WILLSBORO — Voters approved a land swap for NYCO Minerals, granting the local mining company access to 200 acres of state land.
In return, NYCO will move 1,507 acres of private land in the Town of Lewis into the Adirondack Forest Preserve.
The amendment requires NYCO to reclaim the 200 acres of state land and return it to the State Forest Preserve once mining operations are done.
Proposition 5 cleared with a margin much narrower than the other five amendment decisions made Tuesday.
“Yes” votes for the swap came in at 1,137,047 compared to 1,006,525 “no” votes.
Across all 62 New York counties, there are 11,016,685 registered voters, indicating that 10 percent of the state’s voting public weighed in.
Environmental groups took a diverse stance on the land-swap measure; some heralded the importance of local jobs, and others charged that “selling” state land to corporate interest would set a dangerous precedent.
NYCO spokesman John Brodt said the passage of Proposition 5 is good for jobs, good for the Forest Preserve and good for New York.
“The passage of Proposition 5 is a win-win for everyone who loves the Adirondacks and those of us who make our homes and livelihoods here,” he said in a statement.
“This vote will help NYCO Minerals Inc. protect 100 jobs and permit expansion of the Adirondack Forest Preserve by 1,500 acres of forestland rich in hiking and fishing opportunities.
“We were fortunate to have unprecedented statewide support from environmental groups, labor unions, local governments, business organizations, elected officials and, of course, NYCO’s employees and friends. We’re thrilled that the broad, bipartisan enthusiasm for Proposition 5 was shared by the voters at large.”
Expanding mining operations in the Town of Lewis adds another eight to 10 years to the Adirondack operations, Brodt said.
The company is looking forward to working with the State Department of Environmental Conservation and local officials to move ahead with the land transfer, he said.
‘VICTORY FOR THE PARK’
At the Adirondack Council, Executive Director William Janeway said the addition of 1,500 acres to state forestland is a win for the park.
“It shows that voters value the environmental and economic benefits of the state’s 6 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,” Janeway said in a news release Wednesday.
“We thank all our partners and supporters for assisting in this victory for the park and its communities,” he said.
“Now we can together focus on other strategies that don’t require constitutional amendments but do combine additional protection of waters and land and enhancement of the wild forest character of the state’s largest park, including actions that foster vibrant communities and sustainable jobs.”
Peter Bauer, executive director of Protect the Adirondacks, was among the most outspoken environmental leaders against Proposition 5.
“Protect the Adirondacks is heartened by the over (one) million New Yorkers who voted ‘no’ on Proposition 5 and voted to defend the Forest Preserve,” he said in a statement Wednesday.
“Despite overwhelming odds in favor of its passage, Proposition 5 turned out to be a real contest. In practical terms,” he said, “this was a split decision. Proposition 5 was the most closely contested of the six constitutional amendments given to voters this year and the most closely contested in decades.”
Bauer believes the decision will weaken the Forever Wild stance in state land preservation — the Article 14 clause that governs use and protection of the Adirondack and Catskills Parks.
Proposition 4 was approved by a 72 percent margin on Election Day.
The voter OK clears land title to more than 200 parcels in Hamilton County, allowing landowners in Raquette Lake and Long Lake to end longstanding ownership disputes tagged to survey errors in the 1800s.
Sen. Betty Little (R-Queensbury) was gratified that both state land propositions were approved.
“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,” she said in a statement Wednesday.
“(Tuesday’s) approvals were the culmination of great teamwork among many local, state, environmental and business leaders and partners, so credit goes to many but especially to those in Raquette Lake and the towns of Lewis and Willsboro who had so much at stake and persevered.”
Assemblywoman Janet Duprey (R-Peru) was delighted with the amendment’s passage.
“It was tight, but it is enough of a plurality that the vote is secure,” she said Wednesday.
“In spite of the efforts of these few radical environmental groups, it’s an affirmation that the people of the Adirondacks have a right to make a living in the Adirondacks, (and) have a job, a good job.”
Sen. Little spokesman Dan Mac Entee said the next step, after the tally is confirmed by the State Board of Elections, involves test samples on the land.
“What this amendment does is authorize the state to allow NYCO Minerals to do mineral sampling on Lot 8. That sampling is the first step,” he said.
“Once the determination is made that they are going to mine it, then NYCO would have to provide the land to be exchanged for that parcel. The land exchange would be subject to legislative approval.”
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