Biodiversity Partnership a Ruse

Posted by: mohonkneighbors

Biodiversity Partnership a Ruse - 11/03/05 11:16 AM

Reprinted from the New Paltz Times

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On two occasions in recent weeks, Glenn Hoagland of the Mohonk Preserve has asked that people contact the Preserve directly when they have beefs with the Preserve. Some of us have done so in the past, and despite the current climate of controversy, we will do so in the future. We bring some of our complaints to the fore now, and publicly, because they are directly relevant to the November 8 election.

The Mohonk Preserve has had extraordinary influence over both the Gardiner Master Plan and the proposed zoning law. This influence comes in many forms, but most significantly through the ruse of the Shawangunk Biodiversity Partnership. Why is the "partnership" a ruse? Because there is no legal entity in New York State called the Shawangunk Biodiversity Partnership. Instead, it's the Mohonk Preserve and the Nature Conservancy doing business as the Shawangunk Biodiversity Partnership.

For example, when the "Partnership" pays Peter Fairweather for work on its Green Assets Program, Mr. Fairweather receives a check from the Nature Conservancy. The Nature Conservancy in turn receives a check from the Mohonk Preserve, and at least some of the time, the Preserve receives a check from the Tremaine Foundation in Connecticut. This was revealed in telephone conversations with Mr. Fairweather of Fairweather Consulting and Cara Lee of the Nature Conservancy. Peter Fairweather is also the planner the Gardiner Town Board hired to help write the new Master Plan. Mr. Fairweather made the town board aware of his potential conflict of interest, but he was hired anyway. Not coincidentally, the zoning law spawned by the Master Plan effectively confiscates conservation easements on 2,800 acres of land, much of which abuts the Mohonk Preserve.

Deftly, the Preserve, acting as the Shawangunk Biodiversity Partnership, required only a majority vote of the town board for town "membership" in the fictitious partnership. In this way they can characterize their payments to Peter Fairweather for his work on the Green Assets Program, while he is also working on the town's Master Plan, as advice rather than lobbying, at least for the purposes of maintaining their non-profit status.

The Preserve makes much of their contributions to the town in the form of $5,000 gifts to the fire department and informational kiosks, complete with photo opportunities. Why then the chicanery of the Shawangunk Biodiversity Partnership when they give Peter Fairweather $50,000 for work on the Green Assets Program to help the Town of Gardiner with its Master Plan? Why wasn't there a press release and a photo opportunity to celebrate this generous and substantial gift?

The Mohonk Preserve has an ethical and moral obligation to the residents of Gardiner, and the residents of other towns in the region for whom Mr. Fairweather is now working, to make public the amounts and dates of all payments made by the Preserve to Mr. Fairweather or Fairweather Consulting, either directly or through third parties or agents.

Kent Pierce
Gardiner