N.Y. Voters to Decide on 2 Adirondack Land Swaps

ALBANY (AP) -
Miners use heavy equipment to dig wollastonite ore from a pit mine in the Adirondacks, the subject of a statewide referendum in three weeks. (AP Photo/Mary Esch)
Miners use heavy equipment to dig wollastonite ore from a pit mine in the Adirondacks, the subject of a statewide referendum in three weeks. (AP Photo/Mary Esch)

Two Adirondack land swaps are being proposed to voters in November: one to let a mining company temporarily expand onto 200 acres of state-owned land and another to settle a century-old property title dispute.

The mine proposal has strong support locally, where the company employs about 100 people, but it has split environmental groups. The title dispute measure, which involves 216 private and public landowners in the hamlet of Raquette Lake in Hamilton County, has broad support.

Both issues must go to voters statewide because they require amendments to the constitution, which protects state-owned Forest Preserve land in the 6 million-acre Adirondack Park.

Proposition 5 would let NYCO Minerals Inc. expand its pit mine into a 200-acre tract of adjacent state forest land to follow a vein of wollastonite, a safe substitute for asbestos. In exchange, the company would give the state 1,500 acres of forest land elsewhere and return the 200 acres to the state after the ore was depleted, the mine filled in and the land replanted in about 10 years.

Adirondack Wild’s Dan Plumley said the 200 acres is rare old-growth forest with rich wildlife habitat. He said it “insults our wilderness legacy” to allow such a forest to be mined after protecting it for 120 years.

The other referendum, Proposition 4, would settle conflicting land-title claims dating back to the 1800s, when inadequate surveying, poor record keeping and clerical errors left the state with nominal title to 216 lots covering about 1,000 acres. In exchange for giving up its claim to the disputed parcels, the state would get undeveloped land elsewhere. The landowners would pay fees to be used for the new land acquisition.