Testimony given April 20, 2009 in Denver, Colorado
My name is Roni Bell Sylvester, and I am a resident of LaSalle, Colorado.
As nothing more than a common Homemaker, I'm here as a citizen of America and good neighbor, representing concerns that impact me...and to be sure my neighbors and family.
Review of the Nature Conservancy's request to the Colorado Educational and Cultural Facilities Authority, to provide a bridge loan - in the form of $45,000,000 in tax exempt bonds - for the purpose of TNC's re-financing of approximately 68,000 acres of land in the Adirondack area of New York state, brings to mind more questions than answers.
Time permits my submission of a mere handful.
1) Do people really understand what in the heck is going on?
2) Why is the biggest real estate holding company in the world getting tax breaks from a Colorado organization - to buy and sell property in New York?
3) Is buying and selling land within the TNC cooperate purpose?
4) And in this particular case, does TNC have some type of land shuffle contract with the State of New York... using Colorado taxpayer money?
5) What's makes this matter even more confusing to me, is the fact that in a May 2007 conversation (then Eastern Colorado Director, now New York State Director), Bill Ulfelder told my husband Chuck and I, "TNC is no longer into acquiring more land."
Bill also informed us, that because TNC -"absolutely opposes the use of eminent domain to acquire land" - they withdrew their idea of pursuing conservation easements around US Army's proposed Pinon Canyon Maneuver Site.
Because of this, TNC has considerable (near $10 million) monies left unused from the $18,000,000 Congressman Hefley and Senator Allard may have secured for TNC.
6) This conjures three questions: What does TNC consider the land deal in the Adirondacks? What do they do with monies they don't use? How does this 501 ( c ) 3 juggle these financial dealings, in order to keep their non-profit status?
If TNC and CECFA are sincere in wanting to provide cultural and educational opportunities, I know a tremendous institution in South East Colorado called the Colorado Boys Ranch - a.k.a. Youth Connect, who could really put $45,000,000 - or even $10,000,000 - to excellent cultural/educational use. In turning around the lives of young men and women, they've achieved a 92% level in keeping these young people out of trouble and becoming law abiding, productive citizens.
7) What constitutes a "public hearing" with proper public notifications? Although the notice was posted April 1st in the Denver Post, I've yet to find it.
The New York hearing notice was posted in only a couple of publications. One would think courtesy would prevail by a timely publishing in every newspaper in the 12 Adirondack counties that will be impact...regardless.
When I found out about this possible Denver hearing, I contacted Jo Ann Stoker (CECFA), and she graciously responded she'd let me know when the date was set. After some time passed and I'd yet to hear from Ms. Stoker, I emailed Connie Prickett (Adirondack TNC), whereon she immediately sent info about today's hearing.
8) My observations show a gap between - Adirondack Mountain Club's claims of over 30,000 hikers, paddlers, skiers, and backpackers, 5,000 people in their 2008 educational program, plus 1,000 elementary students in the fall, and - individuals who testified to seeing less than a dozen people hiking around in there over quite a period of time.
This reminds me of the millions of taxpayer dollars the federal government has spent keeping feral horses on public and private lands, so that the five French people who saw them had an "enjoyable experience."
9) What are the real numbers of people - "having wilderness experiences" nation wide; and at what cost?
In this particular case, let's say TNC wants $45,000,000 to re-finance 68,000 acres, that equates to about $700,000 per acre. Sans maintenance/staff etc fees, how many would it take to get educated, in order for this program to be cost affective?
10) In addition to loan fees (initial and annual fees charged to a borrower), does CECFA receive funding from other organizations? If so, were they notified of this matter?
11) If Adirondack access is closed, how and where will people of all ages and limited physical abilities and incomes be delivered to these so-called " re-connect to nature" areas?
12) At what stage is the "Human Dimension" requirement implemented as mandated under NEPA? I'll leave you a copy of the chart illustrating such.
13) What security is provided in case of TNC default?
14) Does herein lay a possibility that this could be an approach to take even more American soil and water out of domestic resource production?
15) Does TNC have a ceiling as to how much land and water they want to control/own...in America? In the world? If so, what is it?
16) In light of today's economic press, coupled with teetering dangerously on the cusp of loosing domestic resource production all-together, shouldn't the federal government be releasing (selling/ permitting) public land for the purpose of generating food, fuel and fiber, as opposed to the present ram to tie up and convert more of our lands into fallow vistas?
Since 2000, New York state has lost over 16,000 people in rural areas, while gaining over 530,000 in urban areas. More to feed, clothe and shelter, and less doing so.
Yes, I have many more questions, but will end with these.
Regards TNC's website, a quick look found some of their information in dire need of updating: DDT had nothing what-so-ever to do with the decline of Bald Eagles; Climate will ever be forever changing, for weather or not...it happens.
Daily grows the number of scientists - proving out man does not make the climate change, nor does he either heft or shield the sun making the globe hot or cold (The findings of most respected scientists agree we've been in a global cooling cycle for quite some time.).
Since TNC prides itself on providing accurate, scientific information, I'm sure they'll be happy to correct these areas.
Over all, I fail to see any good reason for Governor Paterson, Governor Ritter, Colorado Treasurer Cary Kennedy to approve lending tax free monies to an entity that already enjoys well over 200 million annually from government grants and conservation land and easements sales to government and other items, and generates a cumulative annual revenue of over 600 million.
Presently, TNC has over $4 billion dollars in total assets. And as Jim Petterson (TNC - CCO) states, "Money goes towards capital costs like land acquisitions."
Thank you for listening to my testimony and submitting it to New York Governor Paterson, Colorado Governor Bill Ritter, and Colorado Treasurer Cary Kennedy.
Along with mine, today I will hand deliver copies of the New York testimonies to Governor Ritter.
For the record, please know that I, Roni Bell Sylvester, oppose the CECFA - TNC plan.
I pray Governor's Paterson and Ritter, Treasurer Kennedy and the IRS, will disapprove the Colorado Educational Cultural Facility Authority issuance of tax exempt bonds to the Nature Conservancy, for any amount - to finance or re-finance any number of acres in the Adirondacks.
Why? Because I have strong reason to believe this will un-necessarily bring mental, physical and financial harm to my good neighbors in New York, Colorado, and frankly -everywhere America.