The Choices Facing New York Landowners Under Siege

New York landowners - Bryant LaTouretteBryant La Tourette
Chenango County, New York Businessman and Landowner

New York landowners are under siege by moneyed special interests who would just as soon see them disappear. The choices facing them are stark indeed. 

Several years have now passed since New York State put a moratorium on natural gas development and harvesting. It’s a seizing of the property rights of its taxpaying citizens – New York landowners. We are left with the burden of being taxed at the same rate, but our property has been devaluing by more than half with no refund or mitigation in sight. It’s as if we didn’t exist as far as the state government is concerned.

The Governor’s inability to break free of special interest forces that pull at all sides leads him to push critical decision making down to a lower level. New York is the sad story of a state isolating itself from the rest of a nation and a governor who acts like a third world dictator pacifying its back slapping aristocrats. The frenzy among the latter to gain control of our mineral rights continues to this day in the well-financed efforts of Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) and its affiliates (Catskill Mountainkeeper, et al).

New York Landowners Headed Toward Becoming Third World? 

Yes, the wealthiest New Yorkers have accomplished what no other state would even consider by reducing upstate to the level of a third world country by forcing hardship onto generational land. We keepers of that land can no longer afford to pay the taxes and are being literally brought to our knees to beg forgiveness from our ancestors. We’ve done everything we can, but manipulation by way of misinformation combined with a lack of backbone and competence on the part of our subordinate public servants has resulted in our state government falling prey to a well orchestrated and sophisticated scam.

New York Landowners - UpstatePoverty

History is colorful and full of repeated opportunity to scam others. The ponzi scheme, used to extort money from everyone, from the simple layman to the most sophisticated aristocrat, never grows old it seems. The dream of easy money by use and abuse of power is also part of our history, as recent examples of crony capitalism (think Solyndra) have demonstrated.

What happens when you put money power and history together? You repeat history by creating the conditions typical of all those third world countries where civil wars have erupted over the effective theft of the land rights of indigenous populations.

Wealthy special interests connected with the NRDC seize mineral rights by devaluing them and then purchasing them for huge future gains by selling the land back to the state for values that are three times reality. It’s a continuing scam, as the funds secured from the inflated sales are then reinvested in more land purchased on the cheap because the NRDC has destroyed the mineral value.

This is the basic M.O. of the key players; the manner by which they gift indigenous land to for their own using the State of New York as the money launderer. Someday, when all is revealed, history will show a very sad abuse of power and money, driven by creating and then exploiting unjustified fears. It’s all reminiscent of an Albert Abrams magic box.

New York landowners - Albert AbramsAbrams (1863–1924) was an American doctor, well known during his life for inventing machines which he claimed could diagnose and cure almost any disease. Those claims were challenged from the outset, but he got away with it for a long time (with support from people such as Upton Sinclair) until, towards the end of his life his claims were conclusively demonstrated to be both false and intentionally deceptive. That will happen here, too, as fracking continues to prove itself and the scam is exposed for what it is by someone with enough influence to dig into it.

The Stark Choices Facing New York Landowners 

Meanwhile, the generational land slips away. This leaves landowners facing stark choices but they do have some options beyond giving the land away to supposed conservation organizations.

The first defensive action for purposes of paying our taxes and hanging onto our land is to timber it extensively, almost to the point of clear cutting. Demand for pine is up, hardwood saw prices are up, firewood is in high demand and, for those trees that are too small for firewood, a new market has emerged, hops poles thanks to the demand for local hops to apply local brewers, some of whom are fracking opponents, by the way, so there’s a certain poetic justice involved in clear cutting on their behalf, however indirectly.

New York Landowners Stone Walls

When all has been harvested there are still stone walls to sell. Our last remaining historic stone walls, hand built by those who settled and tamed our area have real value to Long Island residents who want to decorate their suburban yards with them, so we should sell them. There are plenty of buyers. Photographs will have to replace these tangible landmarks that now enhance our precious “viewscape.”

Unfortunately, when the trees and walls are sold and the tax man comes knocking again, many owners without staying power will succumb to the constant phone calls to sell their minerals. But, now they’ll sell at steep discount, perhaps as little as a third of the offers just a few years ago,  with the purchaser saying “you and I both know your land in New York will never see a lease in your life time and my offer will only go down over time.”

When the minerals have been sold, the land value is now halved in real terms. Nonetheless, when the tax man calls again, the taxes on the land, land that is almost barren of its once lush forest and border stone walls, are still the same, leaving no option but to sell wholesale to some wealthy individual or conservation group or subdivide the property, piecemeal fashion, into spaghetti lots with road frontage and, therefore, low development costs. These lots are affordable to slightly less wealthy buyers who want a piece of the country.

Thus, will the landscape, about which fractivists have worried so much, be destroyed by their own obstructionist activity, as innocent landowners either fall prey to the scam of the century or, in desperation to hang onto family land, sell it off piece by piece.

The danger of industry destroying the area pales in comparison to what so called environmentalists are doing everyday to destroy the future of upstate New York by frustrating natural gas development that would actually save farms and open space without first depopulating it. All along, however, they are serving as pawns in an elaborate plan to further the special interests of the friends of influence and power they helped put in office.

Many readers, no doubt, will discount this as just the paranoid ravings of some disenchanted greedy landowner gifted at exaggerating. But, landowners who have experienced what’s happening will know otherwise. Owning the land and being responsible for it and the taxes one must pay to keep it, provides a much different perspective than the one from Manhattan. Those of us who are upstate landowners are under siege by special interests who couldn’t possibly care less about the middle class indigenous population.

New York Landowners - clearcut

Upstate New York Clearcut

I am, indeed, tempted to suggest all landowners should, in protest over the way our government has treated Upstate, clearcut our land, creating our own short-term boom economy. Think of all the jobs we could create and the satisfaction we’d gain from having our story told. That’s no way to treat the land we love, though, so we keep fighting for elusive justice from a state seemingly determined to destroy our villages in order to save them. Such is life in Upstate New York.

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7 thoughts on “The Choices Facing New York Landowners Under Siege

  1. As a landowner living (thankfully) in PA, but only a few miles from the NY border, I am so grateful not to be victimized by the environmental crackpots. This writing is correct. Drilling here is preserving our lands. With (completed) wells all around me, the appearance of things here is very little changed. I do concede it was nuts during the time the wells were being built, with truck traffic, dust, and all the rest. That is over now, and landowners are reaping the benefits of those royalty checks. Most are improving their farms, not breaking them up and certainly not selling off lots (God forbid!).

    Taxes here are lower than in NY anyway. I don’t know how my NY landowner neighbors are surviving the onslaught. Our thoughts and prayers are with them.

    Here in PA the environmental crazies have less influence. But we are not entirely immune to their insanity, and it has hurt us some when considering preservation of our rural environments. Our gas wells, once completed, are low to the ground and invisible from even short distances away. The completed gas wells do not harm us. But the crazies have succeeded in building many wind turbines here. They are 400 feet tall, can be seen from twenty miles away, are as ugly as the brain-dead environmentalists themselves, and destroy our many raptors.

    So-called “environmentalists” are NOT welcome here!!

  2. The evidence that will prove Bryant right is, if Cuomo is stupid enough to ban drilling which will definitely seal his fate from becoming POTUS due to the Republicans labeling him as unpatriotic for not using NY gas to bolster the U.S. energy portfolio, when all the talk of “renewables” suddenly stops. That will prove that all the bluster and lying was but a ruse to get our land for the enjoyment of the super rich from NY. If there’s any question about where the NYC super rich move to when they retire, check out this artilce from Gannett’s LOHUD blog – http://polhudson.lohudblogs.com/2014/07/21/when-nyc-residents-move-its-more-often-to-upstate-ny/

  3. It’s a true environmental benefit from natural gas development for land owners to not have to destroy & subdivide their properties to make ends meet. It it very evident in PA. Landowners don’t have to worry about skimming all the timber they can off the land or sell small parcels, or open stone quarries. Nobody wants to sell land once the gas development happens. The best way to keep the land the way it is with the large farms and great woodlands is to have gas drilling. It a very obvious environmental benefit which I never hear discussed. Try to find any large parcel of land in PA that is being broken up and sold, all that stopped when the drilling came.

  4. In the sixties the government ignored MLK and his peace marches until the Black Panthers came along and some say it was because of their presence they were able to negotiate. We now are facing that same oppression from our own rouge governor. What will it take to be freed from an oppressive government here in NY? Nothing that extreme, I hope. UPSTATE NY IS AN ISLAND OF AMERICAN HERO’S SURROUNDED BY THE LORDS OF THE ENTITLED!

  5. It feels good seeing others feel the same as me. Sadly, I have had to cut a lot more trees than I would have liked. It’s gut wrenching to have to early harvest some trees just to make the ends meet. I have been nurturing some of them along for thirty plus years in hope of a better future. Oh well, I guess that’s just too bad for Cuomo too because I am looking forward to voting against him and his outlaw in-laws! Thanks for the great read, Bryant.

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