By DAVID BLADES and ED HATCH
---- — This Election Day, Adirondackers and people across New York state will have an opportunity to demonstrate that good jobs and a healthy environment can successfully co-exist — right here in our backyard.
By voting yes for the Adirondack land swap, which will be Proposition 5 on the statewide ballot, New York voters will help protect 100 good-paying Adirondack jobs and add 1,500 acres of new public recreational lands to the Adirondack Forest Preserve at no cost to taxpayers.
NYCO Minerals has been an employer in the Essex County towns of Willsboro and Lewis for more than a half-century.
NYCO mines a mineral called wollastonite from its surface mine in Lewis, then takes it to its Willsboro plant, where it is processed for use in plastics, construction materials, paints and many other items we all use every day.
But NYCO’s Lewis mine is almost out of material; it has only a few years left.
To help NYCO continue its Adirondack operations in a competitive manner and keep people working, New York state is willing to swap the company 200 acres of Forest Preserve land (known as Lot 8), which is right next to NYCO’s existing mine and is thought to have another eight to 10 years’ supply of wollastonite on it.
In return for this 200 acres, NYCO will give New York 1,500 acres of land that the state can add to the Forest Preserve and open for public recreation. This land has more recreational attributes than Lot 8 and provides improved access to the southern and eastern portions of the Jay Mountain Wilderness Area.
When NYCO finishes mining on the 200 acres, the company will reclaim and replant the land and return it to state ownership.
The math is really quite simple: NYCO gets temporary access to 200 acres, the Forest Preserve gains 1,500 acres, and the jobs of 100 local people — our neighbors, taxpayers and community volunteers — are protected.
At the same time, the total property revenues from these lands will increase significantly from current levels, as NYCO puts Lot 8 to work for our regional economy.
We believe this is a perfect example of cooperative, common-sense, bipartisan government.
The proposal was overwhelmingly supported by both houses of the State Legislature and has the backing of the Adirondack Council, Adirondack Mountain Club, the Adirondack Association of Towns and Villages, Unshackle Upstate, the North Country Regional Economic Development Council, United Steelworkers and New York AFL-CIO, among many others.
As the supervisors of the towns of Lewis and Willsboro, we see firsthand every day how important NYCO is to our region. The company has a $53 million payroll, spends more than $2 million a year with other local businesses, pays more than $200,000 in local school and property taxes and is a generous supporter of many community organizations.
In addition, NYCO employees volunteer with our local fire and emergency squads, as youth sports coaches, and with many other community organizations.
NYCO is truly invaluable to our region. Lot 8, on the other hand, is a little-used, difficult-to-access swath of land that can be temporarily put to productive use to the benefit of the Adirondack economy by mining a natural Adirondack resource in an environmentally responsible way.
The Adirondack land swap truly is a win-win proposition for our region, and we encourage your Yes vote on Election Day.
But don’t stop there. This proposition must be approved by voters across the state. So please reach out to your family and friends and ask them to vote Yes, too.
You can find more information at www.adirondacklandswap.com.
David Blades is supervisor of the Town of Lewis, and Ed Hatch is supervisor of the Town of Willsboro.