By Anna McHugh ’17
“The lands of the state, now owned or hereafter acquired, constituting the [Adirondack] forest preserve as now fixed by law, shall be forever kept as wild forest lands. They shall not be leased, sold or exchanged, or be taken by any corporation, public or private, nor shall the timber thereon be sold, removed or destroyed.”–Article XIV, Section 1: New York State Constitution
At the 1894 Constitutional Convention in Albany, NY, the conservation of the Adirondack State Park was on everyone’s mind. The result was Article XIV, Section 1 which made land in the Adirondack Park “forever wild” and protected from further development.
My family spills into the small cabin with loud voices and far too many shoes. Summer would not be summer without a week in the Adirondacks in a cabin stuffed with almost everyone related to me.
I escape to the front porch, newspaper in hand, noticing hammer marks, saw cuts, and new paint. These are my grandfather’s fingerprints. The family unpacks while I open the weekly newspaper, The Adirondack Express. I always look for the graduating class picture; sixteen students in white robes and caps stand awkwardly squinting in the sun. I read three lines and decide to give up because it is summer after all. The massive boulder in the lawn peeks out from the earth reminding me of the annual picture taken there with my cousins; every year we see the subtle changes and developments.
The article remained on the porch until the next day when I opened the newspaper once again. I turn a page; the article read, “Legislature approves constitutional amendments authorizing land swaps.” It described the approval of a proposed Constitutional Amendment, Proposition 5, allowing a swap in land that would expand the Forest Preserve by 1,507 acres while simultaneously authorizing NYCO Minerals of Willsboro to expand its mine in “forever wild” land areas. The 200 acres of old growth forest being given to the mining company will be cleared and open pit mined. In exchange, the Preserve will receive over 1,000 acres of heavily cut-over and used lands. In essence, the land that was originally said to be kept as wild forest would be used for mining and in return, the company would swap land previously used. I closed the newspaper and returned to the day’s activities with a heavy heart. In November of 2013, Proposition 5 was approved by 53%-47%.The old growth forests that are being swapped for mining are very rich and complex. They are vital for the interactions of local wildlife. By destroying these forests, the health of the rest of the Preserve will be unstable.
Each year going back to the Adirondacks keeps me grounded as this place, my home, never seems to change. Each year, I am consistently amazed by it’s beauty. I walk down the porch stairs, book in hand, and see the water. I look up to see the clouds’ shadows rolling over the mountains and pieces of the sun bursting through the waves.
My family’s history is embedded in this landscape; I’ve grown up here. Knowing that this place is not as protected as it could be, scares me. Putting corporate interests over the “Forever Wild” Amendment can lead to the manipulation of this land for selfish and harmful gains. Proposition 5 is a slippery slope towards an unhealthy future where corporations can take previously preserved land for economic gain and in return preserves like The Adirondack Park will lose beauty, stability, and their wild.
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