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Cuomo's choice for DEC faces scrutiny

An Albany Times Union report, citing unidentified sources, Monday has Gov.-Elect Andrew Cuomo picking Joe Martens to head the Department of Environmental Conservation.

The report cited Martens as a choice that would reflect Cuomo's "overall theme of austerity," a reference to Martens' extensive work in the Adirondack Park system and more recently, since 2007, as chairman of the Olympic Regional Development Authority Board of Directors (ORDA).

Martens had distinguished himself in office by forwarding programs and acquiring land use in the face of significant cutbacks in state funding of outdoors/recreational projects.

If he is chosen to head the DEC he will replace previously appointed commissioner Alexander "Pete" Grannis, who recently accepted a position with Environmental Advocates of New York. Martens will be faced with the same cutbacks and curtailed services that led to Gov. David Paterson's dismissal of Grannis in mid-October.

Critics, mainly with interests in fish and wildlife programs, question the high number of job losses, program reductions, and proposed closings of selected facilities. Leading among closures is the Rogers Environmental Education Center in Chenango County effective Jan. 1.

Bloggers weighed in heavily on the prospective Martens appointment. While questioning his involvement and experience with fish and wildlife, critics highlight his land-use background as a possible plus for environmental and conservation programs.

One critic offered the possibility that Martens could deal with cost issues -- and greatly reduce en/con expenses -- by merging the NYS Parks, Recreation and Historic preservation with the Department of Environmental Conservation.

Other fish and wildlife commentators simply point to the possibility of eliminating the many supernumerary jobs Judith Enck, former NYS Deputy Secretary for the Environment and currently Administration for Region 2 of the Environmental Protection Agency, and Grannis have appointed during the past three years.

Chuck Godfrey, past and incoming president of the Erie County Federation of Sportsmen's Clubs, summarized Grannis by saying, "He was better than we expected, but nowhere near as good as we deserve."

Godfrey noted that Grannis did not seem to pay much attention to hunting, fishing, and trapping, adding, "Judith Enck's involvement was worse."

Godfrey credited Grannis for supporting the Youth Big Game Hunting age reduction (from age 16 to age 14) and some support of the forthcoming crossbow hunting bill.

For outdoors sportsmen involved in consumer sports, the appointment of Martens -- or any other person as DEC Commissioner -- will be a wait-and-see situation. No proposed appointees have had experience and involvement in Conservation Fund issues and direct fish and wildlife management/administration.

e-mail: odrswill@gmail.com

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