Monday, October 28, 2013

The Adirondack Park

Bleecker is wholly inside the "blue line" of the Adirondack Park.  It is the largest park in the United States, covering over 6 million acres, larger than the state of Vermont.  It is a mix of public and private land, with 1 million acres classified as wilderness.   Private land is regulated.  For example, here in Bleecker, the minimum lot size is 8 acres.

The idea for creating the park stemmed from the clear cut logging that was occurring in the 1800s.  Businessmen were worried that, without trees, erosion could silt in the Erie Canal and Hudson River.  In 1885, legislation was passed creating the park, declaring it "forever wild".  The land could never be sold or leased, but only used for the public's benefit.  There are over 3,000 lakes in the park, and 2,000 miles of hiking trails, the largest trail system in the nation.

Any changes to the park require a constitutional amendment, which means that an amendment must pass two state legislatures and a statewide referendum.

There is a proposition on November's ballot to swap 200 acres of land for 1,500 acres.  NYCO Minerals, Inc., claims that their Lewis mine only has two or three years of wollastonite left, and it needs a parcel of the park to expand it's mine.  In return, it will give 1,500 acres of land to the park, and return the 200 acres when it's done mining.  If it doesn't get it, NYCO will cease operations and put 100 people out of work.

At first blush, this sounds like a good deal.  Good business.  It is not.

In 2006, NYCO presented a plan to the Adirondack Park Agency to close their Lewis mine and open their Oak Hill mine.  Oak Hill has an estimated 25 years of wollastonite.

The  1,500 acres NYCO will give to the park has been logged.  The 200 acres they want contains old growth forest, with some trees estimated to be between 150 and 300 years old.

NYCO strip mines.  Their Lewis mine is 150 feet deep and 1,200 feet across.  It is a blight on the land.  When finished mining, NYCO will fill in the pit and plant seedlings on it, they say.

This would be the first time, since the park's inception, that a land swap has been proposed to benefit a private business.  There have been land swaps in the past, but they were for public benefit, such as expanding an airport  runway or a cemetary.  Swapping land for corporate gain sets a dangerous precedent.  The park would no longer be "forever wild".

If you'd like to see what NYCO's strip mine looks like, click this link to a Times Union article.

Sadly, I think this is just another case of corporatism in America, where corporations are running ramshackle over the public good.  If  you live in New York State, please vote NO on proposition 5.

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