to do just that over a long period of time to no avail.
In 1970 I resigned as a District Forest ranger with the State of New York and came to work for the Adirondack League Club, an institution I had long admired and respected. On September 1, 1992, I retired from the Club after 22 years of service. Upon my retirement I was given distinct honor of being elected a Life Member of the Club by unanimous vote of the Board of Trustees. The membership included my use of a cottage on Woodhull Lake.
In a letter to the members just prior to my retirement the President of the Club had the following to say about my tenure with the Club:
"A word about Mart as the General Manager. His commitment to the well-being of our membership; his unique professional skills; his distinctive blend of North woods humor, pragmatism and common sense; his personal caring for the staff, and his love for our forests and Streams… These unique qualities have made Mart’s tenure a time of unparalleled success for the ALC. Nowhere has this been clearer than in his management of the Forestry Operation. Many of us shudder when we recall pre-Mart problems with our logging operations when Mart was managing the Bisby store and might have been out in the forests.
"There is simply no way we can repay our debt to Mart or to Nancy, who also served our Club with true distinction, but we mean to try."
After retiring I welcomed the opportunity to pursuer interests other than those that had taken up my time for the past 22 years. I became immersed in personal pursuits such as forestry services, woodworking and writing this column. I was perfectly content to leave the operations of the Club to those I had every confidence were qualified to do so. I was never asked to participate in or to give advice as to how any area of the Club should be managed. I went out of my way not to comment on or lead my successor in any way.
I have to say in all honesty I was very puzzled by one aspect of the transition. How could one assume the management of such a long sustaining complex organization without having even one question about its history or protocol from a predecessor? It was but a fleeting thought at the time because I immediately understood and accepted the fact that it was none of my business.
There are, however several that perceive my persona as being synonymous with the Club and therein is my problem. Employees and long-time business associates of the Club began airing grievances with me that they were having with Club management.
At first they were taken with a grain of salt and the attitude that although they sounded legitimate, were none of my concern.
When they reached a crescendo and it was obviously affecting the Club’s reputation in the community, I came to the conclusion that it was my responsibility as a member to do something about it.
On November 8, 1994, I reluctantly and as best I knew how, apprised the President of the Club in a personal letter of my thoughts. Bear in mind this is the same person who described me in glowing terms upon my retirement in 1992.
In a meeting we had a one-on-one discussion on the matter and I explained in further detail why I thought this was becoming a serious problem for the Club. It was a cordial and frank discussion between long-time friends and associates. As far as I was concerned, the matter was closed and it was up to him to act on the matter if he wanted to.
I continued to receive unsolicited complaints periodically from individuals mostly long-time forestry associates. Many of the complaints concerned repeated questionable timber harvesting practices being carried out on Club lands.
Some but not all were part of the discussion mentioned in the above paragraph. On-site inspections made personally by myself confirmed many of the alleged transgressions and I discovered others on my own.
I shared my observations and concerns with at least two members of the Club Forestry Committee. For all I have been able to determine, the only effect my efforts obtained was finding myself removed from the membership mailing list for about three years previous to sometime in August 1999.
A fellow member and true friend interceded on my behalf and had the matter corrected, but not without some difficulty. The then-President of the Club told him matter of fact I was taken from the list because they did not want me privy to forestry matters. My friend then prevailed upon the Club Secretary on my behalf and he rectified the matter immediately. The Secretary called me directly, told me he had only just learned of my circumstance, that it had been a mistake, and my name would be restored to the mailing list.
In late fall of 1998 a matter of real concern was brought to my attention. A person flying over the West Canada Creek on a portion of the Club land witnessed logs being skidded directly across the unprotected streambed. He described the results of the sedimentation as resembling the Monongahela in flood stage. A week later I flew over the area in early November and although they were not working at the time, the lack of leaves and wet conditions with the accompanying rutting was a particularly disturbing site.
For someone with my background and experience it was all the more troubling that it happened during the prime spawning period for native brook trout. It was even harder for me to believe that any state regulatory agency would allow such an enterprise.
To more fully understand the implications of such a project, the Adirondack Park Agency and the Department of Environmental Conservation both have to be consulted when activities involve wile, scenic or recreational rivers. I quote from a permit issued by the Park Agency to the YMCA OF Rochester and Monroe County to cross the North Branch of the Moose River where it is designated a Recreational River by the New York State Wild, Scenic and Recreational Rivers Systems Act. Said permit had to be recorded with the County Clerk on or before March 15, 1999. In the same time frame, I assume after repeated warnings from me, the Club applied for a permit after the fact and after all three state agencies heretofore mentioned had seen photos depicting the havoc caused the year earlier.
The Park Agency defines its jurisdiction as follows in item four of the permit issued to the YMCA:
"The Adirondack Park Agency has jurisdiction as a ‘rivers project’ pursuant 9NYCRR577.6 (C)(1) (iv) because the project involves the cutting of vegetation within 100 feet of the mean high water mark of the North Branch of the Moose River. The Agency also has jurisdiction over the project as a Class A Regional Project pursuant to S810 (1) (e) (1) (b) of the Adirondack Park Agency Act and as a ‘regulated activity’ pursuant to 9NYCRR 578 because the project involves freshwater wetlands."
The project on the West Canada Creek meets all of the above criteria exactly. When I advised two Club Forestry Committee members directly of my concerns after the crossing in the fall of ’09, I was assured that Club management would be advised. This was well in advance of the 1999-2000 winter logging season. At the time I informed both of the above Forestry Committee members that the ’98 crossing was ill advised and detrimental to the stream.
At a point sometime in fall of ’99 I subsequently learned that a complaint along with a series of photos showing the ’98 damage was sent to the Park Agency Commissioner, the DEC Commissioner and Attorney General Eliot Spitzer well in advance of the 1999-2000 winter logging season.
Harvesting began again shortly before November 1, 1999 and continued throughout the winter at the same location via a bridge and not the stream bottom.
On May 27, 2000, I traveled to the site and photographed the results so as to compare them with the previous year’s work. By 8 a.m. that same day the photos, along with those taken the previous year, were hand delivered to a trusted member friend who was also a past Club President. He in turn delivered them to one of the Forestry Committee members I had been communicating with. It is my understanding that the following day they were delivered to the Forestry Committee Chairman.
On two occasions during that holiday weekend I asked my Forestry Committee contact the same question I had been asking for the past two years: "Did the Club have a permit from the Park Agency for the crossing?" I finally was given an answer on Monday, May 29, Memorial Day.
To learn the answer, my reaction to it and view the photographs, tune in here next week. You also will learn why I have literally been forced to take this tack as difficult as it has been for me.
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