Adirondack land swaps win approval, dividing green groups

A NYCO official points at forest preserve land that will be mined under a land swap on 2013 ballot (Photo:  Brian Mann)

A NYCO official points at forest preserve land that will be mined under a land swap on 2013 ballot (Photo: Brian Mann)

State board of elections figures  show two Adirondack land swap ballot proposals passing by handy margins, though the NYCO minerals project in Essex County appeared significantly closer.

The land swap that would allow mining on roughly 200 acres of forest preserve land in the town of Lewis was winning on a 53-46% margin.

The mining company will be required to spend at least $1 million buying new land for the state forest preserve and executives have said that they plan to purchase roughly 1500 acres around the Jay Mountain Wilderness.

State Senator Betty Little issued a statement praising passage of both measures.

“I’m very gratified and very happy voters approved propositions 4 and 5, which are so important to families and businesses in the Adirondacks,” said Senator Little.  “Amending the State Constitution is not an easy process by design and both amendments reflected a very thorough and balanced approach that will help our economy and result in better recreational access important to tourism and protective of the environment.”

Environmental groups were split on the NYCO project, but it enjoyed broad support among elected officials in the North Country, and with DEC commissioner Joe Martens.

“We are grateful that the voters approved these two Constitutional Amendments authorizing land swaps involving the ‘forever wild’ Adirondack Forest Preserve,” said Adirondack Council executive director Willie Janeway in a statement.

“It shows that voters value the environmental and economic benefits of the State’s six-million-acre Adirondack Park. They share our vision of an Adirondack Park that works best when its wild character is protected and its small towns and hamlets are vibrant and alive.”

But Adirondack Wild co-founder Dan Plumley argued that the vote weakens protections for the Park’s wild lands.  “The closeness of the final tally on Proposition 5 is sheer testimony to the highly controversial nature of this terrible, damaging precedent,” he said.

That message was blurred, however, by support for the measure among many long-standing environmental activists and officials, including former APA commissioner Ross Whaley and Peter Paine Jr., who helped create the modern Adirondack Park.

Protect the Adirondacks executive director Peter Bauer said that the outcome marked a significant “difference of vision” between

Peter Bauer, Protect the Adirondacks

Peter Bauer, Protect the Adirondacks

green groups.

“This is a serious fault line clearly,” he said.  “Proposition 5 really laid that bare.”

RAQUETTE LAKE VOTE LESS CONTROVERSIAL

Meanwhile, a land swap to settle a long-running property line dispute in the Hamilton County hamlet of Racquette Lake appeared to be winning approval by a wider 72-27% margin.

That project saw no organized opposition.  Supporters have suggested that revenue from the land swap could be used to acquire the Marion Carry parcel of land, preserving a traditional Adirondack portage trail.

That deal will grant clear title to businesses and homeowners in the remote rural community.

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50 Responses to “Adirondack land swaps win approval, dividing green groups”

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  1. If Prop 5 passes, I guess we’ll just change Article 14 to Temporarily Wild.

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  2. Dan Plumley says:

    The closeness of the final tally on Proposition 5 is sheer testimony to the highly controversial nature of this terrible, damaging precedent. Proponents have made dark history today against “Forever Wild”, but we are fortified by the million and more New York citizens that stood up for the protection of Article XIV of the State Constitution and for the wild resources of Lot 8 and the Jay Mountain Wilderness Area. The effort to protect those lands, forests and resources under new mining threat will now move to the regulatory phase under Adirondack Park Agency and NYS-DEC law and regulatory review, while Adirondack Wild will be confronting the “snake-oil” compromising against “Forever Wild” by those who falsely maneuver to see private economic gain come at a cost of imperiling our wilderness lands.

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  3. Dan Murphy says:

    Brian,

    I was trying to explain this proposition to someone yesterday. They asked “Why would people oppose this? Are the 1500 acres that the park is getting worse than the 200 acres they are giving up? “

    My response was “No. I have watched YouTube videos that show the land, and heard environmentalist talk about it, they look very similar to me”

    Her follow up was “So why wouldn’t they want 7 times more land???”

    I couldn’t answer.

    Can you? (I’m honestly asking, not trying to start an argument).

    You apparently are opposed to the land swap.

    Would you be opposed to it if the parcels were switched? Meaning if the park was going to gain the 200 acres, and give up the 1500 acres, would you be for or against that?

    If your answer is that you would be opposed to that as well, then your stance is that anything that affects current parcels is bad? Where is the tipping point? What if the park gave up 1 acre to gain 1000? Would that be a positive? Or would you be opposed to that as well because that sets a “precedent”.

    Opposing this reminds me of a story that 60 Minutes had a few years ago. An avid hunter brought many species of African plains animals to a ranch in Texas. They were on the verge of extinction due to over hunting in Africa. This guy basically single handedly brought all of the species numbers back in a resounding way. Yet he was doing it to allow people to hunt them.

    Animal rights groups were against this. They said flat out they would rather the animals go extinct than have them hunted.

    It seemed to me that they could not see the forest for the trees. Opposition to Prop 5 seems very similar (and the tree analogy is much more fitting). From my vantage point, opposition is based on ideology rather than what is actually better for the park.

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  4. Two Cents says:

    well said, mr murphy

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  5. The Original Larry says:

    In certain circles, opposition is always based on ideology.

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  6. verplanck says:

    Dan,

    Thanks for asking the main question I had on this. If the swap was for land that is contiguous to other wild lands, has high ecological value, and the ‘give’ was for a lower-quality, fragmented parcel, it’s worth it.

    Environmental absolutism is the quick path to alienating potential allies.

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  7. Paul says:

    It makes sense that both of these passed. They should have both passed or both fallen. The principle is the same for both:

    A private entity gains considerable value from the swap. (the ability to increase the size of the mining operation for NYCO and a clean title to 216 parcels of lake front property (some residential and some commercial) that is now more valuable and more open for development)

    For neither proposition is it clear what parcel of land the state will get. (possibly land adjacent to the Jay Mt. Wilderness, or possibly the Marion River carry parcel, no guarantees either way)

    The Forest Preserve will not get any smaller in either case and may get considerably larger in one.

    Both transfer little value to the state on the “give” side. Both transfer considerable value to the private parties on the other side of the swap.

    It was never clear to me why environmental groups would be opposed to one and not the other. Just because the word “mine” was part of the ballot? My guess is that is why the vote was different.

    Dan if “dark history” was made yesterday (whatever that is?) then it was made for both, No?

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  8. Dan: To answer your question, I don’t see gaining more land for the forest preserve as imperative. I think making sure the land already in the preserve is protected is the priority. Forever Wild and Article XIV of the state constitution become effectively meaningless if land is given or swapped or lease to private interests for strip mining or other exploitation. I believe the state constitution has to mean something or else it doesn’t.

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  9. I don’t think all 6 million acres inside the Blue Line need to be Forever Wild. I do think that whatever land is in the forest preserve need to be preserved according to intent of Article XIV. If you can chop and change according to the populist winds of the day, then Forever wild ceases to have any meaning and you might as well just get rid of it.

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  10. Original Larry, I’d urge you to take a lesson from Dan Murphy. Rather than being a troll, he makes a serious, thoughtful point in a respectful way. I don’t agree with his position but I appreciate that he’s acting like an adult about it. He’s trying to provoke a discussion, not a childish flame war.

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  11. The Original Larry says:

    Brian,
    I’d urge you to shut up if you can’t take the criticism, not that it was directed specifically at you. It is most certainly a serious comment and one that I believe to be true. Examine your own comments; we often accuse others of the things we hate the most about ourselves.

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  12. Will Doolittle says:

    Isn’t the constitutional amendment process constitutional? Isn’t it fair and proper? It seems, especially in light of the passage of Proposal 5, that some opponents of the proposal want to characterize what happened as some sort of scam or crime. Witness Dan’s characterizations of “snake oil compromising” by “those who falsely maneuver.” Wow. Were voters and legislators misled? Or was this a process that played out in the open, over a period of years, and was debated in public and argued about, with both sides promoting their case statewide? Isn’t this how the democratic process is supposed to work? Or is it that, when a certain side loses, we have all been fooled?

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  13. The Original Larry says:

    “Isn’t the constitutional amendment process constitutional?”

    You would think so, wouldn’t you? I believe your comment about what happens when a certain side loses is spot on.

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  14. Paul says:

    “In certain circles, opposition is always based on ideology.”

    Why isn’t that a serious comment?

    The curious thing here is that their was opposition only to the private entity that has plans to mine their land. There was no opposition (and in fact support) for the other private entities that can soon do whatever they want (legally) with their land. Perhaps someday a mine. We don’t know what the future holds.

    “Forever Wild and Article XIV of the state constitution become effectively meaningless if land is given or swapped or lease to private interests for strip mining or other exploitation.”

    Brian, wouldn’t commercial development of the land around Raquett Lake qualify as “other exploitation”? Were you also opposed to that proposition? Or does that land not deserve the same protection? In the end more Forest Preserve land will be protected with both swaps and someday the mining company will be gone. Get over it.

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  15. The Original Larry says:

    So, constitutions become meaningless if they are lawfully amended?

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  16. Dan Murphy says:

    Brian, I appreciate your response, and while ideologically we differ, I can respect your view.

    Like you, I also think that our constitution means something. As does the amendment process. That is why I think the “slippery slope” argument is a reach. This land swap did not give carte blanche for all future developers to do what they want. It was specific, and it addresses as a single case. Which I think makes sense. Doesn’t it benefit the park to look at issues on a case by case basis rather than taking an absolute stance? Maybe you don’t think so, and that is fine, I just think that having an open mind on something can never be a bad thing. Imagine if the Constitution didn’t have any ammendments…

    To that point, I don’t necessarily agree that Larry was just trying to be a troll with his original comment (though his response to you seems to indicate otherwise).

    He does make a valid point in my opinion. There are certain factions of groups that get so mired down in their ideologies that the lose perspective on the “greater good” of their cause. My 60 Mins example is a perfect illustration of this. Animal rights groups were so focused on their ideology that actually saving the animals from extinction was not worth adjusting their views on hunting. An extreme example I admit, but similar in nature.

    Currently in Colton where I live, there is a heated debate on trail use and construction (motorized vs. non-motorized). This is another perfect example of ideological views taking over to the point that groups serving their purpose and reaching their objectives has taken a back seat to halting the progress of the other side.

    My point to all of this is, like Larry said (kinda), sometimes people get so entrenched on an issue, that they lose sight in what their were originally trying to accomplish.

    REO Speedwagon said it best… He had been fighting so long that he had “ forgotten what he started fighting for”. If we can’t learn from REO, then we have already lost….

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  17. Jim Bullard says:

    Well, Prop #5 passed so it’s academic now but here’s my take on why Prop #4 wasn’t controversial and Prop #5 was. Prop #4 cleared up muddled title to lands that were not “wilderness”. Apparently because of some botched maps both the state and the private landowners had legal grounds for claiming the land involved. Even some public buildings were on parcels of disputed property. It’s pretty hard to frame resolving the titles involved as giving up land that is Forever Wild.

    Lot #8 OTOH was designated as wilderness and had been owned by the state since 1895. It was (and for the moment is) actual wilderness. The Forever Wild clause in the constitution is extremely specific that such lands be kept forever wild. There can be no question in the mind of anyone reading it what the authors meant. Those who have read the history of the park understand that the Forever Wild clause was added to the constitution to stop exactly this kind of thing from happening. Despite that the Prop #5 “amendment”was written to do exactly what the Forever Wild clause prohibited in no uncertain terms.

    Is it ideology to believe that the constitution means what it says? Especially when it says it so clearly and unambiguously? I for one don’t think so.

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  18. Jim says:

    You have missed the real story this issue surfaces: why do our so called “green groups” disagree, split with, make side bar deals, double cross and undermine each other on every important issue. How are these things done elsewhere?

    The enviros in the adirondacks are not an “environmental community” in the sense that the word is ordinarily used elsewhere in the US.

    Whatever Paul Schaefer said you should always do in any enviro campaign, our “groups” never do, while all the things he said you must never do, they do. So, paradoxically, the Adks today are the only place in the US where Schaefer’s & Apperson’s wilderness protection strategies and methods have entirely disappeared.

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  19. The Original Larry says:

    Any constitution (state or federal) means what it says until it is lawfully amended or replaced. Cherry-picking the parts you like and ignoring the “inconvenient” parts because you don’t like or agree with them is blind adherence to whatever ideology you follow and indicates a willingness to set aside laws in the name of that ideology.

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  20. Paul says:

    Jim, you make a good point. But despite the lands designation those parcels on Raquette Lake are far more valuable ecologically than the high and dry land that NYCO wants to mine. I voted yes on that prop since I think the folks there deserve a break, but I don’t pretend that we as a state may have given up land that would make a great “addition” to the Forest Preserve and we have no guarantee on what we are getting in exchange. In fact if all the landowners go the conservation easement route (leaving things like the transfer station and other development without expansion) rather than paying the money the sate will have no money to purchase anything.

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  21. dave says:

    “So, constitutions become meaningless if they are lawfully amended? ”

    Not necessarily, but that can be the case.

    If we amended the US Constitution to weaken freedom of speech and religion and to revoke the separation of powers… would you make the argument that since we did so lawfully all is ok? Or would you make the case that the original constitution has lots some of its meaning?

    I would argue the latter.

    Constitutions are supposed to enshrine high level values, ideals. Overriding guiding principles. We make them hard to amend specifically because we want these values to withstand the test of time and the whim of politicians and voters over any given issue. But that does not mean that politicians and voters can not amend them on a whim… and when they do, they absolutely risk altering the meaning of those original values and principles.

    Read and re-read the relevant part of Article 14: “the forest preserve as now fixed by law, shall be forever kept as wild forest lands. They shall not be leased, sold or exchanged, or be taken by any corporation, public or private”

    Does that sentence still have as much meaning today as it did when it was originally written? I don’t see how anyone could claim it does.

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  22. Will Doolittle says:

    You can’t do something on a whim that is hard and time-consuming, by definition. Amending the state Constitution is hard and time-consuming. Amendments are our constitutional system’s built-in method to change with the times. Constitutions tend to be written in sweeping language, which is exactly what sometimes makes amendments necessary.

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  23. The Original Larry says:

    Constitutions do not exist to “enshrine high level values, ideals”. They provide a structure and framework for government. Yes, the structure may be influenced by a particular philosophy but that’s not the point. Maybe people don’t take the Constitution seriously because they don’t understand what it’s all about – they think it’s about values and ideals but don’t care at all about values and ideals that are different from their own.

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  24. dave says:

    “You can’t do something on a whim that is hard and time-consuming, by definition.”

    Whim = a sudden desire.

    First, you can set forth a process on a whim. It is hard and time consuming to build an ugly addition to my house, but I can still decide to do so based on a sudden desire.

    Second, when you are dealing with documents that are meant to last centuries, two legislative sessions is a blip. The sudden desires of this short slice of time is a whim in the context of history.

    “Constitutions tend to be written in sweeping language, which is exactly what sometimes makes amendments necessary.”

    I agree. But exactly what was so “necessary” about this land swap?

    I would think that there should be a very high standard for amending any constitution. Correcting obvious flaws or errors, undoing clear injustices that were not originally foreseen, addressing emergencies, or make exceptions for situations where there is overwhelming public benefit… and all should be done in a way that hopefully would not alter the overall guiding principles the constitution is meant to protect.

    A tit for tat land swap to convenience a mining company? Necessary?

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  25. dave says:

    OL, they do both.

    Freedom of speech is not a structure for government. It is a value, an ideal.

    Protecting the forest preserve was not a structure for government. It was a value, an ideal.

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  26. champted says:

    Whether one agrees or disagrees with either or both propositions, I see a teaching moment here. I think that this issue would be a great example of the whole concept of ideology versus pragmatism.

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  27. Dan Murphy says:

    So your argument Dave is that the constitution itself is flawed in that it does not set a specfic amount of time for reflection before an ammendment it made?

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  28. dave says:

    “Maybe people don’t take the Constitution seriously because they don’t understand what it’s all about – they think it’s about values and ideals but don’t care at all about values and ideals that are different from their own.”

    This is precisely why constitutions include values and principles. These are ideas that we want to endure… and it is why they should be very hard to amend, and why we should not do so lightly or for minor or petty reasons. Because there will always be periods of time when people will come along who don’t understand, or who don’t care about, those values and principles and we don’t want them to be able to bypass or undo them without extremely good reasons for doing so.

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  29. The Original Larry says:

    I get your point dave, but constitutions are primarily a framework for government and as such, are dynamic, amendable documents. Nobody is arguing the validity of “Forever Wild” as an ideal, but what the goverment does about it is open to change. Two vastly different things.

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  30. dave says:

    “So your argument Dave is that the constitution itself is flawed in that it does not set a specfic amount of time for reflection before an ammendment it made?”

    It does do that, indirectly. The legislative requirement imposes a timeframe. I might argue that the process should be even longer and harder than it is…

    My basic argument is that we should understand that constitutions are meant to be more permanent than we just treated ours here in NY. Amending a constitution, especially amending a constitution in such a way that alters the original guiding values and principles of that constitution, should be done very rarely and only when extremely necessary. To do otherwise is a short sighted view that undermines the whole point of a constitution, which is meant to span beyond particular moments in time.

    Ultimately, even though I understand that one can argue that the state potentially makes out in the Prop 5 exchange, this was not a “necessary” amendment in any way shape or form. It was, at best, a “nice to have” amendment… maybe even a “convenience” amendment…

    Some people are ok with that. I just happen to believe that “forever wild” deserves a higher standard.

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  31. dave says:

    “Nobody is arguing the validity of “Forever Wild” as an ideal, but what the goverment does about it is open to change.”

    The constitutional forever wild clause explicitly forbids the exchange of wild forest land… and even specifically mentions corporations.

    We just amended that constitution to allow an exchange to a corporation.

    If that doesn’t call into question the validity of forever wild, I am not sure what does.

    Here is a thought exercise for you, Larry. Replace Article 14 with the Second Amendment. Would you be ok with Amending the US Constitution with an exception to that amendment in some analogous way?

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  32. The Original Larry says:

    dave, I refrained from bringing the Second Amendment into this discussion, but since you mention it, I only wish people had the same absolutist attitude about the Second Amendment that they do about “Forever Wild”, but they don’t. On the Second Amendment all we hear is that’s not what it means, we can limit that right, it’s out-dated, blah, blah, blah. Meanwhile, neither the Constitution (vis-a-vis the Second Amendment) nor the Second Amendment itself has been amended. On Article 14, on the other hand, we get as much righteous indignation as people can muster, forget about the fact that Article 14 has already been amended nine other times! Someone please explain to me how having it both ways works.

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  33. The Original Larry says:

    Wait a minute, I just figured out the answer to my own question: whether or not to change the constitution depends on…..ideology!

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  34. Paul says:

    “Read and re-read the relevant part of Article 14: “the forest preserve as now fixed by law, shall be forever kept as wild forest lands. They shall not be leased, sold or exchanged, or be taken by any corporation, public or private”

    Does that sentence still have as much meaning today as it did when it was originally written? I don’t see how anyone could claim it does.”

    Actually I would recommend that anyone read ALL of the article. Article 14 when it was originally written already had some exemptions. A few other exemptions made over the years, especially ones that involve what are really insignificant parcels of land land relatively speaking like these don’t change anything fundamentally. And the Forest Preserve is much larger now then it was when the article was written.

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  35. Paul says:

    “We just amended that constitution to allow an exchange to a corporation.”

    Twice. Some of the land in the other swap was also owned by commercial entities that I assume are incorporated in some way.

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  36. dave says:

    Larry,

    That is exactly the point.

    The ability of the second amendment to withstand all of those ideological arguments is how a constitutional principle should work. Despite the pendulum of changing opinions about it in any given moment of time, it has endured… as it was meant to.

    That is why you bake something into a constitution in the first place, instead of just passing a law about it which can be changed every few years.

    Forever Wild is (was) also a constitutional principle. It too should have been better insulated from the blowing winds of ideologies and protected from being altered for trivial desires.

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  37. Paul says:

    Dave, it was “insulated” by the same procedures that make any amendment very difficult to pass. What you call “ideologies and trivial desires” to other voters (the majority) were significant enough to warrant a change. Doesn’t mean you were wrong, it just means that most people saw it differently.

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  38. dave says:

    I have found this to be one of the more enjoyable conversations I’ve participated in around here in a long time. Wish I could keep cranking away at it, but I have to bow out to head off on an extended work trip… mentioning this because I don’t want to pass up the opportunity to thank everyone for all of the interesting perspectives, information, and points of view that were shared over the last few weeks about this.

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  39. Tony Goodwin says:

    The last few back and forths seem to have gotten down to the level of splitting hairs regarding constitutions and their amendments. Below is what I believe and have posted elsewhere, since this debate naturally continues on many fronts.

    The first thing worth noting is the difference in the “yes” votes between Prop 4 and Prop 5. Many voters had apparently listened to the arguments for and against for both and were not just idly filling in the circles on the back of their ballot.

    Secondly, I hope that those who opposed this amendment will now accept the results of this state-wide vote and not look at any post-amendment means to legally stop or delay its implementation.

    I certainly realize that every approved amendment sets a precedent for future amendments. The Perkins Clearing land exchange definitely benefitted a private company, International Paper, but the crazy checkerboard nature of land ownership seemed to make this amendment a “no-brainer” since the Forest Preserve gained a huge unbroken piece of land instead of owning multiple disconnected 40-acre lots. That amendment was one of the positive precedents cited for the Lot 8 amendment.

    So maybe the passage of Prop 5 has further “lowered the bar” for future amendments, but it has only lowered a tiny bit. In exchange, the Jay Mt. Wilderness grows by over 20% and will now be only a few hundred acres short of the nominal 10,000 acre threshold for designated wilderness.

    I also read much criticism of the Adirondack Council and the Adirondack Mountain club for their support for this amendment. I believe their support was justified based on the major benefits of new lands becoming Forest Preserve. I also believe that their support will pay benefits in the future should they decide to oppose another land swap or other major development project. Their support of this amendment will clearly demonstrate that they are not an unthinking C.A.V.E. (as in Citizens Against Virtually Everything) group and their opposition to a future issue is based on facts, not knee-jerk emotion.

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  40. Pete Nelson says:

    Tony:

    I’m glad you are out there, my friend. I imagine we would agree on park matters almost all the time. Here we do not: I opposed Prop 5. But yours is always a voice of reason, backed by a wealth of experience. It is always good to hear.

    I think your comments are generally right on this. I agree that the specific matter of Lot 8 is decided and further opposition would be misguided. I didn’t like the amendment but I respect the amendment process. Now our collective efforts can and should be to ensure the the deal(s) are good ones and that the best possible work is done for the forest preserve.

    I will, however say this. Your voice is ever true. It reads as Tony Goodwin, the person, authentic, from the first word to the last. There is nothing of propaganda in it, nothing of manipulation, no buzz words or phrases that proceed from political art, no vague sense of dis-ingenuousness. People are never off-put by you; they are drawn in.

    None of that can I say about the post-vote missives from the Adirondack Council or ADK. What you take as strictly reasoned, fact-based consideration I take fact-based consideration laced with political tactics. I understand the tactics and even support their approach in many cases, but not when we’re talking about an amendment to Article XIV.

    In this case, I overwhelmingly prefer your voice.

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  41. Dan Murphy says:

    Pete was very poetic in his praise for you Tony.

    I agree with him, excellent comment.

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  42. Henrietta Jordan says:

    Voting on Prop 5 required me to sort through some difficult issues. As a full-time resident of the Park, born here 61 years ago, and who needs to make a living, I care deeply about the Forest Preserve, the economic vitality of our communities and a sufficiency of jobs making it possible for young families to live in them. But in the end, the most significant factor in my decision was the plain language of Article 14, which others have quoted in their comments on this article.

    Prop 5 arguably offered us an opportunity to “trade up”–to exchange one tract of protected land containing minerals desired by a private corporation for another, larger one. Some have argued that the swap will result in a net gain for conservation; others disagree. But, regardless, if we accept the proposition that “forever wild” can be discarded when we are asked to “trade up” to serve an economic interest, might we also be asked someday to consider trading “down” –i.e. sacrificing conserved land with no offsetting conservation gain? Prop 5 states that the land swap will not create a precedent, that it is a novel event, implying that it will not be repeated. But every future quest to amend Article 14 to effect a land swap will be considered “novel,” and “without force of precedence,”–clearly, its proponents will not need to rely on precedent to convince the voters to support it.

    Over time, I fear, we will have obscured the bright line of “forever wild” with a hodgepodge of private-interest-serving land swaps and other concessions to “novel” situations until Article 14 is only an artifact of our ancestors’ aspirations, a quaint reminder of an era when the citizens of New York actually believed that they could protect a public treasure in perpetuity.

    I believe that Article 14 is in grave danger of dying the death of a thousand cuts and that Prop 5, while not life-threatening, inflicts one more wound. I think it is time for the conservation organizations who supported Prop 5 to develop long-term strategies for protecting and strengthening it, and to recommit to its plain language and the notion that “forever wild” truly means “forever.”

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  43. Pete Klein says:

    “Forever Wild” was instituted at a time when there wasn’t all that much to protect. Now we have reached a point in time where “Forever Wild” is threatening to make the Adirondack resident a threatened species.
    I view props 4 & 5 as recognition of the rights of humans to live and work here.

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  44. Paul says:

    Pete, an interesting comment. I have seen your comments evolve over the years, and I tend to agree with you.

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  45. Tony Goodwin says:

    Yes, the language of Article 14 is quite clear, but then there is a deliberately difficult process for amending that language. The amendments that allowed the construction of the Adirondack Northway and Whiteface and Gore ski areas resulted in much, much bigger impacts of areas that were supposed to be forever wild. As I said in my earlier comment, the passage of Prop 5 may have lowered the bar just a bit for future amendments, but I really don’t see that Article 14 will die of a thousand cuts. I’m quite sure this is the first amendment benefitting a private corporation since the Perkins Clearing land exchange in 1979 and only the fifth land exchange since forever wild was added to the constitution in 1895.

    And there was opposition to the Perkins Clearing exchange, particularly from the Sierra Club that noted the State was giving up some parcels with large, old trees in exchange for cut over parcels. Clearly this was a great benefit to IP, but it didn’t start a whole avalanche of additional exchange amendments. And don’t forget that there are proposed amendments that never even make it through the legislative part of the process. The “Stafford” amendment that would have allowed the harvesting of dead and down trees on the forest preserve for firewood is one that comes to mind.

    As I said, the process was deliberatively made difficult and remains difficult enough that is may be another 30 plus years before the next land exchange comes up for a vote. I think the 3 million acres of forest preserve will survive just fine in the interim.

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  46. Henrietta Jordan says:

    More thoughts on Prop 5 . . . .

    As a former legislator, I know only too well how the political process is swayed by private interests and how lawmakers who try to stand up to them are often swept away. So, while I understand that that process of amending Article 14 was deliberately made difficult by its framers, I also fear that an intense lobbying effort bankrolled by private interests with much to gain will succeed in convincing legislators that the public benefits of jobs, development, economic vitality, etc. (not to mention funds for re-election campaigns) should be placed above the public benefits of wilderness, clean water, unfragmented habitat, carbon sequestration and the healing of the human spirit offered by the Forest Preserve. And at the personal level, it can be a very difficult and impassioned debate, particularly when families feel that they are driven out of a community they love because well-paying employment opportunities are scarce.

    I was traveling in the New York City area during the week before the election and heard countless radio ads supporting Prop 5—it was astonishing how thoroughly they saturated the airwaves. Striking to me was how they framed the issue, describing it only as a question of whether to expand the Forest Preserve for the good of all New Yorkers. No mention of local jobs, economic vitality, or the fact that Prop 5 involved a land swap. Listening to these ads, I reflected on how easy it is to buy public opinion—or at least, frame a debate so that one side of the question is the only one heard.

    I fear we live in a very different world than when the Whiteface, Gore, and Perkins Clearing amendments to Article 14 were adopted. Private interests have an unprecedented ability to dominate the media—now a diverse blend of print, broadcast, Internet, and social networks, but at the same time more homogeneous with fewer newspapers, fewer reporters, and fewer original sources of information. As natural resources become depleted, there will be increasing pressure on us to allow exploitation of the ones that remain. The debate over fracking is an interesting case in point. If natural gas reserves were found under the Forest Preserve (unlikely, at least in the Adirondacks), would we find ourselves once again voting whether to amend Article 14? As rising sea levels render more and more coastal regions uninhabitable, will we find ourselves beseeched by climate refugees to open wilderness areas to settlement?

    These questions may seem silly, but my point is this: we have little knowledge of what the future will bring and what questions we will be forced to decide in advancing the public interest. If we want to make good on Article 14’s promise of perpetuity and a Forest Preserve that endures for our grandchildren, great-grandchildren, and their children (as our great-grandparents did for us), we need to keep the bright line of “forever wild” clear and uncompromised. In the long run, it matters less that Prop 5 passed than that the organizations created to protect it rededicate themselves to its survival as long as the winds blow and the rivers run.

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  47. Will Doolittle says:

    Not only the state legislators (notoriously susceptible to corruption), but the public had to vote on the amendment. You seem to be second-guessing the amendment process, Henrietta, unconvincingly, in my opinion. Do private interests have an “unprecedented ability to dominate the media”? That’s dubious. Protect got its word out effectively, I thought. So did the pro-Prop. 5 forces. Independent websites — such as Adirondack Almanack — can promote a point of view, as the site did in this case — against Prop. 5 — without having to spend a lot of money. Forty years ago, that would not have been possible. As Tony detailed, amendments to Article 14 are still uncommon and take a lot of work and effort to effect. In the meantime, since the days of Whiteface, Gore and the Perkins Clearing, the very different world we now live in includes a much bigger Forest Preserve. Since the dawning of the Internet age, state land holdings in the Adirondacks have grown tremendously, in ways celebrated by environmentalists. In that context, hand-wringing over the degradation of the Forest Preserve seems out of place.

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  48. Scratchy says:

    The most endangered species in the park are human beings with full time jobs that pay more than minimum wage. The posters opposing the proposition, which adds land to the park, are the liberal version of tea party extremists.

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  49. Walker says:

    Scratchy, most of the jobs in the park that pay better than minimum wage are in corrections, education and healthcare, none of which have much to do with how much land is in the FP.

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  50. mervel says:

    Most people are just uncomfortable with mining. Mining and conservation just in the minds of most individuals don’t mix. But in many ways mining can be if regulated properly (big IF), better in the long run for the park than permanent developments if you are interested in long term protections. Mining usually ends on a particular parcel at some point and if done correctly it can be returned to a wild state. This has not been the case with most real estate development plans.

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