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Source: The Syracuse Post-Standard

Cuomo taps ESF grad for DEC


Posted: January 5, 2011
Originally Published: January 5, 2011

Three decades ago Joseph Martens came to Syracuse from his home state of Massachusetts to get his master’s degree at the SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry.

Martens, now 54, never left the state, instead he moved to the Albany area to work for a number of government and nonprofit agencies. On Tuesday, Gov. Andrew Cuomo nominated him as the next commissioner of the state Department of Environmental Conservation. The hiring needs Senate confirmation.

Martens’ nomination was hailed by the state’s environmental groups.

“He’s knowledgeable, competent, reasonable and we’re delighted he will lead the department,” said Dereth Glance, of Syracuse, executive program director of Citizens Campaign for the Environment. “He has a great deal of knowledge about diverse and complicated issues.”

Glance and others said they believe Martens (pronounced Mar-TENS) will stand firm on the issue of hydraulic fracturing, the controversial method of extracting natural gas through deep, horizontal wells. Martens told The Post-Standard on Tuesday that he believes the state should wait until the federal Environmental Protection Agency completes its study of the technique before deciding whether and how to move forward.

“The more information we can garner the better,” he said.

Martens has experience both inside and outside of government. When he graduated from ESF in 1981 with a degree in resource management, he joined the state Assembly staff to work on environmental issues, at one point developing the budgets for all of the state’s environmental entities, including the DEC and the parks department. He went on to become deputy secretary to Gov. Mario Cuomo for energy and the environment.

For the past 12 years, he has led the Open Space Institute in Albany, a nonprofit agency that has protected more than 100,000 acres in the state.

Stephen Wowelko, of Syracuse, president of the Onondaga County Federation of Sportsmen’s Clubs, said he doesn’t know much about Martens yet, but he was somewhat concerned that Cuomo’s announcement made no mention of fish and wildlife issues. Wowelko said he wants to make sure the next DEC commissioner pays attention to the dwindling resources available to develop and maintain the state’s hunting and fishing opportunities.

Martens said he does not hunt, but he has fished all his life.

“I greatly respect hunters and believe in the sport,” he said. “I think sportsmen generally are the best conservationists, because they actually understand natural resources.”

Bob Quinn, assistant director of the ESF College Foundation, who has known Martens for 30 years, said Martens is “just the kind of person you’d want to go into public service — hard-working, totally honorable, a real understanding of the environment. ... He knows the ins and outs of state government without being jaded or bureaucratic as a result.”

Martens acknowledged his life is about to change. He said he often wears jeans and a sports coat to his office, and he takes his dog, Zorra, to work with him almost every day. That’s going to end.

“My wife wants to get me out to Joseph Banks shortly to buy some new clothes,” he said.