When Brooklynites go the polls this Election Day, you’ll be asked to help communities in the Catskills and Adirondacks provide our residents and visitors with clean, safe drinking water and other public health improvements while also protecting the spectacular Adirondack and Catskill forest preserves.
I hope you’ll do so by voting Yes for Ballot Proposal #3, creating the Public Health and Safety Land Account.
As you may know, much of the land in Adirondack and Catskill communities is state-owned Forest Preserve, which is constitutionally protected as forever wild. Nothing can be built on Preserve lands, and no trees can be cut.
The challenge for local communities comes when Preserve lands are immediately adjacent to roads and other inhabited areas, which is a very common occurrence.
From time to time when our communities need to install public infrastructure like new drinking water wells, straighten a dangerous road, or even create a bike lane to get bicyclists off narrow mountain roads, we have no choice but to use small pieces of Forest Preserve. But in order to do so, we have to obtain a constitutional amendment — a time-consuming and costly bureaucratic process that requires approval of two successively elected state legislatures AND a vote of all New York State residents. This takes a minimum of two years, even when public health and safety is involved.
With your approval, Ballot Proposal #3 will eliminate this burden, which is not faced by communities in any other part of the state. A Yes vote will allow New York State to add 250 new acres to the Forest Preserve and then allow Adirondack and Catskill communities to remove a total of 250 acres as needed over a period of years for public health and safety projects without having to go through the constitutional amendment process each time. These lands can only be removed if there is no other option for completing the project, and the removal must be approved by the state Department of Environmental Conservation.
The lands that will be removed are small pieces of Forest Preserve located right off the shoulder of heavily traveled roads, not remote, backcountry wilderness. The land added to the Preserve will be ideal for public recreation, and far more environmentally significant. Making the deal even more fair, any community withdrawing land from the Preserve will also have to compensate the state at fair-market value. It’s simply a common-sense approach to an age-old challenge.
That’s why Ballot Proposal #3 has broad-based, bipartisan support from local governments, environmental advocacy groups, business organizations and recreational enthusiasts.
You can learn more about Ballot Proposal #3 at www.VoteYesForTheAdirondacks.com. I hope that you will take the time to turn your ballot over on November 7 and help us make our communities safer for our residents — and for your next visit north.
Brian Towers is the supervisor of the Town of Wells in Hamilton County, NY, and the president of the Adirondack Association of Towns & Villages.