On Nov. 5, New Yorkers will vote on Proposition 5, a proposed constitutional amendment to sell 200 acres of Constitutionally protected “forever wild” Forest Preserve lands in the Adirondack Park to a mining company.
The question of whether Proposition 5 is a good deal or a bad deal for the Forest Preserve is the wrong question to ask. The right question is whether or not New York should be in the business of playing “lets make a deal” with the “forever wild” Forest Preserve.
Proposition 5, in essence, is a question of whether or not we should sell the Forest Preserve. If you think it’s OK to sell the Forest Preserve, then the issue concerns only getting the right price. If you think that it’s a bad idea to sell the Forest Preserve, then the issue concerns the new precedent that will be established by this vote.
If Proposition 5 passes, it will mark the first time that Forest Preserve lands are swapped for a private commercial benefit. Recent Forest Preserve amendments were approved for public benefits such as protecting public water supplies and power lines, enlarging a community cemetery or making airports safer.
In New York, we have spent hundreds of millions of dollars to establish and expand the Forest Preserve. Constitutionally protected as lands “to be forever kept as wild forest lands” since 1894, the Forest Preserve is one of the great accomplishments of New York. It’s an achievement that has enjoyed multi-generational and bipartisan support.
Proposition 5 opens a Pandora’s Box for developers and corporations throughout the Adirondack and Catskill Parks that want their piece of the Forest Preserve. Such horse trading with wilderness lands is not what “forever wild” is all about.
The 200 acres of Forest Preserve at stake in Proposition 5 is known as Lewis Lot 8. This forest tells the story of the great success of the constitutional protections and the promise of “forever wild.” These lands came into the Forest Preserve in the 1890s after having been partially logged and have flourished since, growing into an old growth forest.
There are many trees on Lot 8 that started growing during the Civil War, if not before. The Lot 8 forest is now a dynamic ecosystem dominated by old trees 100 feet in height, many with diameters over 30 inches. It’s bear habitat and a landscape rich with vernal pools used by dozens of amphibians.
If Proposition 5 is passed, not only will this dynamic forest be destroyed, as the old growth forest is clear cut and blasted as it’s incorporated into a large open pit mine, but the promise of “forever wild” will also be lost.
Vote no on Proposition 5 to stop the ruinous precedent of selling the Forest Preserve for private commercial gain.
Peter Bauer is executive director of Protect the Adirondacks.