ALBANY — The State Legislature's OK to put Health and Safety Land Accounts amendment on the ballot in November is a significant victory to local governments in the Adirondack Park, the Adirondack Council says.
“This proposal has been on (their) wish lists for many years,” Adirondack Council Executive Director William C. Janeway said in a press release.
“We are pleased to have been part the team of stakeholders who helped reach this agreement.
"If approved by the voters in November, this will foster a more vibrant local economy while respecting the integrity and legacy of ‘Forever Wild’ land protections.”
NEW PRESERVE LANDS
Here's how the land bank would work.
If the proposed amendment is approved by voters, it would authorize a 250-acre land bank for qualifying projects.
Before any of it is put to use, all of the land would be replaced by new Forest Preserve, the Adirondack Council explained.
As all the acreage is used, the project sponsors would make financial contributions to a Forest Preserve expansion account, which would be used to purchase additional preserve.
There is a precedent for the amendment, the council noted.
The land bank is modeled on a similar one of 400 acres New York voters approved in 1957 for realigning state highways to make them safer.
The “Forever Wild” clause is the strongest forest conservation law on Earth, the release said.
It protects the Forest Preserve of the Adirondack Park — and Catskill Park, also part of the amendment — from logging, lease, sale or development.
It also bans destruction or removal of the timber and requires the state to protect the Forest Preserve’s wild character.
"However, the Forest Preserve covers less than half of the enormous park, which stands as the largest park in the contiguous United States," the release said.
At 9,300 square miles, it is bigger than Yellowstone, Yosemite, Glacier and Grand Canyon national parks combined.
The rest of the park comprises private forestland and 120 small villages and hamlets, most with a population of less than 1,000.
“These rural communities are surrounded by the largest collection of wild lands outside of Alaska,” Janeway explained.
“They sometimes have trouble finding room for — or access to — typical municipal services and modern telecommunications.
"This will help solve that problem without going back to the voters to approve minor changes to the Forest Preserve’s boundaries when a town road needs straightening or a new bridge.”
Both Assembly and State Senate also passed enabling legislation to go along with the amendment.
"Stakeholders agreed last year that second and final legislative approval of the resolution to amend the Constitution would be accompanied by 'enabling legislation,' spelling out how the amendment would be carried out if it is accepted by the voters in November," the release said.
Often, such detail is left until after an amendment is voted upon in a statewide election.
But environmental organizations, including the Adirondack Council and others, felt voters would be more likely to OK the amendment if they already knew how its various, complicated provisions would be carried out.
“Ballot language can be confusing and often doesn’t reflect all of the provisions of the amendment being considered,” Janeway said.
“Having all of the details available before Election Day should improve voter confidence.”