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Adirondack Council Urging Pro-Adirondack Legislative Votes

Tuesday, June 14, 2016
By: William C. Janeway - Adirondack Council Executive Director

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As the 2016 Legislative Session draws to a close, the Adirondack Council is working with local government officials to gain approval for a constitutional amendment that would expand the “forever wild” Forest Preserve and help communities address their needs for climate resiliency and telecommunications.

All of the Adirondack Park’s conservation advocates, as well as a coalition of statewide and national organizations, expressed support. Sen. Elizabeth Little, R-Queensbury, sponsors the resolution and accompanying legislation.

As is often the case at the end of a session, the legislation is the subject of political wrangling that involves a broad array of other issues that the Legislature is attempting to settle before going home for the rest of the year. Both houses are slated to break for the summer on June 16 and remain in recess through the November statewide elections. Meanwhile, stalemates remain on controversial statewide subjects such as ethics reforms, sports betting and ride-hailing services.

The proposed constitutional amendment would add a new Section 6 to Article XIV of the Constitution, which governs the management and use of the Forest Preserve in the Adirondack and Catskill parks. Article XIV, Section 1 is the Forever Wild Clause. The remaining sections are exceptions to that clause that have been approved by the voters since the clause was first created in 1894.

The proposed amendment would be similar to one the voters approved in 1957. That amendment created a modest 400-acre state land bank, which has been tapped as the Dept. of Transportation needed to straighten or realign state highways to make them safer. The proposed amendment would create a similar mechanism to extend this flexibility to town and county highways, many of which also cross the Forest Preserve.

It would also grant permission to extend power and telecommunications lines (telephone, cable TV, broadband internet access, etc.), water pipes and drainage culverts under, and adjacent to, existing roads. In addition, it would provide bike paths on, or next to, those roads.

Communities would be allowed to upgrade and install bridges and culverts to aid with drainage and fish-passage, especially in places that need added storm water runoff capacity in the face of an increasingly changeable climate.

In addition, it would allow communities to obtain new drinking water supplies if their current water source becomes unpotable, and there is no alternative to locating wells on Forest Preserve lands. This happened in Raquette Lake in 2005, necessitating a 2007 constitutional amendment granting permission to swap two acres of Forest Preserve where wells would be drilled, for a larger parcel of new Forest Preserve, which was added to the Blue Ridge Wilderness.

The Adirondack Council also supports new legislation that would implement the constitutional amendment approved by the voters in 2013, correcting one-hundred year old title errors for nearly 200 landowners and public facilities on Raquette Lake. The state’s attempts to resolve those disputes in court mostly failed. To resolve the issue amicably, landowners agreed to pay a fee into a state account, based on the amount of land they have. The money was to be used to purchase the Marion River Carry parcel and add it to the Forest Preserve. The Adirondack Council supports the legislation, sponsored by Sen. Hugh Farley, R-Schenectady.

The Adirondack Council only supports proposed constitutional amendments that are limited, specific and narrow in scope and address a documented public need, when there is no other alternative, and when there is a clear net benefit to the Forest Preserve. In some cases, other criteria apply. These two proposals meet the Council’s principles, and criteria for support.

Finally, the Adirondack Council supports a proposed constitutional amendment that would remove the former Camp Gabriels State Prison from the Forest Preserve near Saranac Lake. Several years ago, the state subdivided the prison campus to separate the forest lands from the buildings and add them to the adjacent Forest Preserve. This left only the land under the buildings to be sold. However, after a state auction, the winning bidders told state officials they could not obtain title insurance because the title company was unsure whether the state had a legal right to sell the land. The Forever Wild clause prohibits state officials from selling Forest Preserve lands without permission from the voters. This bill is also sponsored by Sen. Little.

The Adirondack Council is urging New York’s legislators to vote for and approve these pro-Adirondack Park measures before they finish their work June 16.

 

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William C. (Willie) Janeway returned to the Adirondacks to become the Executive Director and leader of the Adirondack Council in May 2013 after close to six years as the Regional Director for the State Department of Environmental Conservation Hudson Valley/Catskill Region. He brings to the Adirondack Council team a life-long passion and interest in the Adirondacks and nearly 30 years of experience as a professional conservationist, fundraiser, administrator, coalition builder and advocate for the environment.

After graduating from St. Lawrence University where he majored in economics and environmental studies, Willie lived in the Adirondacks for nine years while working for the Adirondack Mountain Club as the first Trails Coordinator, and North Country Director.  Willie also served as the first Executive Director of the Albany Pine Bush Preserve Commission, Executive Director of the Hudson Valley Greenway, and State Director of Government Relations for The Nature Conservancy.

When not working Willie can be found outdoors. He is an Adirondack 46er, a year-round hiker and skier, a runner and a fisherman.  He and his family share a camp in the Park.  Willie and his wife Mary live in Keene.

 

 

 

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