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The state Department of Environmental Conservation can seize land by eminent domain from an unwilling owner in Sullivan County to complete the "Neversink River Unique Area" for public recreation, said a 3-2 ruling Thursday by the Appellate Division of State Supreme Court.

At issue was 1,800 acres owned by Benjamin Wechsler that "unquestionably possesses natural beauty and wilderness, as well as geological, ecological and historical significance," the court majority said. It added, "There is no doubt that the proposed condemnation concerns lands satisfying these requirements so that it is within (DEC's) authority."

In the dissent, Justice Paul Kane warned that view would give the DEC commissioner "an unfettered grant of power to condemn, willy nilly, any private lands which might be considered 'unique areas,' such as golf courses, many of which are located in spectacular and unique areas, private hunting reserves, as well as numerous private homes such as those situated on extensive tracts of land along the uniquely scenic rivers, lakes and valleys of this state."

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