Proposal 3: Authorizing the Use of Forest Preserve Land for Specified Purposes

The “forever wild” provision in the New York State Constitution protects the Adirondack and Catskill parks by banning any new development unless it is specifically approved by state voters through a constitutional amendment. 

The proposed amendment would create two exceptions.  First, it would create a land bank of up to 250 acres of forest preserve land.  A town, village, or county could make a financial contribution to a forest preserve expansion account and apply to the Department of Environmental Conservation to use forest preserve land, if it has no viable alternative, for the following health and safety purposes:

  • To address bridge hazards or eliminate dangerous curves or grades on specified highways.
  • To relocate, reconstruct, or maintain highways (with relocation limited to one mile of road).
  • For water wells within 530 feet of a specified highway, to meet drinking quality standards.

Second, it would allow bicycle paths and public utility lines to be located within the widths of specified highways that cross forest preserve lands, and the addition of stabilization devices (such as guy wires) for existing utility poles if no other viable option exists.  The amendment requires that such work minimize the removal of trees and vegetation, and it prohibits the construction of any new intrastate gas or oil pipeline that was not approved at the state and local level prior to June 1, 2016.

The state will acquire 250 acres to add to the forest preserve to replace the land placed in the health and safety account, subject to approval by the Legislature.

Reasons to Vote Yes

  • Communities in the parks need the ability to repair their decaying infrastructure and access new services like broadband internet.
  • Any loss of preserved lands will be offset by the land bank’s purchase of new lands to add to the forest preserve.
  • The amendment allows use of the land bank for a narrow set of specifically designated purposes, thereby safeguarding against abuse of the process. The size of the land bank, which will be a maximum of 250 acres, will protect against over-development.
  • The flexibility created by the amendment would allow local governments to respond to crises such as the loss of a potable water source more quickly than through the current amendment process.

Reasons to Vote No

  • The current process requiring a constitutional amendment to develop “forever wild” lands ensures that voters can control the process and assess the costs and benefits of each specific development project.

Statements Supporting Proposal

Adirondack Council

The Adirondack and Catskill parks are special. Both contain public and private lands, arranged in a patchwork/checkerboard pattern.

Private lands in both parks contain communities, homes and businesses. Public lands are the State Forest Preserve. They are protected by the Constitution and must remain forever wild.

Periodically, a small section of Forest Preserve can prevent completion of a roadside municipal project. This amendment would create a small land bank (250 acres) to assist Adirondack and Catskill communities, when no alternatives exist.

Communities could use the bank to remove dangerous curves, replace bridges, install utility lines, electricity, water, telecommunications, drinking water wells or bike lanes along short segments of local roads that cross Forest Preserve. Currently, even the smallest of such projects would require an individual Constitutional Amendment.

To qualify, projects must be limited to one mile or less of local road. Lands removed from the Forest Preserve would be replaced from the bank.

No gas/oil pipelines allowed. Larger, more complicated land swaps would still require a Constitutional Amendment, including permission from the voters.

Conservative Party of NYS

New York State’s Constitution protects the State’s forest preserve as wild forest land and generally prohibits the lease, sale, exchange, or taking of any forest preserve land. The Conservative Party has long opposed the state arbitrarily taking land to increase acreage in a forest preserve, however, there are times when such action is necessary. Proposal number 3, creates a land account of up to 250 acres of forest preserve land, that a town, village, or county can apply to the land account if it has no viable alternative to using forest preserve land for specified health and safety purposes. These purposes could include making dangerous roads safer and other safety concerns, for example bridge repairs. It could also make it possible for rural areas to gain access to needed utility lines and safer bike paths.

Protect the Adirondacks; Peter Bauer, Executive Director

Vote yes on Proposal 3 and help the rural communities of the Adirondacks and Catskills. This is an Amendment to Article 14, the forever wild provision, of the State Constitution.

Under Proposal 3, the State of New York will purchase 250 acres of new lands to add to the public, 3 million acre Forest Preserve in the Adirondack and Catskill Parks. These new lands will offset the creation of a 250-acre “Health and Safety Land Account” where the hundreds of small rural communities throughout the Adirondacks and Catskills will be able to access roadside public lands for municipal purposes, such as extending utilities like broadband service, creating bike paths, and highway safety projects like culvert and bridge replacements and straightening dangerous curves.

The Health and Safety Land Account will used in small increments of less than an acre or a few acres at a time by Adirondack and Catskill municipalities through a public process administered by the Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC).

This sensible amendment upholds protections for the public "forever wild" Forest Preserve. Vote yes on Proposal 3.

Statements Opposing Proposal