By LOHR McKINSTRY
---- — ELIZABETHTOWN — The new leader of the Adirondack Park’s top environmental group is telling Essex County lawmakers he wants to mend fences with local governments.
A smiling Adirondack Council Executive Director William “Willie” Janeway took the podium at this week’s County Board of Supervisors meeting.
“Are there any questions folks have for me?” he asked. “I hope we can work together in the areas we have common ground.”
Since the Adirondack Council and local officials have often been at odds at how the 8 million-acre Adirondack Park should be managed, there were lots of questions, which Janeway fielded with apparent good humor.
ESSEX CHAIN LAKES
He said one of his top issues is the state classification of the new lands in Essex Chain Lakes at the border of Hamilton and Essex counties.
Local governments are asking for a Wild Forest classification, which would allow some motorized access, while environmental groups want Wilderness protection, which is much more restrictive.
“As we work on the classifications to protect them (the land), we need to work together to promote them,” Janeway said. “The council is advocating for Wilderness protection for them.”
An environmental coalition that includes the Adirondack Council, Adirondack Mountain Club, Protect the Adirondacks and Adirondack Wild is lobbying for the Adirondack Park Agency to recommend a Wilderness classification for the newly acquired lands.
But many town leaders and residents of Indian Lake, Newcomb, North Hudson and Minerva, where most of the new state land is located, want Wild Forest classification. Gov. Andrew Cuomo will make the final decision after the APA vote, likely this month or next.
Board of Supervisors Chair Randy Douglas (D-Jay) noted Janeway came to Jay, and he took him on a tour.
“On the flip side of the land classification, the supervisors here who are affected the most, we are a ways apart,” Douglas said.
“You talked about common ground,” he told Janeway at the meeting. “There has to be some compromise. We can sit down at a table and hash things out, especially the towns that are affected. I would hope something like that could happen before (the decision) is presented to the governor.”
Douglas said cooler heads could yet prevail if they negotiate.
Janeway also mentioned the NYCO Minerals exchange in Willsboro and Lewis, in which the mining company proposes to give the state an equal amount of land in exchange for state land on which to expand its wollastonite extraction operations.
A constitutional amendment is needed for the exchange and must be on the ballot statewide at some point for the land swap to happen.
“We can support a land exchange in principle,” Janeway said. “The Governor’s Office came back with a very detailed proposal, and the Adirondack Council then signed on.
“For me, protecting wildlife, protecting communities should be a win-win. I want to scale our role with you in a way you think would work.”
‘WILDERNESS WON’T WORK’
Supervisor George Canon (R-Newcomb) commended Janeway on the NYCO support.
“But you’re at cross-hairs with me and the other towns (on the Essex Chain). We’re totally convinced, and we’re bonded together on this one, and I hope the governor is listening,” Canon said.
Canon later got a unanimous resolution of support from the board for Wild Forest classification of the Essex Chain Lakes.
“Without a Wild Forest classification, the economic prosperity won’t be accomplished,” Supervisor Ronald Moore (R-North Hudson) said.
“If you start up with Wilderness, it won’t work. It will close the door on some beautiful land. I would hope we can work together.”
Janeway countered that he believes Wilderness would have more economic benefit, although he did acknowledge some compromise may be possible.
“We want to make sure we have long-term, not short-term, resources (in the Essex Chain). There may be ways to get that same level of protection.”
Supervisor Sue Montgomery Corey (D-Minerva) said she and Janeway both went to St. Lawrence University, where they must have learned to listen to others.
“I believe in the whole idea of collaboration and communication,” she said. “It is going to be a long road for all of us.”
Douglas told Janeway, who joined the council in May, that he showed courage in coming before a possibly hostile group.
“You knew you were going to get the tough questions,” he said.
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