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Legislature Approves Pair of Constitutional Amendment Authorizing Land Swaps in Adirondack Forest Preserve

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LEGISLATURE APPROVES PAIR OF CONSTITUTIONAL AMENDMENTS AUTHORIZING LAND SWAPS IN ADIRONDACK FOREST PRESERVE Voters Get Final Decision as Both Projects Will be Placed on November Statewide Ballot, Adirondack Council,
Other Environmental Groups Support Both Measures

For more information:
John F. Sheehan
518-432-1770 (ofc)
518-441-1340 (cell)

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE, Wednesday, June 19, 2013

ALBANY, N.Y. – The NYS Legislature granted its final approval today for two Constitutional Amendments authorizing land swaps involving public Forest Preserve lands inside the Adirondack Park.

The Adirondack Council supports both amendments, noting that Gov. Andrew Cuomo had gained its support for a proposed Constitutional Amendment by embracing and exceeding the organization’s principles for judging the merits of land exchanges involving the “forever wild” Adirondack Forest Preserve.

“Both of these amendments offer clear benefits to the Forest Preserve,” said William C. Janeway, Executive Director of the Adirondack Council. “They also will help the communities in which they are located.”

The Adirondack Mountain Club has also expressed support for both amendments.

The Forever Wild Clause (Article 14, Section 1) of the NYS Constitution protects the public lands of the Adirondack Park from lease, sale, exchange or development, noting they must be “forever kept as wild forest lands.” Any proposed exchanges must be approved by two separately elected legislatures and the voters of the state.

The first proposed amendment to pass 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 be of equal or greater value than the lands the state will give up in exchange.

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 solve long-standing problems,” Janeway explained. “The people of Raquette Lake will finally resolve a property ownership dispute that has plagued them for more than a century. Landowners get clear titles, while the people of the state get new Forest Preserve lands on the beautiful Marion River that belong in public ownership and will enhance recreation and tourism. The NYCO exchange will expand the Jay Mountain Wilderness and add lands to the Taylor Pond Wild Forest along the Boquet River.”

The Adirondack Park is a 6-million-acre (9,300-square-mile) reserve of mixed public and private lands. About half of the park is public land, protected from logging, lease, sale and development by the NYS Constitution’s Forever Wild clause (Article 14, Section 1). The rest is private land, devoted to commercial forestry, outdoor recreation, private retreats and 130 small communities. It also contains a few dozen widely scattered industrial sites and mines (garnet, anorthosite, sand, gravel, etc.).

The Forever Wild clause says the park’s public forests “shall be forever kept as wild forest lands.” It is the strongest public forest protection law in the United States, and one of the oldest. It was adopted at the Constitutional Convention of 1894 to safeguard the park’s forests and protect its abundant lakes and rivers.

In the NYCO amendment, new state lands would be comprised of five new parcels adjacent to the Jay Mountain Wilderness Area, plus a sixth adjoining the Taylor Pond Wild Forest and the Bouquet River. The parcels would make excellent additions to the wilderness, which is the smallest of the park’s 17 wilderness areas.

The Raquette Lake amendment would require the landowners to pool their resources and purchase for the Forest Preserve a significant parcel of land along the Marion River, which connects Raquette Lake to Blue Mountain Lake.

The Adirondack Council is a privately funded, not-for-profit organization dedicated to ensuring the ecological integrity and wild character of the Adirondack Park. Defending the Forever Wild Clause of the constitution is part of that. So too is the Council’s support for vibrant and economically sustainable communities, as an essential part of the Park. The Council carries out its mission through research, education, advocacy and legal action.

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