When the state decided in 1885 to set aside land for protection in the Adirondacks, it was to be an experiment to show it is possible to have sustainable communities while still preserving a great wilderness area. It becomes more and more evident that the experiment has failed.
I have been working for several years with NYCO Minerals, a mining operation in Willsboro. NYCO employs seventy-five to a hundred people. These are family-sustaining jobs that support our communities, businesses, and schools. NYCO wants to amend the state constitution so it can continue to mine deposits of the mineral that are adjacent to their current operations but under state land. If you remove land from the Forest Preserve it must be replaced, and NYCO is willing to do that. NYCO, state Senator Betty Little and I have been working with environmental groups to see if they could support such an amendment. Without this amendment, future operations at NYCO could be shortened by many years.
The response from Protect the Adirondacks was, “The employment issues and community of Willsboro economic issues were voiced as positive benefits of the proposal; however, they fail to sway the majority regarding the high threshold needed to amend Article XIV.” The other environmental groups in the Adirondacks are still trying to work through this issue.
People chose to come here because this is a beautiful and special place. Those of us who live here know that and don’t want anything to change; yet as time goes by, our presence is becoming meaningless. Our opinions don’t matter! When people first began discovering the Adirondacks, we carried their packs, cut their trees, built their homes, dug their ditches, labored in their mills, taught their children, healed their sick, and welcomed them like family. Most have become our friends and our neighbors, but those who came with their own agenda have stood judge and jury on what is acceptable for growth in our communities, what areas will remain accessible to the handicapped and aged, what kind of vehicles are allowed on trails, and even if we can keep our traditional hunting camps on state-owned land. Are we not part of the state? What about the great experiment?
I am very angry, but even more, I am very sad. The great experiment is a failure, and there is no balance. My family, friends and neighbors are being forced out of existence and few seem to care.
Assemblywoman Teresa Sayward, Willsboro