At the Bar Association’s Environmental Law Conference in Lake Placid on October 13, Pace University Law School professors Nicholas Robinson and Philip Weinberg released twelve edited papers – eleven by their law school students – that review the history, and relevancy today of New York’s Article 14.
Effective since 1895 and known as the “Forever Wild” provision of our State Constitution which protects the State’s Forest Preserve in the Adirondack and Catskill Parks, Article 14 states that “the lands of the state, now owned or hereafter acquired, constituting the forest preserve as now fixed by law, shall be forever kept as wild forest lands.”
The papers cover a wide range of topics, including wildlife management, endangered species, agriculture, the public trust doctrine, historic preservation, and recreational use among them. The papers include Professor Robinson’s own “Forever Wild: New York’s Constitutional Mandates to Enhance the Forest Preserve.” A listing of all the papers can be found online (these particular papers are listed under the year 2010, the year the Article 14 seminar and symposium was held at Pace Law School).
In late 2010, Adirondack Wild: Friends of the Forest Preserve provided assistance and support to the professors and the students in the classroom, at the symposium and during an Adirondack field trip. The papers are not only interesting reading, but are intended to provoke further discussion and debate. Adirondack Wild intends to contribute to this proactive strategy well in advance of any public decision on whether or not to convene a constitutional convention, a question that must be placed on the ballot in 2017.
At the recent Environmental Law Conference in Lake Placid, Professor Robinson stated that Article 14 is hardly just a New York State issue. “The whole world will be looking at New York regarding our Forever Wild Constitutional protection,” he noted. “It has international implications in terms of our ability to adapt to climate disruption and to sequester carbon in our forests, in terms of the sustaining a clean water supply for New York City, and much more. Many issues are in play, as expressed in these papers. All state agencies could be and should be obliged to enhance the Forest Preserve. These papers are intended to wake-up the constituency for Article 14.”
Professor Weinberg noted that Article 14 imposes “an affirmative duty on government to protect the environment and to conserve land not only within the Forest Preserve, but also outside it.”
The papers were first delivered at a December, 2010 symposium at Pace Law School. Here are a few quotes from the symposium.
“Our purpose is to ensure that Article 14 (of the NYS Constitution) is not only maintained, but strengthened” – Professor Nicholas A. Robinson, Gilbert & Sarah Kerlin Distinguished Professor of Environmental Law, Pace University School of Law
“A nation that loses its liberty can regain it. A nation that loses its natural resources must pay the penalty of poverty, degradation and decay.” – Gifford Pinchot, quoted by Professor Philip Weinberg.
“My paper concerns Article 14 and the Public Trust. In fact, Article 14 is part of the Public Trust, and New York State’s executive, legislative and judicial branches can do nothing to destroy that trust. They can only enhance it.” – Pace Law Student Katherine R. Leisch
“My recommendation is to amend Article 14 to incorporate existing inconsistent uses of the Forest Preserve, and to ensure that any future inconsistent uses are carefully circumscribed and delineated. Further, I recommend that Article 14 receive an anti-degradation clause to prevent further backsliding. We must remember that the Forest Preserve can only be enhanced, not diminished.” – Pace Law Student Katherine R. Leisch
“Public support (for the Forest Preserve) is often tied to the health of the region’s wildlife. The Adirondack and Catskill regions benefit from $1.5 billion annual economic return from hunting alone, and another $1.5 billion from birdwatching and hiking. Any threat to Article 14 is a threat to the region’s biodiversity.” – Pace Law Student Jeffrey Auger
“I recommend that our state build up a support base for Article 14 from hunters and fishers, and from city residents who must be influential once again in protecting the Forest Preserve and including ecosystem services into the Constitution.”- Jeffrey Auger
“The framers (of Article 14) could not anticipate the extent and types of motorized uses that would raise constitutional issues. There should be a public referendum and constitutional vote on whether to permit motorized uses on the Forest Preserve. Society is not entitled to use the Forest Preserve for all types of recreation. We are only entitled to have reasonable access to it.” – Pace Law Student Jennifer L. McAleese
“We have strayed too far from the framers original intent of Article 14. We have an affirmative duty to protect the preserve, and to assure that our recreation is in harmony with it.” – Jennifer L. McAleese
“Economically, Adirondack and Catskill Parks provide billions of dollars of value in water and watersheds and avoidance cost for water treatment. They also provide critical biodiversity and carbon benefits which can be quantified, with dollar benefits flowing to landowners. Leave Article 14 alone. From an economic standpoint, it is a strong foundation from which to legislate to ensure that ecosystem services benefit the residents of these special places.” – Pace Law Student Chih-Yao Sun.
Photo: Forest Preserve boundary sign near Ticonderoga (courtesy John Warren).