As the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation prepares for exploratory mining in the Adirondack Park Forest Preserve, four environmental organizations, represented by Earthjustice, are asking for confirmation that the agency will not authorize sampling until laws prohibiting the mining are changed.
The groups, Adirondack Wild: Friends of the Forest Preserve; the Atlantic States Legal Foundation; Protect the Adirondacks! and the Atlantic Chapter of the Sierra Club, contend that a constitutional amendment, Proposition 5, approved by the voters in November 2013, removed only one layer of protection from about 200 acres of forest (known as “Lot 8”), but all other legal requirements remain in full force and effect.
Prior to the narrow approval (53% to 47%) of the amendment, New York’s Constitution required that Lot 8 be “forever kept as wild.” The amendment removed that permanent constitutional protection and allowed the State to decide whether to permit mineral sampling on Lot 8, which is part of the Jay Mountain Wilderness Area. Lot 8 abuts property on which NYCO Minerals, Inc. (NYCO) operates an eight-story-deep open-pit mine (the Lewis mine). NYCO wants to expand its operations into the Wilderness Area, which has been protected by generations of New Yorkers since 1885.
The groups acknowledge that Lot 8 no longer has the “forever wild” protection afforded under the Constitution, but they point to a list of additional statutes, forest management plans, and regulations that bar the contemplated mining operations. The road building, tree cutting, and drilling involved in minerals exploration would undoubtedly cause great disturbance to the area. In addition, the groups have documented that Lot 8 is rich in older growth trees and varied wildlife habitats that demand great care and careful assessment prior to any mineral sampling operations.