The measure authorized the state legislature to conduct a land exchange with NYCO Minerals Inc. in the Adirondack Forest Preserve. The private firm shall give the forest preserve the equivalent value amount of land as the two hundred acres acquired in the exchange. The land was estimated to be worth, at minimum, $1 million, thereby mandating an exchange of 1,500 acres for the 200 acres received. Furthermore, NYCO is required to reclaim and return the 200 acres to the state after mining production ceases.
Prior to the passage of Proposal 5, the state constitution forbade the lease, sale, exchange or taking of any forest preserve land. With the approval of Proposal 5, an exception has been made to the constitution.
Below are the unofficial election results as of November 7 at 5:00 pm, with 62 out 62 counties reporting.
In Relation to a Land Exchange in the State Forest Preserve with NYCO Minerals, Inc.
The proposed amendment to section 1 of article 14 of the Constitution would authorize the Legislature to convey forest preserve land located in the town of Lewis, Essex County, to NYCO Minerals, a private company that plans on expanding an existing mine that adjoins the forest preserve land. In exchange, NYCO Minerals would give the State at least the same amount of land of at least the same value, with a minimum assessed value of $1 million, to be added to the forest preserve. When NYCO Minerals finishes mining, it would restore the condition of the land and return it to the forest preserve. Shall the proposed amendment be approved?
Notwithstanding the foregoing provisions, the state may authorize NYCO Minerals, Inc. To engage in mineral sampling operations, solely at its expense, to determine the quantity and quality of wollastonite on approximately 200 acres of forest preserve land contained in lot 8, stowers survey, town of lewis, essex county provided that NYCO Minerals, Inc. Shall provide the data and information derived from such drilling to the state for appraisal purposes. Subject to legislative approval of the tracts to be exchanged prior to the actual transfer of title, the state may subsequently convey said lot 8 to NYCO Minerals, Inc., and, in exchange therefor, NYCO Minerals, Inc. Shall convey to the state for incorporation into the forest preserve not less than the same number of acres of land, on condition that the legislature shall determine that the lands to be received by the state are equal to or greater than the value of the land to be conveyed by the state and on condition that the assessed value of the land to be conveyed to the state shall total not less than one million dollars. When NYCO Minerals, Inc. Terminates all mining operations on such lot 8 it shall remediate the site and convey title to such lot back to the state of new york for inclusion in the forest preserve. In the event that lot 8 is not conveyed to NYCO Minerals, Inc. Pursuant to this paragraph, NYCO Minerals, Inc. Nevertheless shall convey to the state for incorporation into the forest preserve not less than the same number of acres of land that is disturbed by any mineral sampling operations conducted on said lot 8 pursuant to this paragraph on condition that the legislature shall determine that the lands to be received by the state are equal to or greater than the value of the lands disturbed by the mineral sampling operations.
New York Public Media's Metrofocus reporting on Proposal 5
The legislation proposing this ballot measure was introduced at the request of the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation. NYCO’s wollastonite ore mine has been known as “America’s Wollastonite Capital” since 1990. NYCO Minerals Inc., a subsidiary of S&B Industrial Minerals S.A., has been active in the Adirondacks for over a half-century. Wollastonite is a white to gray fire-retardant mineral comprised of calcium and silica that easily breaks. The mineral is used in paints, ceramics, plastics, and as a safe alternative to asbestos.NYCO's current mine in Lewis, New York, produces 60,000 tons of wollastonite annually. That is the equivalent of 8% of the world’s total wollastonite production. As of September 2013, the open-pit mine was about 150 feet deep and 1,200 feet across. Explosives are used to loosen surface soil and rocks covering the wollastonite. The company stated that the mine was losing productivity because the remainder of the vein extended onto the adjacent state land, also known as "Lot 8". The mine, without expansion, was estimated to last three or four additional years. The expansion into Lot 8 added an estimated eight to ten years to the mine's lifespan. After the mineral is removed from the mine in Lewis, it is transported to a processing plant in Willsboro, New York.
Since 1990, four similar measures regarding land swaps in the Adirondack Forest Preserve have appeared on the ballot, all of which were approved with little controversy. Previous swaps have included land for the expansion or construction of cemeteries, airports, water systems and, most recently, power lines in 2009. Critics pointed out, however, that unlike previous swaps, Prop 5 benefitted of a private firm, rather than the public.
The measure was sponsored by State Senator Betty Little (R-45).
The Adirondack Land Swap, which is owned and operated by NYCO Minerals Inc., led the campaign in support of Proposal 5.
Carl Heilman, award-winning local photographer
A supporting campaign video for Proposal 5 by the Adirondack Land Swap
Peter Goodwin, the CEO of NYCO Minerals Inc., gave three reasons why voters should approve the measure:
The land swap is good for jobs. The mine's extension onto state-owned lands will extend the site's life for eight to ten years.
The land swap is good for wilderness conservation. NYCO Minerals Inc. has agreed to swap the 200 acres requested for 1,500 acres of high-value recreational and scenic acres near the Jay Mountain Wilderness.
There's nothing wrong with amending the constitution's "forever" wilderness clause, despite opponent's claims, because that's within the provisions of democracy.
David Blades, a supervisor of the Town of Lewis, and Ed Hatch a supervisor of the Town of Willsboro, listed the benefits of having NYCO in their communities:
NYCO gives $200,000 in local school and property taxes.
NYCO spends more than $2 million per year on local businesses.
NYCO employees are good for civil society. They volunteer with firefighting and emergency squads, as youth sports coaches, and in other community organizations.
Other arguments for the measure included:
John E. Shinn, Director of the United Steelworkers, noted that the company employs over one hundred full-time employees. The average worker for the company has a salary of $53,000. To disapprove this measure would cause financial hardships for many individuals, families, and the community.
Former State Representative Teresa Sayward (R-113) stated that the only alternative to development based on extractive mining is tourism, which doesn't supply many well-paying jobs. She said, "Adirondack Communities depend on tourism. That’s good, but if you don’t own the business you make minimum wage. NYCO provides more than 100 jobs countywide."
Supporters of Proposal 5 raised $501,482. NYCO Minerals Inc. and Behan Communications were the sole contributors.
The following data was obtained from the New York State Board of Elections. The following were committees registered in support to Proposal 5:
This map illustrates the land exchange between NYCO Mineral Inc. and the state. Click on the image for an expanded version.
Dan Plumley of the Adirondack Wild expressed the following critiques of the land swap:
He said, "If aspects of it become of interest to international mining conglomerates, like this case, then pieces of the forest preserve get removed because of their mineral value. Forever Wild doesn't mean forever anymore."
Regarding the lot's ecology, he noted, "This is not just regular woods, it's an extremely rich site -- old growth hardwood forest. It's the exact kind of site -- ecologically -- we'd want to protect at all costs to stay in the forest preserve."
He deemed the land swap a "Faustian bargain," meaning that environmentalists should not make a pact with a company that unsustainably exploits natural resources.
Peter Bauer, Executive Director of Protect the Adirondacks, listed four reasons to oppose the land swap:
The swap sets a negative precedence. This would be the first swap of public forest land for a private interest. He elaborated, "They [previous swaps] have been to expand cemeteries, to expand runways so it's safe for planes to land at airports, to provide electrical service, to look at municipal infrastructure for public water supplies. What we have here is an effort to pass Proposition 5 solely for the private commercial gain of a local mining company, and that would be a real departure from historic precedent."
The two-hundred acres involved in the swap is old growth forest.
NYCO Minerals Inc. already has dozen of permits for new mines in the region for high-quality wollastonite ore. These sites alone will keep the business in the region for at least two more decades.
The public hasn't received substantial information on the quality of lands involved in the land swap.
If no ore vein is found on Lot 8 then NYCO can walk away without donating land or any compensation to the state.
The financial hardships presented by supporters is skewed. NYCO owns other mines in the county that have higher-quality ore and longer lifespans than the one they are seeking.
The primary reason the company is seeking this lot is productivity and cost effectiveness. NYCO’s interest is solely to accumulate more profit.
Roger Downs, the Conservation Director of Sierra Club’s Atlantic Chapter said, “The term “forever wild” loses meaning when we allow parcels of our remaining wilderness lands to be developed for private commercial gain. The Forest Preserve and the 119-year old protection afforded to it by Article 14 of the State Constitution should not be for sale at any price."
Other arguments against the measure included:
Author Bill Ingersoll critiqued politicians for focusing on development through mine expansion rather than investing in newer and more sustainable forms of development.
Resident Anthony B. Hall asked voters to evaluate the firm's relationship to the community. He argued NYCO Minerals Inc. should not receive “the trust of the community." The firm is a “Canadian-based, multi-national corporation.” Hall claimed NYCO’s executives didn't even know where the mine is, explaining that they once boasted of their relationship with “the Northeast Kingdom,” which is in Vermont, not New York’s Adirondacks. He further argued that NYCO consistently disregarded the concerns of local residents, including concerns about truck traffic and safety hazards. Hall concluded, “NYCO Minerals, Inc. has not demonstrated to the residents of the Adirondack Park that its narrow interests are more important than our own.”
Adirondack Daily Enterprise said, "The amendment process is daunting, as it should be, but it's also democracy its purest. And thank goodness it exists because sometimes New Yorkers are offered a deal they wouldn't want to refuse - like getting 1,500 acres in exchange for 200 acres, which would be returned. All things considered, we say yes to that."
Adirondack Explorer said, "Neither the land coming out of the Preserve nor that which would become state land appears to have unique ecological features. But the increased acreage would provide new public access to several streams and forested hillsides while expanding an existing Wilderness. This enhancement makes the amendment a good deal. And on top of that we get the economic benefit of strengthening a company that employs one hundred with a payroll of $6 million."
The Buffalo News said, "On balance, though, this is a good deal for New Yorkers. Eventually, all of the acreage in question will be old growth forest again and, in the meantime, jobs are protected and the park expands."
Denton Publications, Inc., the owner of five regional newspapers, said, "Now it’s up to voters to seal the deal. The final step in the process to transfer the 200 acres known as Lot 8 to NYCO in exchange for 1,500 acres of company-owned property and a promise to return the 200 acres back to the state as reclaimed property is a statewide referendum which will be on the Nov. 5 general election ballot. We urge voters to approve this exchange and vote “yes” on Proposition 5."
The Herald-Leader said, “Together, the two state propositions would preserve Adirondack land and protect jobs - and cost taxpayers nothing. We see no logical reason to oppose the efforts.”
The Journal News said, “With Proposition 5, the state gets much more than it gives, in acreage and in location... The real need to preserve jobs in upstate’s struggling upstate economy, and the balance of land added to the preserve, makes a ‘yes’ vote on Proposition 5 the proper choice."
Livingston County News said, “The amendment is a sensible use of New York’s underground assets and a positive expansion of the Adirondack Park.”
New York Times said, "Some environmentalists worry that this would set a precedent for other companies wanting to encroach on parts of the park. But the Adirondack Council, a respected watchdog group, has argued that the lands “contain better wildlife habitat and recreational amenities” than the ones the company would take, and the 200 acres would be returned to the state once the mining operation is finished."
Plattsburgh Press-Republican said, “All the potential pitfalls have been eliminated, making Proposition 5 a compelling trade. Vote "yes" on Tuesday.”
The Observer said, “The second land measure would allow NYCO Minerals to extend the reach of its Lewis mine by 200 acres into the neighboring preserve in order to mine wollastonite and remain a viable business. In return, 1,500 acres would be added to the Jay Mountain Wilderness and Taylor Pond Wild Forest, both preserves in the Adirondack region.”
Post Star said, "With Prop. 5, the Forest Preserve benefits from getting more land than is being given away (and eventually getting back the land given away, too), and the public benefits by supporting a major employer."
Watertown Daily Times said, "The amendment is a sensible use of New York’s underground assets and a positive expansion of the Adirondack Park."
Albany Times Union said, “Here's the rub: Of the 20-odd amendments to Article 14, which protects the 2.5-million acre Forest Preserve, this is about the most blatantly commercial benefit to have made it to a ballot. Yes, full-time residents within the "Blue Line" need jobs, but these jobs already exist. There's no clear indication this prospecting will yield anything, let alone jobs. The state put protection of these magnificent forests in the constitution 119 years ago to guard against this very kind of commercial exploitation and short-term thinking. We urge voters to say "no," to help protect the greatest wilderness east of the Mississippi.”
Proposal 5 was referred to the ballot after being approved by both houses in successive terms by simple majority. S4688 was approved for a second time by the New York State Senate on June 10, 2013. S4688 was approved for a second time by the New York State Assembly on June 19, 2013.
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