January 6, 2011

Regional officials applaud Martens decision


RAY BROOK — North Country officials express confidence in the nomination of Joe Martens as commissioner of the Department of Environmental Conservation.

Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo made the announcement Tuesday, and the reaction here was instant and accepting of a leader many consider thoughtful and capable of assimilating different points of view to garner consensus.

And some believe if there is a way to streamline regulation to support conservation of land, protect resources and promote economic growth in a 6.2 million-acre public-private Adirondack Park, Martens would be the person to find it.

North Country legislators in Albany immediately offered support.

Sen. Betty Little (R-Queensbury) expects the nomination will move quickly through the Senate.

"Joe is well-qualified and personable, and he knows this region very well," Little said.

"I am pleased Gov. Cuomo has selected someone who will not only be an effective environmental steward but will work hard to strike an appropriate balance on the economic side."

Reached at her office in Albany Wednesday, Assemblywoman Teresa Sayward (R-Willsboro) said Martens has worked for years with Adirondack local government leaders on the Open Space Committee.

"When somebody has concerns about an Adirondack Park issue, we're not going to have to get Joe up to speed," Sayward said.

"I believe he will be fair. He would always sit down and was willing to listen and work with us."

Fred Monroe, chairman of the Local Government Review Board, said he was encouraged by Cuomo's choice.

"Joe Martens is certainly knowledgeable on Adirondack issues and seems to be generally interested in the economy as well as open space. And that's what we're looking for. Obviously, anyone in that office takes policy direction from the governor's office. If they are looking for a shift toward a more balanced view, I think Joe is the guy to accomplish that. He really is interested in finding creative solutions. To do that, you have to listen to local government and business and see what the problems are, recognizing the need for a strong local and regional input."

While sometimes at loggerheads with local government, green groups also consider Martens a good fit for statewide environmental conservation and the Adirondack Park.

"He is a really good communicator," Adirondack Council spokesman John Sheehan said.

"He will have good access to the governor because he's known both the current governor and his father (former Gov. Mario Cuomo). He's got a very easy-going personality, but that shouldn't be mistaken for his being soft. He also understands the need for scientific research and understands how important the Adirondack Park is in the context of the entire state. The park will be foremost in his mind when he thinks about how DEC is operating."

If approved as commissioner, Martens would leave his post as president of the Open Space Institute.

"This move to DEC is the logical culmination of Joe's entire career," Open Space Institute CEO Kim Elliman said in a statement issued Wednesday.

"Working with former Gov. Mario Cuomo, the Adirondack Park Agency, the New York State Office of Budget and ORDA, Joe is perfectly placed to meet 21st-century environmental challenges, including the interplay between public and private conservation, and private- and public-sector interests. Gov. Cuomo's appointment of Joe shows his serious dedication to New York's environment."

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