Tonawanda News

Opinion

October 23, 2013

CONFER: A look at state Propositions 4, 5

(Continued)

Tonawanda News — While that one was a no-brainer, Proposition 5 is a bit dicey.

NYCO Minerals operates a pit mine in Lewis that it wants to expand by 200 acres so it can capitalize on a healthy vein of wollastonite that it has discovered. By doing so, NYCO would be intruding on constitutionally protected land Adirondack wild land.

Wollastonite is used in ceramics and the production of brakes and clutches.

NYCO, in order to facilitate its own growth, would give the state 1,500 acres of land that would be added to the Forest Preserve, providing outdoor enthusiasts with access to the Jay Mountain Wilderness Area. If during mining operations the Department of Environmental Conservation determines that the vein has a royalty value greater than $1 million, more land would be given to the state. On top of that, once the wollastonite mining has ceased, NYCO will reclaim and replant the 200 acres and give it back to the state.

There are two ways to look at this proposal.

The general sentiment amongst Adirondack residents, the Adirondack Council, the Adirondack Mountain Club, local and state officials and editorial boards across the Adirondack Park is that the mining and land swap is a good thing. It ensures economic development in a depressed region that hangs by a thread during the absence of summer tourists.

NYCO is a 60-year-old business that employs 100 and has an annual payroll in excess of $6 million, and the land being acquired is not only sizable, it contains far greater natural and recreational value than the 200 acres temporarily being given up.

While most environmentalists give Prop 5 a thumbs-up, there is a small minority — which some would classify as “hardcore” environmentalists — who oppose it on the basis that it defeats the whole purpose of the Adirondack Forest Preserve and opens the door to future intrusions on the wilderness. They have a very legitimate point.

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