Press Releases

Legislature Grants Wish to Adirondack Local Governments

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

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Thursday, June 29, 2017

ALBANY, N.Y. -- Both houses of the NYS Legislature granted Adirondack local governments a significant victory this week when they passed a Constitutional Amendment that would create a modest land bank to improve public safety and telecommunications in the Adirondack and Catskill parks. 

The measure now goes to the voters in November for final approval.

“This proposal has been on Adirondack local governments’ wish lists for many years,” said Adirondack Council Executive Director William C. Janeway.  “We are pleased to have been part the team of stakeholders who helped reach this agreement.  If approved by the voters in November, this will foster a more vibrant local economy while respecting the integrity and legacy of ‘forever wild’ land protections.”

The land bank would allow local governments to straighten town and county roads, and install certain infrastructure such as broadband telecommunications along rights-of-way for existing roads that cross “forever wild” state Forest Preserve lands.  Currently, any one of those actions would require a separate Constitutional Amendment, each of which takes years to approve.

The Constitution’s “forever wild” clause requires the Forest Preserve of the Adirondack and Catskill parks to remain wild, forever.  That means any new development requires the state to remove the affected lands from the Forest Preserve and replace them.  Such swaps require permission from the voters, via a Constitutional Amendment.

If the proposed amendment is approved by the voters, it would authorize a 250-acre land bank for qualifying projects.  Before any of it is used, all 250 acres would be replaced by new Forest Preserve.

Both houses also passed the enabling legislation that spells out how the Constitutional Amendment would be carried out if approved by the voters.

“The Adirondack Council thanks Assembly EnCon Chair Steven Englebright and Sen. Betty Little for their leadership and courage,” Janeway said. “Many others also worked in good faith and were critical to this success including Assemblymen Dan Stec and Billy Jones.  Other contributors and partners included the NYS Department of Environmental Conservation, Adirondack Mountain Club, The Nature Conservancy, Adirondack Wild, the Adirondack Association of Towns and Villages, Adirondack Park Local Government Review Board, and Adirondack Common Ground Alliance, as well as Citizens Campaign for the Environment, the Catskill Center for Conservation and Design, Environmental Advocates, Scenic Hudson, the Catskill Mountainkeeper, the NY League of Conservation Voters, and others.

The “forever wild” clause is the strongest forest conservation law on earth.  It protects the Forest Preserve of the Adirondack Park (and Catskill Park) from logging, lease, sale or development. It also bans destruction or removal of the timber and requires the state to protect the Forest Preserve’s wild character.

However, the Forest Preserve covers less than half of the enormous park, which stands as the largest park in the contiguous United States.  At 9,300 square miles, it is larger than Yellowstone, Yosemite, Glacier and Grand Canyon National Parks, combined.

The rest of the park is comprised of private forest lands and 120 small villages and hamlets, most with a population of less than 1,000.

“These rural communities are surrounded by the largest collection of wild lands outside of Alaska,” Janeway explained.  “They sometimes have trouble finding room for -- or access to -- typical municipal services and modern telecommunications.  This will help solve that problem without going back to the voters to approve minor changes to the Forest Preserve’s boundaries when a town road needs straightening or a new bridge.”   

The amendment would allow new telecommunications/broadband projects on roads that cross Forest Preserve lands in the Adirondacks and Catskills, as well as replacement culverts and bridges, including a bridge in Middletown.  The amendment would also ease the development of new municipal water supplies and bike paths.

The 250-acre land bank proposed in the amendment would be used to straighten or realign town and county roads for safety purposes, when the roads cross “forever wild” Forest Preserve lands in the Adirondack or Catskill Parks.  This is modeled on a similar 400-acre land bank New York voters approved in 1957 for realigning state highways to make them safer. 

Before any land could be removed from the bank, all 250 acres would have to be replaced in the Forest Preserve by the purchase of additional lands.  As the 250 acres are used, the project sponsors will make financial contributions to a Forest Preserve expansion account that will be used to purchase additional Forest Preserve.

Stakeholders agreed last year that second and final legislative approval of the resolution to amend the Constitution would be accompanied by “enabling legislation,” spelling out how the amendment would be carried out if it is accepted by the voters in November. 

Enabling legislation is often left until after an amendment is voted upon in a statewide election.  Environmental organizations including the Adirondack Council and others felt that voters would be more likely to approve the amendment if they were certain of how its various, complicated provisions would be carried out before they cast their ballots.

“Ballot language can be confusing and often doesn’t reflect all of the provisions of the amendment being considered,” Janeway said. “Having all of the details available before Election Day should improve voter confidence.”

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.

« Back to Press Releases

Why the Park Matters

On the Blog

In and About the Park

Our Current Projects

Join Us/Donate

Support Adirondack Conservation!

How You Can Help

Take Action

Save the Adirondacks from Acid Rain!

Your donation goes directly to help fund initiatives within the Adirondack Park.   DONATE NOW