Forestry Proposal Ignites Catt. Co. Legislature

LITTLE VALLEY – A plan has been in the works for a few months to offer a token of support to a couple of professors from the SUNY School of Environment and Forestry Sciences in Syracuse to attempt to create a new product in the wooded land of the county. Wednesday, some in the legislature stood opposed to the project, while others clamored for the development potential.

A resolution to pay Seneca RC&D to act as a consultant for two years, as an investment gesture, at a cost of $70,000 over the two years, was presented to the full legislature.

The plan has been for these forestry-minded futurists to come into the Western New York region to manage the woodlands, harvesting the poor-quality hardwoods to create new products for power generation, and even a few other uses. The lead professors have taken the time to come to the county and describe what it is that they want to do, how they want to do it, and about how long they anticipate it to take to get the plan up and running.

“Based on the numbers we have been presented, I do not believe this plan will stand on its own,” said Legislator Joe Snyder Jr., R-Cuba. “While I do think it is possible to find some funding for the project, I do not think it is wise to support this plan until (the scientists at SUNY ESF) are able to find what they need.”

Snyder is in a unique position on the legislature, being employed by a Cattaraugus County business that specializes in wood, wood products and forestry. The plan, as presented to the members of the legislature has a five-year timetable before anything would even start in Cattaraugus County, and that is another point of contention for Snyder.

“They are going to build their site in Allegany County first,” he reminded the members of the legislature. “It is going to take two to three years to get the funding lined up for the project. In year four, the station will be built. It won’t be until year five that we are seeing if these numbers play out. A consultant in years one and two are not going to yield any results. We are premature on this project.”

He was not alone in his sentiment. Legislator James Snyder Sr., R-Olean, said that, with his reservations on the plan, if it were his money, he would not invest any of it in this program. He surely would not vote to invest that of the taxpayers, either, despite the funds coming from casino revenue share to the county.

“This would be one hell of a gamble, to take $70,000 and use it like this,” he said.

James Boser, D-Allegany, countered, saying, “We are not spending the taxpayers’ money; it is casino revenue. Of course it’s a good gamble.”

A vote to send the resolution back to committee failed, keeping the bill on the floor, with Susan Lebuhn, D-Salamanca, pointing out that this bill can go back to committee to come out again.

“You can’t keep sending it back,” she said. “We have all had ample time to ask questions. I believe this is going to happen, but I am not in favor of sending it back to committee.

In a roll call vote, the resolution passed by weighted vote, 13.173 to 5.6588, with Olean legislators Earl McElfresh, Linda Edstrom and James Snyder Sr. joined by Yorkshire legislator William Sprague and Limestone legislator Carl Edwards voting against the resolution.