Press Releases

Environmental Organizations Praise the Passage of Legislation to Implement a Health & Safety Land Account for the Adirondack Park

 ALBANY, N.Y. – Adirondack environmental organizations including the Adirondack Council, ADK (the Adirondack Mountain Club), Adirondack Wild: Friends of the Forest Preserve, and Protect the Adirondacks praise the passage of legislation last week that will implement a constitutional amendment establishing a Health & Safety Land Account for the New York State Forest Preserve. In 2017, the voters approved an amendment to Article XIV, Section 1 of the State Constitution, authorizing the creation of a 250-acre Health & Safety Land Account from Forest Preserve Land, to be used for local and county bridge and highway safety projects. A 1957 amendment to Article XIV already permits such improvements to state highways in the Adirondack Park.

The amendment also authorizes the placement of public utility lines (including broadband internet), and bike paths in road rights of way, and the location of wells and pipelines for drinking water on lands of the Forest Preserve. The amendment and its implementing legislation, as set forth in Title 21 of Article 9 of the Environmental Conservation Law (ECL), provide that before such land may be used by municipalities in the Adirondacks and Catskills, not less than 250 acres must be acquired by the State for inclusion in the Forest Preserve, subject to legislative approval.

“The legislation passed this year approves 1,420 acres for inclusion in the Forest Preserve, exceeding the constitutional amendment's 250-acre land account requirement. The net gain of over 1,000 acres of new Forest Preserve lands is a win for everyone,” said Neil F. Woodworth, Executive Director of the Adirondack Mountain Club. The properties include a 214 acre parcel located in the Catskills in the Town of Olive in Ulster County. A second parcel, located in the Adirondacks in the Town of Moriah in Essex County, consists of approximately 1206 acres of land.

The Health & Safety Land Account will help local government leaders and regional state legislators improve safety and quality of life for residents and visitors in the Adirondack Park, and for this reason was one of the top priorities for local Adirondack politicians. The Adirondack environmental organizations joined forces with local government leaders to successfully campaign for passage in the Legislature in 2016 and 2017. The environmental groups were also instrumental in promoting the public referendum in November 2017, which narrowly passed. The environmental organizations considered the Health & Safety Land Account an important objective and dedicated many hours of advocacy, funding, and promotional work to help community leaders establish this fund by getting the amendment passed and implemented.

“We are pleased that the park’s communities got everything they needed with the land bank,” said William C. Janeway, Executive Director of the Adirondack Council.  “This was a priority and a big victory for local government officials, who were seeking some flexibility when working around town roads that cross the Forest Preserve.  We congratulate Horicon Town Supervisor Matt Simpson, who has worked hard to make it possible to build a new Middleton Bridge over the Schroon River and make it easier for emergency vehicles to reach the homes on the other side.”

“We actively lobbied the Legislature to pass the authorizing legislation to set up the Health & Safety Land Account that will help communities in the Adirondacks and Catskills to provide municipal services. We’re hopeful that the effort will assist with the development and viability of communities across the Adirondacks and Catskills,” said Peter Bauer, Executive Director of Protect the Adirondacks.

“For decades, local leaders in both Adirondack and Catskill Parks argued that the presence of Forest Preserve in their towns made it impossible to make small but important improvements to local roads, bridges and highway infrastructure,” said Adirondack Wild’s David Gibson. “Those problem areas were studied, legislative leaders listened and the voters did as well. We fought hard for the amendment to pass and are pleased that the legislature has taken the next step which permits small road and right-of-way improvements to proceed in both Parks while respecting the integrity of Article XIV.”

The Department of Environmental Conservation will administer the Health & Safety Land Account. The DEC will prepare rules and regulations for the account and anticipates taking applications for its use by the end of 2019. Under state law, large-scale projects that seek to access significant acreage will require approval by the Legislature.

 

For more information:

Neil Woodworth, Adirondack Mountain Club, 518-669-0128 (cell); 518-449-3870 (ofc)

John F. Sheehan, Adirondack Council, 518-441-1340 (cell); 518-432-1770 (ofc)

Peter Bauer, Protect the Adirondacks, 518-251-2700 (ofc), 518-796-0112 (cell)

David Gibson, Adirondack Wild: Friends of the Forest Preserve, 518-469-4081 (cell)

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE, Monday, June 24, 2019

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