ALBANY, N.Y. — With Tuesday’s election, New York voters have given state forest preserves some important protection.
Voters approved New York’s Ballot Proposal 3, clearing the way for the creation of a land bank that will help local communities in the Adirondack and Catskill parks make needed health and safety improvements while ensuring that the preserves benefit as well.
According to Amanda Lefton, deputy policy director for the Nature Conservancy of New York, under the Forest Preserve Land Bank Amendment, the state will purchase 250 acres of forest, creating a reserve that communities can tap into when accessing park land is the only option.
“This will apply to things like fixing a hazardous road or, in the event that community needs to access clean water, this will allow them to tap into that 250 acre land bank for these really necessary improvements,” Lefton said.
As an amendment to the state constitution, the proposal had to pass in the state Legislature in two consecutive sessions. Tuesday’s vote was the final step in the amendment process.
Lefton emphasized that projects accessing park land will need to establish that there is no alternative. Then projects will be subject to a thorough environmental review and approval by the state Legislature.
“So there’s a really careful process to ensure that these projects are really necessary,” she said; “but also a process that’s much more efficient than what these communities currently have to go through.”
She added that the 250 acres serves as a cap on the amount of park land that can be accessed for necessary community projects. Ultimately, Lefton said, passage of the proposal benefits the entire state.
“It’s a real victory for our environment because it allows both our forests and our communities to thrive in the Adirondacks and Catskill parks, which are of course two of the largest natural areas in the United States,” she said.
Under the state constitution, more than 2.5 million acres of the Adirondacks, and almost 300,000 acres of the Catskills are protected as “Forever Wild” Forest Preserves.
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