On Election Day, there will be three Proposals on the back of your ballot in New York. Proposal 1 asks the question whether to hold a Constitutional Convention to develop and propose changes to the New York State Constitution. If the majority of the people vote yes, people would vote for delegates on Election Day in 2018, the Constitutional Convention would be held after that, proposed amendments would be made, and the voters would vote on any proposed amendments at the election on November 5, 2019. There are many reasons why such a convention is a risk that should not be taken.
The New York State Constitution contains many protections that would be at risk, especially in this current political climate. One such protection is found in what is known as the Forever Wild Clause. That clause reads as follows:
"The lands of the state, now owned or hereafter acquired, constituting the forest preserve as now fixed by law, shall be forever kept as wild forest lands. They shall not be leased, sold or exchanged, or be taken by any corporation, public or private, nor shall the timber thereon be sold, removed or destroyed."
As discussed in an article entitled “NY Constitutional Convention Threatens 'Forever Wild' Adirondacks”, by John F. Sheehan, posted to Syracuse.com, this clause is the strongest forest protection law on Earth. Because of it, we have more than 3 million acres of public forests in the Adirondack and Catskill parks. This protected forest land is known as the State Forest Preserve. This clause prohibits the logging, lease, sale and development of this preserve, and the destruction of the timber on this land. As Sheehan states, the Adirondack Forest Preserve is "the largest intact, temperate deciduous forest ecosystem" on Earth. That this "never-logged, old growth forest" is still intact is the direct result of this Forever Wild clause and the efforts of groups like the Adirondack Council over the years to protect the clause, hence the Forest Preserve, from being eradicated.
Without this clause, the State Forest Preserve would be fair game for developers to come in and build houses, commercial and industrial businesses, and highways. These things would bring pollution to the land, air, and water resources in the forest, and species unique to this setting would be endangered. Trees would be victim to logging interests with no limit on how many could be cut down.
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Let's not kid ourselves. There are many who would gladly destroy the natural beauty of this protected land, all for a profit. There always have been commercial interests within and outside this State that would like to weaken or delete the Forever Wild clause altogether, if they could.
And a Constitutional Convention could be just such an opportunity. Those of us who value the environment and this protected land would be outbid by the money raised by corporate interests who would want to clear this land for their own profit. You know there are companies and politicians out there who would think nothing of laying pipelines across the Forest Preserve or conducting the filthy practice of fracking in this beautiful, scenic paradise. The current campaign finance laws would allow these interests to throw money at the campaigns of convention delegates who would vote in their favor to take out this Forever Wild clause. They are seeking to do it to our National Parks, so why would they not seize this opportunity, as well?
That's why a No vote on Proposal one is so important. Some of you may be asking why is it so important to protect this forest preserve hundreds of miles away. Aside from its value as a vacation destination for many, some of the world's endangered species live in the forest. Some of the freshest water can be found as well on these lands. Forests also play a key role in cleaning the air. The trees and plants of the forest absorb carbon dioxide during the day for photosynthesis, and emit oxygen. As such, they help slow down global warming and the effects of climate change.
As Long Islanders, many of whom live near the water, we are especially vulnerable to the rising sea levels and ever increasing storms due to climate change. We need to do whatever we can to protect against the emission of carbon and other greenhouse gases into the atmosphere. Protecting the Forever Wild clause and the State Forest Preserve is something we must do for ourselves and future generations.