The state Senate and Assembly have approved two proposed Adirondack land swaps to be put before state voters this fall.
One exchange would allow NYCO Minerals Inc. to take 200 acres now in the state Forest Preserve for its mining operations in the town of Lewis, in return for a 1,500-acre addition to the Forest Preserve.
The new state lands would be five new parcels adjacent to the Jay Mountain Wilderness Area, plus a sixth adjoining the Taylor Pond Wild Forest and the Bouquet River. All are in the Essex County towns of Lewis or Jay.
NYCO Minerals has 100 employees in Willsboro, and the company said the swap would preserve those jobs. NYCO is seeking access to 200 acres of forest preserve land in Lewis. The land immediately adjoins NYCO’s mine. NYCO believes the land can be mined for wollastonite, a white mineral used primarily in ceramics and as a substitute for asbestos in automobile brakes and clutches. It is also used to make metals, paints and plastics.
NYCO officials said its existing mine is expected to be productive for only three or four more years, and access to the new parcel could extend the mine’s life by nearly a decade. After mining was done, trees would be planted and the property returned to the state.
The state Department of Environmental Conservation is supporting the land swap, which must get voter approval as an amendment to the state constitution, which otherwise requires state land in the Adirondacks to remain “forever wild.”
Some conservation organizations, including the Adirondack Council and Adirondack Mountain Club, support the proposed swap.
“In this case, the public would receive a seven-to-one advantage in acres,” said William Janeway, executive director of The Adirondack Council.
With 102 employees, NYCO Minerals is one of the largest private employers in Essex County.
The second proposed amendment would clear up a century-old ownership dispute between the state and 200 landowners in Raquette Lake; both sides believe they own the lands in question. The swap would allow the private owners, all of whom have deeds to the lands they occupy, to remain where they are in exchange for purchasing lands along the Marion River nearby that would be added to the Forest Preserve.
“Both amendments solve long-standing problems,” Janeway said.