Two Propositions on NY Ballot Ask Voters to Decide on Adirondack Land Exchanges
NEW YORK – When New York State voters go to the polls next Tuesday, besides choosing candidates in their local and county elections, they will be asked to vote yes or no on six constitutional amendment propositions, two of which are land exchanges.
Proposition 4 would amend the the state Constitution to authorize the Legislature to settle longstanding disputes between the state and private entities over ownership of certain parcels of land in the town of Long Lake, Hamilton County. In exchange for giving up its claim to disputed parcels, the state would get land to be incorporated into the forest preserve that would benefit the forest preserve more than the disputed parcels currently do. The proposed amendment would permit the state to settle the so-called “Township 40 claims” and clear local land titles in exchange for funding to purchase land the state has long wanted to add to Adirondack Park.
Proposition 5 would allow NYCO Minerals, Inc., a private company, to continue its mining operations in the town of Lewis, Essex County. The state Constitution generally forbids the lease, sale, exchange, or taking of any forest preserve land. But the proposed amendment would allow the state to convey approximately 200 forest preserve acres to NYCO Minerals for mining. In exchange, NYCO Minerals would give the state at least the same amount of land of at least the same value, with a minimum assessed value of $1 million. This land would be added to the forest preserve. When NYCO Minerals finishes mining, the company would restore the condition of the land it received in the exchange and return it to the forest preserve.
The proposed amendment also would allow NYCO Minerals to test to determine the quantity and quality of the mineral to be mined on the land before the exchange occurs. It would require NYCO Minerals to give the state its test results so that the state can use them to determine the value of the land to be conveyed to NYCO Minerals. The proposed amendment also would require that if, after testing, NYCO Minerals does not want the forest preserve land, the company still must give the state at least the same amount of land of at least the same value of the land that was disturbed by the testing. This land would be incorporated into the forest preserve.
Former Governor George Pataki has endorsed both propositions. In an op/ed piece for The Journal News, he said Proposition 4 would “end over 100 years of costly legal disputes and bring into the Forest Preserve a beautiful parcel of land.”
Pataki called Proposition 5 “a rare opportunity to expand the Forest Preserve near Lake Placid while helping to protect 100 jobs that are extremely important to the region.”
However, while Protect the Adirondacks! Inc. a nonprofit dedicated to the protection and stewardship of lands in the Adirondack Park, supports Prop 4, it opposes Prop 5.
“It sets a terrible precedent for the Forest Preserve,” the group states on its website. “The bill language is vague with too many uncertainties. The Forest Preserve lands to be exchanged with NYCO are old growth forests, and NYCO has long planned to move from its Lewis mine to a new fully permitted mine nearby called Oakhill, which ensures its long-term mineral supply.”