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Legislative Session Sees Incremental Adirondack Gains;Transformational Progress Needed on Communities & Wild Lands

For more information:
John F. Sheehan
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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE, Friday, June 21, 2013

ALBANY, N.Y. – For the Adirondack Park, the 2013 NYS Legislative Session ended with a few notable successes and multiple disappointments, the park’s largest environmental organization said.

Among the successes were an on-time budget, in March, which included partial restoration of the Environmental Protection Fund (EPF). At the close of the session, the Legislature approved the Governor’s Adirondack Park Agency appointments; two proposed Constitutional Amendments that would add to the Adirondack Park’s public lands; plus, bills to increase public local food procurement, prohibit invasive Eurasian boars, and safely collect and dispose of tons of mercury, said the Adirondack Council.

Left undone was legislation to address the emissions that cause global climate change and a “transfer of development rights” bill that would encourage projects to be located in already-developed places in the park, while discouraging destruction of intact, remote forests, the organization reported.

The Adirondack Council is a non-partisan, not-for-profit, research, education and advocacy organization based in the Adirondack Park. The Council accepts neither public funding nor taxpayer-funded donations of any kind.

“Next year we need to pursue more than modest, incremental gains, because the Adirondacks need bigger transformational actions,” said William C. Janeway, Executive Director of the Adirondack Council. “Park-wide priorities include strengthening clean water and wild lands funding, and better legal protections for both. We need to revitalize struggling, local communities and enhance their resiliency. We need to combat climate change and invasive species, and improve incentives for responsible stewardship of private forests and farmland.

“The basic rules for managing public and private lands inside the six-million-acre park have not been updated in more than 40 years and have not kept pace with basic conservation science,” Janeway noted. “Climate change and invasive species are replacing acid rain as major sources of damage to the park’s forests, waters and wildlife. Communities are struggling to build and sustain vibrant, year-round economies that offer meaningful employment and business opportunities for their children.

“On the bright side, the Environmental Protection Fund increased this year from $134 million to $153 million,” Janeway said “This is a welcome step toward the long-term goal of restoring the EPF to $250 million. But it was a small step.

With support from the Adirondack Council and others, lawmakers approved two Constitutional Amendments that would add lands and waters to the “forever wild” Adirondack Forest Preserve, if approved by voters in November. In a significant victory for Adirondack advocates, the Governor’s team embraced and followed the six principles the Council developed for proposed Forest Preserve land exchanges. One of these exchanges, known as “Township 40,” resolves a century-old ownership dispute between the state and 200 landowners in the Town of Long Lake, while adding significantly to the Forest Preserve. Senators also worked with the governor to approve two new members and five new terms of office for members of the Adirondack Park Agency’s board of commissioners. Dick Booth, the only remaining Commissioner not replaced or reappointed, also continues to serve. The Council welcomes the new appointees and continues to urge the reappointment of Booth.

“But next year we hope to do much more,” Janeway said.

“Still needed are a comprehensive overhaul of the park agency’s rules for development on private lands, as well as the rules for management of the park’s public Forest Preserve,” Janeway said. “Neither set of rules has even had a tune-up in the past four decades. Imagine how your car would run if it were neglected that long ...”

Janeway said the Council would urge lawmakers and Gov. Andrew Cuomo to address these problems during the 2014 session.

Among the legislation supported by the Adirondack Council that passed this session were:

Two proposed Constitutional Amendments that will go to the voters statewide for final approval on November 5 -

The first proposed amendment would clear up a century-old ownership dispute between the state and 200 landowners in the Town of Long Lake, both of whom believe they own the lands in question. The swap would allow the private owners, all of whom have deeds to the lands they occupy, to remain where they are in exchange for purchasing lands nearby that would be added to the public Forest Preserve. The lands they purchase would have to provide a net benefit to the Forest Preserve.

The second amendment would authorize a swap that would expand the Jay Mountain Wilderness and Taylor Pond Wild Forest by at least 1,507 acres. NYCO Minerals of Willsboro would be authorized to expand its mine in Lewis, Essex County, on to 200 acres of adjoining Forest Preserve in exchange. The new lands contain better wildlife habitat and recreational amenities than the lands NYCO would use. No Old Growth forest would be impacted.

NYCO would be required to return the lands to the public Forest Preserve, after it restores and replants the forest. NYCO also owns processing facilities in nearby Willsboro, employing about 100 people in all. Wollastonite is a white mineral used primarily in ceramics and as a substitute for asbestos in automobile brakes and clutches. It is also used to make metals, paints and plastics.

Both amendments were sponsored by Sen. Elizabeth Little, R-Queensbury, and Assembly Environmental Conservation Committee Chairman Robert Sweeney, D-Lindenhurst, as well as Assembly members Daniel Stec, R-Queensbury, Janet Duprey, R-Peru, and Marc Butler, R-Newport.

Constitutional Amendments do not require the governor’s signature. Once they are approved by two separately elected Legislatures in consecutive years, they are presented to the statewide voters at the following General Election (Nov. 5).

These bills passed both houses and will become law if they are approved by the Governor.

Local Food Procurement Legislation -

Both houses passed a bill that would require state agencies to establish a food purchasing, tracking and reporting system that will provide baseline data about money being spent on food and the geographic source of that food. The bill lays the groundwork to encourage state institutions to buy more food grown on farms in New York. It was sponsored by Sen. Patty Ritchie, R-Oswegatchie, and Assemblywoman Crystal D. Peoples-Stokes, D-Buffalo.

Invasive Eurasian Boars Legislation -

Both houses passed a bill that would ban by 2015 the transport or possession of invasive Eurasian boars, whose recent escapes from captivity has led to widespread damage of public and private lands. The resulting environmental damage and negative economic impacts were significant. This bill was sponsored by Senator Little and Assemblywoman Deborah Glick, D-Manhattan.

This bill was expected to pass by the end of today. It too must receive the Governor’s approval to become law.

Mercury Pollution Legislation -

Both houses passed a bill that would expand the state’s mercury thermostat recycling program. Tons of mercury from hundreds of thousands of discarded heating/air conditioning control units contaminates water, wildlife and food supplies when the mercury in the thermostats is not properly collected and managed. Mercury is toxic to brain and nerve cells and causes birth defects. This bill was sponsored by Assemblyman Sweeney and Senate Environmental Conservation Committee Chairman Mark Grisanti, R-Buffalo.

Founded in 1975, the Adirondack Council is a privately funded, not-for-profit organization dedicated to ensuring the ecological integrity and wild character of the Adirondack Park. The Adirondack Council envisions an Adirondack Park with clean water and air and large, core wilderness areas, surrounded by working farms and forests and vibrant local communities. The Council carries out its mission through research, education, advocacy and legal action. Adirondack Council members live in all 50 States.

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