Since November 5, when voters approved an amendment to the state constitution to permit a mining company to mine 200 acres of Forest Preserve lands, we have learned much more about the proposition than we knew before the vote. We always knew that the company proposed to mine the Forest Preserve, and everyone, proponents and opponents alike, thought it at least noteworthy that two environmental protection groups dedicated to maintaining the integrity of the constitutional clause that states that Forest Preserve lands will remain “Forever Wild,” supported the proposition.
But we did not know that the state officials who were lobbying the legislature to place the proposal on the ballot were unaware that the mining company already had access to a second mine on its own land, which it has not yet begun to utilize. We did not know that the company was spending at least half a million dollars to win passage of the proposition. And that’s not including the thousands of dollars it donated to the campaigns of Senator Betty Little, who sponsored the bill that put the proposition on the ballot.
Rumors, of course, swirled around the politics of the proposition. Had Governor Cuomo pressured DEC Commissioner Joe Martens to elicit the support of the Adirondack Council and the Adirondack Mountain Club, and what inducements did he offer? Did economic interests play a role in the endorsements provided by wealthy Adirondack environmentalists? Why did editorial boards with a historical commitment to the Forever Wild clause, such as the Adirondack Explorer and the New York Times, endorse the proposal? (In the case of the Times, at least, there was no unanimity among the members of the editorial board, which is perhaps why its endorsement was so half-hearted.)
Why, in fact, did the media accept so uncritically the mining company’s own narrative, disregarding its history and past practices? Had state media subjected the proposition to the same level of scrutiny they bring to political candidates, questions such as these would have been answered before the vote.
A proposal to amend the constitution is, of course, a more difficult race to cover than one between two candidates, and perhaps that is why propositions receive less attention than they deserve. Proposals to amend the constitution lack easily identifiable ideologies, resist analogies to battles and contests, and are devoid of personalities. A proposal to amend the constitution does not tweet indiscreetly or get arrested for driving while intoxicated. But because public referenda are less transparent than political campaigns and can be manipulated so much more easily, it’s all the more important that media scrutinize them.
People are now debating who won or lost with the passage of Proposition Five. Governor Cuomo says he won: “As we continue efforts to grow the tourism industry and economy in the North Country, my administration is committed to ensuring that the Adirondack Park remains a place with vibrant communities to raise a family and grow a business, as well as a place of incomparable outdoor recreational opportunities for visitors.”
Senator Little said she was “gratified” by the vote: “I’m very happy voters approved proposition 5, which is so important to families and businesses in the Adirondacks. Yesterday’s result was the culmination of great team work among many local, state, environmental and business leaders and partners, so credit goes to many but especially to those in the town of Lewis who had so much at stake and persevered.”
I think the Forest Preserve lost. To put that in terms of an easy to digest slogan: “The Adirondack Forest Preserve: Forever Wild, until a corporation wants a piece of it.” But thanks to the inattention of the media, those who truly lost were the voters. Persuaded by a skillful media campaign that Proposition Five was a local issue, they never realized their legacy as the owners of the Forest Preserve was at stake.
The media! A corporate enterprise.There’s a whole swath of people out there been trying to convince us the past some years that the media is too liberal.Please! This story alone hints otherwise.I knew this deal was fishy,even said so in these dialogues.Whatever! It only makes sense what you report here Anthony. At least some people are happy.Isn’t that what matters the most?
Tony, we at the Explorer ran an article on Prop 5 in our September/October issue. In that article, we summarized the arguments of Peter Bauer and Dave Gibson against the amendment, including the one that NYCO didn’t need Lot 8 to continue mining. The article did not include the spending by NYCO on Prop 5 as most of that spending occurred after our story appeared. We ran the article with a pullout quote from Bauer in large type: “It’s a sweet deal for NYCO, but it’s a raw deal for the Forest Preserve.”
I don’t think anyone reading that story could fairly conclude that we uncritically accepted the narrative of the company.
Incidentally, the Explorer’s editorial stance did not affect the story. In fact, the editorial was written by our publisher after I had written the article.
But Phil, with all due respect, neither you nor Brian Mann (nor many others) question WHY some conservation groups supported a mining company in its bid to acquire a parcel of state land, despite a century of constitutional history advising against such actions.
When ADK and TAC endorsed the proposal, their arguments were taken at face value–Prop 5 will expand the size of the Forest Preserve, so that’s a benefit that makes NYCO’s proposal worth considering. But why should ADK or TAC care about a measly 1500 acres on the wrong side of the Northway when they (we) are in the process of getting 65,000 acres of prime recreational land elsewhere? Why should conservation groups even care about a company’s operational concerns?
What you’re describing is simply covering the tabloid aspects of a debate–describing the argument and the controversy, and not the substance or the motivations. When people/groups act contrary to their perceived interests, that usually warrants a more investigative style of journalism.
If the oddity of a conservation group (or two) advocating for mining on state land didn’t raise eyebrows before the election, then I would hope that the closeness of the vote results will at least inspire a bit more scrutiny. When you factor in NYCO’s ad budget (targeted at NYC), the involvement of the unions, and the fact that Prop 5 was the most contentious issue on this year’s ballot, there is plenty of indication to suggest that ADK and TAC were largely impotent. Yes, their consent did sway some opinions, but an analysis of the results should suggest that these two groups did more to give credibility to NYCO and the unions than they did among their own constituency.
So rather than a story about 2 groups bucking tradition to find common ground, consensus, and a “new way of doing business,” this is a story about 2 groups that helped lead the state (and the Adirondack community) into one of the most divisive conservation issues of our time, just to maintain relevancy. Because certainly if ADK and TAC had true political influence, they could have swayed a larger majority of voters.
The pre vote articles lead me to a “no” vote. The info was out there but got “squashed” with the blitz from the “yes”ers. Sad.
The public approval of the amendment does not end the fight. I urge opponents to read the amendment and to consider a major campaign to stop Legislative approval.
As I read the full text of the amendment (thanks to Phil Brown), it authorizes the Legislature to use its discretion to swap lands (the operative words are “the state MAY subsequently convey”).
In law, may does not mean shall.
This amendment, obviously hastily drawn, only authorizes drilling without any further approval by the voters, the Legislature, or the Executive branch (i.e. DEC).
It does NOT mandate a land swap. If the Legislature declines to engage in the land swap, it is not ignoring the will of the people, who did not vote for or approve a land swap.
The voters approved drilling, followed by a vote of the Legislature. No yes vote, no swap!
So, the battle is far from over for those who choose to fight on in Albany! I say fight on.
I can’t understand how an environmental group could endorse prop 5. However, even a pragmatic approach would have sought substantially more acreage than can be purchased with just one million dollars. The Adirondack Council and ADK is content with having a mining operation expand into the interior of the wilderness where the impacts of the continuous operations will negatively affect wildlife well beyond the mine itself. The blasting that will occur is so intrusive it is likely to be detected as seismic activity at USGS stations. How could an environmental organization become so corrupt that they betray the ethical bedrock which has maintained the park for so long?
I had an extensive debate with someone who posts for the Adirondack council on their facebook page. If one goes there now they removed, conveniently enough, their responses and some of my posts but I did copy the conversation which is as follows…
Council: “We supported Prop 5, we did not endorse.”
Me: “So you are saying the Council did not lobby for passage of S4688-2013?”
Council: “We did not lobby for (passage). We simply set out our policy on land swaps for the state to meet.”
Me: “Your 990 tax return is fraudulent then. On page 4 of schedule C under direct and indirect political campaign activities, I quote…”The NYS senate, assembly, and governor’s office were lobbied in regards to the following subjects from July 2012 to June 2013.” Scroll down and #3 on the list is NYCO.”
e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org for requested location.
Bill, I assume you are suggesting that ADK and the Adirondack Council backed the amendment to curry political favor. Even if true, that would be hard to prove, perhaps impossible. If Peter or Dave made such an allegation, I could have got a response (a denial, no doubt) from the other side. But in my conversations with them, we concentrated on the merits of Prop 5, not on the ulterior motives, if any, of ADK and the council.
Phil, you won’t get the answers until you start asking the questions.
You’re forgetting that I served on ADK’s conservation committee, and was present at the May 5, 2012 meeting when the vote was made to recommend approving the amendment to the board of directors. So I know ADK’s reasons because I was involved (ineffectually) in the decision-making process.
There was even a very detailed set of minutes taken that day.
These excerpts reflect ADK staff’s recommendations to the committee:
“[Woodworth:] DEC believes that approving this amendment could sway Sen. Little’s support for the Finch Pruyn and Follensby acquisitions.”
“Foskett: It is politically wise for ADK to appear sensitive to community needs. If jobs are terminated because the amendment is defeated, it could be blamed on environmental opposition. This could be a “tit for tat” situation where if we appear willing to be flexible, we may get something in return—namely, support for the Finch Pruyn and Follensby projects.”
So no conspiracies, no theories, no nefarious plans. I can’t speak for TAC, other than that I met with Willie Janeway personally in Utica back in July, and he stated that he personally was indifferent to NYCO; he said it would pass or fail depending on how the issue was perceived.
But I know with near certainty that ADK was scared (or was trying to scare its committees into believing) that failure to support NYCO could result in Betty Little pulling strings to block the Finch Pruyn lands. How she could do that was never stated, but clearly this was a case of Betty Little intimidating Neil Woodworth.
Phil, Having worked in the state legislature for ten years, I perhaps can be forgiven for doubting that anyone supports or opposes a measure based on the merits of the argument. A friend who worked in the legislature longer than me and at a much higher level once said that if anything done in Albany was in the public interest, it was entirely accidental. Collateral damage, he called it.
I’m sure there is a lot of truth in what you say, Tony. But these groups do not always agree with the administration, so I don’t think we’re entitled to conclude when they do that they were bought out. If someone produces evidence that they were, that is a story. Until then, all we have is their public rationale for supporting Prop 5. And, of course, people are entitled to their suspicions that something else was going on behind the scenes.
I, as an Adirondack guide voted yes, because the trade off seemed fair. But had I known that the mining company had land that they had not used yet, I may had voted differently, seeing it as greedy.
I will be voting against Betty Little from here on out, now that I know she was acting due to having her pockets lined.
I wrote 3 letters to the editor (NY Times, ADK Enterprise or Press Republican — I can’t remember — and Valley News) stating exactly that fact, Jason. The article is correct: the media did not do their homework and there was scant mention of NYCO’s Oak Hill mine. NYCO sure as heck didn’t bring it up!
Sour Grapes! The people of the State have voted, the process is completed. You may not like the results but get over it and move on. You’re beating a dead horse.
That is the lazy man’s way out. If an injustice has been committed during the legislative process (as was the case here), then we, as citizens, have a right (and arguably an obligation) to fight against it.
Take the following hypothetical scenario:
You are in your house sleeping one night, when a burglar comes in. You clearly see him, and identify him later in a police roundup. The case goes to trial, but he is acquitted because he paid off some of the jurors, and the others were simply apathetic.
What would you, as the plaintiff (in a civil suit), do? Would you let the case be done with, or would you appeal, knowing that you were in the right, and that he were in the wrong?
Right on Bill Ingersoll!
Your post cuts through all the pro & con posts about this issue.
Plain & simple: it’s an erosion of the Article 14, the Forever Wild Clause in the New York State Constitution!
My but how we do love our conspiracy theories.
This was a relatively close vote, right? So everyone who voted no somehow overcame the failures of the media, but those failures were the reasons why everyone who voted yes did so? Your argument makes no sense. Essentially it is this: “I don’t like the way the public voted. They must have been misinformed not to see it my way. Therefore, the media failed.”
Your opportunity for snark aside, it should be obvious that had this vote occurred in a higher turnout year (such as last November), the results would have been different.
Perhaps you could point to us the stories before the vote in which it was reported that:
a) the company had plenty of mine land already to last several decades;
b) the company was spending a half million dollars, mostly in NYC;
c) how the company managed to enlist labor unions and an important environmental group to lobby on its behalf; and
d) that Betty Little, among the most vocal activists for the plan, was being paid by NYCO.
If you can’t point us to the stories that revealed those facts, then please do explain why you think such shoddy reporting – reporting which mimicked the “swap and jobs” language of the company – contributed to an informed electorate.
A lot of these comments make me wonder how many people have actually read Article 14, and not just the first two sentences of it, shown above. Those two sentences are followed by exception after exception to Forever Wild from its very beginning.
It’s unfortunate that a piece alleging slanted and shallow media coverage uses an illustration that portrays Article 14 as some inviolable commandment, when the truth is something else entirely.
The Forest Preserve will survive the NYCO amendment, just like it survived the amendments allowing the Northway, the road up Whiteface, and the state roads such as 28 slashed right through the heart of the Adirondack wilderness.
Many of the earlier amendments were and are exponentially more harmful to the ecological integrity of the Adirondacks than the NYCO amendment.
Now should we continue using the old standards for making exceptions to Forever WIld, or perhaps raise the bar to make amendments even more difficult and rare in the 21st century? That’s a different issue entirely, and perhaps a cause that would be more productive to pursue.
First, I know that I was well aware of the fact that there was Wollastonite at Oak Hill, and that fact was repeated many times. If anyone says they were unaware of that, then they weren’t paying enough attention to now be complaining about the result. NYCO was quite clear in saying that they wanted to first of all access the wollastonite next to their already developed operation and then move on to Oak Hill so that their business could continue for as long as possible.
Second, this isn’t Panther Mountain Dam. This was a chance for there to be just a tiny bit of flexibility in how NYS manages the mostly randomly-acquired parcels of land that now make up the Forest Preserve. My analogy will, I think, ring true to anyone who regularly works on trails or in the garden with wooden-handled tools. Proper maintenance of the wooden handle includes periodic coats of linseed oil to keep the handle moist and just slightly flexible. Absent that treatment, the handle ultimately becomes dry and brittle before breaking and becoming useless. At the same time the linseed oil protects the wood from rot so that it maintains its integrity over time.
The constitutional amendment process is cumbersome enough to I believe, adequately protect the Forest Preserve from any thoroughly misguided proposition while at the same time allowing a few reasonable tweaks that will prevent any future movement to seriously weaken the current protections. Remember, the entire concept of Forever Wild could be undone with just two votes of the Legislature and a referendum vote.
I knew about Oak Hill also Tony. I knew about it from the numerous articles I read for and against Prop. 5 during the pre-election season.
I also knew that NYCO was spending money, big money, on purchasing advertizing to support their view. I mean, come on, who thought that the network affiliates in the greater NYC Metro area were donating air time rather than charging for it? What did those people think it cost? Why is $500+k a large amount of money for this? In reality its not. In fact its a laughably small sum of money for political type advertizing.
I also knew Betty Little supported the amendment from the information her office put out, and I certainly knew that some unions, and a few powerful environmental groups also supported it, because they made their position known as well.
All this conspiracy mongering and the hoodwinking scenerios that are being bandied about are insulting to not only the procees, but the intelligence of the Adirondack resident community and the people of New York State. The shortsightedness and alarmist “Chicken Little” behavior exhibited by Mr. Warren, Mr. Bauer, Mr. Hall, Mr. Ingersoll, and many others since election day is both sad and amusing at the same time. Sad because its a waste of time and talent to continually lament a settled issue, and amusing because the lack of acceptance underscores their true abilities to contribute on a meaningful level to the continued upkeep and preservation of the park. That demonstrated ability in this case is to lash out emotionally and without meaningful cause, and to ignore the future by editorializing the past. In a nutshell, Ostrich behavior.
You lost me on the Handle Tools. Perhaps it was haphazardly acquired but those lands eventually comprised 10,000 contiguous acres. Enough for a wilderness designation. The Jay Mountain wilderness is unique in that it is a transition area from the High Peaks region to the Champlain Highlands, containing attributes of both. High elevation, open summits, rich lowlands, greater frequency of natural fires and best of all few trails!
I heard very little discussion of the environmental impact(mining operation)on the wilderness area itself. There was no landscape approach or discussion. Article 14 is what makes the Adirondacks so unique, so special. It is the foundation of the park. Yes there have been amendments and there will be again but how could we sell out our ethics for just a million dollars! This was not some sweetheart deal that could not be turned down.
You like analogies, would a clergy openly sin to increase his parishioners? Some Perhaps, but for .05% increase? Thats the net increase in Forest Preserve from this deal. What were we thinking?
Local media failing at its job is an ongoing story precipitated by the collapse of newspaper advertising. Our local paper (foothills of the Adirondacks) has laid off almost all of its reporters, meaning we mostly see AP stuff and advertorials about how NOW is the best time ever to either buy or sell real estate (the only major advertisers in local papers). I’m a voracious reader of news, online and in print, and many of the points outlined by Hall were not known by most of the public. However, I think in the end the average voter goes with what he/she believes will impact their own pocketbook, meaning environmentalists always have a tough hurdle to get over. People are willing to overlook a lot if they believe something will improve job prospects and general prosperity. You will notice that’s where the PR efforts were mainly directed. Notice too that casino gambling was approved–after a PR push touting economic Valhalla will arrive along with roulette wheels, hookers, and pawn shops.
Scott van Laer says: How could an environmental organization become so corrupt that they betray the ethical bedrock which has maintained the park for so long?
Makes you wonder hey Scott.I stopped supporting the Adirondack Council when they voted yes on the monster Tupper lake project and stopped supporting ADK 6 years ago for other reasons.If we were a more informed citizenry just maybe Prop 5 wouldn’t have flown.
tony hall says: A friend who worked in the legislature longer than me and at a much higher level once said that if anything done in Albany was in the public interest, it was entirely accidental. Collateral damage, he called it.
I needed a good quick chuckle.Not that there’s much humor in the above.
adkcamp says: Sour Grapes! The people of the State have voted, the process is completed. You may not like the results but get over it and move on. You’re beating a dead horse.
Like let’s forget about it and move on to more mundane things hey camp? Like let’s cool off until we’re frozen stiffs? Like let’s sit idly by and continue allowing our natural heritage to be usurped by yet another corporation? Right camp?
My dad taught me never to waste my time and energy defending a bad decision, especially when I realized that it was mine. Seems that there is an awful lot of that going on at ADK and TAC. Was Prop 5 a bad decision, especially in light of what’s now been brought forth? I say yes. I voted “no” and like the idea of telling my legislative representatives not to support the land swap after drilling is done. Will NYCO pick up their marbles and leave? No. Will they lay any workers off because of this? No, because they were never going to hire additional full-times anyway, just move them around. Is Betty Little a political opportunist? Yes, and she’ll defend this bad, bad decision to the end. What a waste.
As almost an exclusively Leftist blog website, the
irony of you complaining about the Media is mind-blowing.
I don’t know if I should laugh or cry anymore.
I’m contributing to an almost exclusively leftist blog website? Cool!!! I’ve always wanted to do that! What great credentials I’ll get now! I’m so glad to know John Warren and contributors are socialists and communists or whatever you think “leftists” are. I need to update my Christmas card list, what fun!
The only thing more fun would be to give you a little survey while you are out there laughing or crying or whatever you are doing and see if you can answer a few questions such as what’s a leftist, who on this site is a leftist by your definition, which media sources are leftist by your definition, which positions on issues discussed here in the Adirondacks are leftist by your definition, what the basic tenets of socialism are, what the tenets of capitalism are, how to compare and contrast those, how you feel about public education, medicare, highways and bridges, the FDA, the NIH, and so forth. Because you undoubtedly have a firm grip on all of that.
Actually, how about you just laugh or cry or whatever, watch Fox News and listen to Rush (which certainly doesn’t make you a rightist, does it?) and we’ll go on about our business, trading ideas and comments in blissful ignorance of whatever you think a leftist is.
I’m not leftist Pete. Just in case you were wondering.
I’m probably a lot of other names folks who read here regularly might like to call me. Thats ok with me though, just as long as I don’t get stuck with that ‘leftist’ brand. Ugh. Perish the thought. Anything but that! Makes me shake in my hiking boots!
Can leftists be right-handed? If not, you better delete me from your Christmas card list!
Dan, Dan, Dan:
After all the times our columns have intersected I can’t bring myself to remove you from my xmas card list for any reason. Besides you’re usually right about things and stuff and the like.
We leftist don’t celebrate Christmas.
I think what JR meant to say was “Thanks Obama!”
Couple of comments.
ADK and the Adk Council long ago ceased to be important conservation organizations.So why would anyone be surprised by what they did. (That’s not a question.)
For awhile a few decades ago ADK maintained a reasonable balance between its recreational interests and conservation interests, particularly in the latter area by being four-square behind Article 14. The balance tipped a long time ago, maybe when ADK decided against selling the Loj to the State Forest Preserve, pointing like a dagger at the High Peaks all these years, and instead decided to expand it. Symbolic. Getting 1500 acres of “recreational” land for 200 without any regard for the integrity of Article 14, was the inevitable decision for ADK despite the lengthy discussion in its Conservation Committee. ADK has lost its way. The votes are there for recreation, not Forever Wild.
The Council has made a purposeful policy decision to avoid confrontation on conservation issues, whether on private land or public.The policy is to seek a basis for friendly overtures to the Governor’s staff and DEC and APA and the locals, no matter how wrong their actions are for the Park. Tupper Lake is a good example. They cozy up to the locals and APA at every opportunity, no matter how damaging Foxman’s plans are to natural resources or how unlawful APA’s decisionmaking.
The Council’s criteria for “land swaps,” a list of excuses for violating Article 14, reflects its willingness to first go to compromise without giving weight to the overriding need to take a “hard look” at the effect on Article 14 and its principles.To hear Willie Janeway’s cloying comments about the Prop 5 decision being “a victory for the Park,” says it all.
Phil, there was not much talk early on, by Dave Gibson, Peter Bauer or anyone else about the selling of the Forest Preserve to a private company strictly for the company’s profit (in the guise of a land swap) and about the jobs issue being phony because no one was really going to lose their job, or about the importance of maintaining the integrity of Article 14 (an issue from which Behan and NYCO and ADK and TAC tried to divert the attention of the voters). Maybe Tom Woodman endorsed Prop 5 before he heard the full range of arguments that only began to emerge a couple of weeks before the vote.The editorial seemed to me as if he, like a lot of others, did not have all of the information needed to make a decision that fully considered Article 14. He locked in too early and the editorial was not a vote for conservation.
Mr. Hall is surprised the media didn’t “do it’s job?” After the last two Presidential elections how can anyone really be surprised by this?
The Jay Mt. Wilderness was less than the usual threshold of 10,000 acres. With the additions provided by this amendment, it will be much closer to the 10,000 acre size.
The wooden handle analogy was meant to say that if something is totally inflexible it becomes brittle, will break, and then be useless. A small amount of flexibility keeps both handles and laws functional for many more years.
You got me on the acreage. My bad. One thing that is apparent though, is that you spend way too much time alone with hand tools. Hope you had a good Thanksgiving. See you soon.
I highly doubt that very much of the proposed new 1500 acres will qualify as additions to the Jay Mountain Wilderness. All you have to do is look at a map of what NYCO is planning to buy on behalf of the state. Only a few pieces are contiguous with the wilderness, and it is not clear whether any of these will come with non-conforming roads or other reservations. Most of the acreage is roadside frontage. I sincerely doubt the state will start closing town and county roads just to expand the wilderness.
If we get another 200 acres of at least equally valuable Wilderness lands(as lot 8), and the rest of the acreage, perhaps 1100-1300 acres, becomes Wild Forest, we still made the right decision. Nice analogy, Tony.
M.P. Heller says: I’m not leftist Pete. …. just as long as I don’t get stuck with that ‘leftist’ brand. Ugh. Perish the thought. Anything but that! Makes me shake in my hiking boots!
What exactly is your definition of a leftist M.P. that you get so uncomfortable with? Surely there are millions of people who fit what you deem a leftist.They cant all be the devil you surmise them to be due to whatever your religious or political reasons. The way I see it we’re all human beings who have more in common with each other than many of us wish to believe.
I believe several of the issues being cited as ignored were brought up on this very site before the vote. Doesn’t that count?
The website set up by NYCO (I assume that is theirs “Adirondacklandswap”) actually has links to the Explorer and subsequently to the Almanack so that all of that information was actually linked directly to their FAQ page.
In fact if you look more closely at the NYCO site regarding the swap. There is this:
“Is it true that NYCO owns other land in the Adirondacks that can be mined? If so, why is this swap needed?”
Part of their answer:
“NYCO does own another nearby wollastonite mine site and will likely move its operations there at some point in the future.”
So in this case it isn’t even the media but the company that is making this fact be known.