Press Releases

Clean Water, Consitutional Amendment, Tourism Top Session

For more information:
Kevin Chlad
518-432-1770 ext. 201 

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Thursday, July 13, 2017

ALBANY, N.Y. -- The Governor and Legislature provided Adirondack communities millions of dollars in new funding for clean water and economic development during the legislative session that ended in late June, as well as approving a Constitutional Amendment that would give communities greater flexibility to grow near the edges of the “forever wild” Forest Preserve.

State government’s next step should be a strong wilderness protection package for Boreas Ponds and other nearby state lands, said the Adirondack Council.  New wilderness would complement these economic development gains and balance-out new tourism, the conservation organization said.

“The Governor and Legislature were very generous toward Adirondack communities this legislative session,” said Adirondack Council Executive Director William C. Janeway.  “They provided $2.5 billion for clean water projects statewide in the budget, significant funding to fight invasive species and for smart growth grants, and announced a $32-million public-private redevelopment program for Exit 29 in North Hudson, at the site of the former Frontier Town.  Those were big victories for the park’s communities and should be celebrated.”

In addition -- during the final moments of the session -- all sides came to agreement on a Constitutional Amendment that would create a modest land bank for Adirondack communities.  Local officials would use it to straighten dangerous curves or install public utilities on short sections of the rights-of-way alongside town or county roads that cross the Forest Preserve.

Currently, all of those activities would require a separate constitutional amendment, which takes three years to approve, if all goes smoothly.  This amendment would eliminate the need for a statewide vote for these minor adjustments, he said. 

The amendment was first passed in 2016 by the 2015/16 Legislature.  Second Legislative approval by the 2017/18 Legislature means it goes to the voters in November for a final decision on Election Day (Nov. 7).

All-in-all, Janeway said local governments made huge strides this session in terms of economic development, independence, new recreational opportunities, tourism development funding and state grants for much-needed water and waste-water infrastructure.

“The other half of the success story that the Adirondack Park can become is a strong package of wilderness classifications and protections in the High Peaks region of the park, especially around Boreas Ponds,” Janeway said.  “The state has purchased several parcels of former timber and mining company lands that fit like missing puzzle pieces into the existing High Peaks Wilderness Area.  Adding them to the High Peaks Wilderness would make it larger than Rocky Mountain National Park.  That would bring new visitors, while redirecting crowds from overused High Peaks trails.”

Tourism Development Package

Janeway noted that the state planned an investment of $13 million in public funding to develop a new tourism hub at the former Frontier Town amusement park.  It expects to leverage another $26 million in private and public funding for the effort.  Frontier Town is across the interstate from what would be the eastern border of an expanded High Peaks Wilderness Area. 

Grants Save Money for Local Taxpayers, Homeowners 

The 2017/18 State Budget approved in May contains a $2.5-billion appropriation to address water and sewage system repair and construction statewide. $75 million is for septic system repair and replacement, $25 million of which will be available for competitive grants to upstate homeowners that cover half the cost of upgrades/replacements.  The $300-million Environmental Protection Fund again provided millions of dollars in grants to communities to combat the spread of invasive species money for smart growth grants as we

Constitutional Amendment Helps Communities Constrained by Forest Preserve

Janeway explained that the six-million-acre Adirondack Park (9,300 square miles) is the largest park in the contiguous United States.  Slightly more than half of the park is composed of private forest land and 120 small villages and hamlets, most with populations of 1,000 or fewer.  The park covers parts of 12 counties and 92 towns.  Public and private lands sit side-by-side, with isolated parcels of public land forming a patchwork pattern with the private lands around it.

Public lands are protected by the constitution, which requires that they “be forever kept as wild forest lands.”  No one can build on them or seize them, so they must be removed from the Forest Preserve first, which requires the consent of the voters.  This amendment would establish a land bank of 250 acres that could be used by communities for qualifying projects, without the need for a new constitutional amendment for each project.  A similar land bank for straightening state highways (400 acres) was approved by the voters in 1957.

All land bank projects would have to qualify in terms of size and scope. 

Larger or more controversial projects would still require a formal constitutional amendment. 

Other Issues

Janeway said the Council was grateful to Assembly Environmental Conservation Committee Chairman Steve Englebright for passing legislation (A.5451) deigned to better protect water quality and wildlife habitat on the park’s wildest lands and waters, which tend to be located farthest from Adirondack communities.  The Council also thanked Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie, D-Bronx, for halting legislation that would have allowed an expansion of the size and number of all-terrain vehicles allowed on public trails without sufficient protections for the Forest Preserve.

The Adirondack Council is a privately funded not-for-profit organization whose mission is to ensure the ecological integrity and wild character of the Adirondack Park.  The Council envisions a Park with clean water and clean air, comprised of core wilderness areas, surrounded by farms and working forests, as well as vibrant communities.

The Council carries out its mission through research, education, advocacy and legal action.  Adirondack Council members live in all 50 United States.

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