Director Archive


Jan 1, 2017

Tom Ortmeyer

The New York Constitutional Convention and Article 14 Forever Wild

How many of you have thought ahead to the November 2017 elections? In New York, voters will vote on whether or not to authorize a constitutional convention at this election—this is something that happens every 20 years. Chance are very good we will be hearing a lot about this convention over the next 11 months—there are many groups who favor a convention, and many others who oppose it. Issues include good government, public pensions, unfunded mandates, gay marriage and gun control are just a few of the topics that could be addressed. We will no doubt hear from both sides.

The question soon comes to mind—what are the potential impacts on the Adirondack Mountains? Actually, an earlier convention led to the vote that approved what is now Article 14 in 1894, providing constitutional protection that the lands of the state constituting the forest preserve shall be forever kept as wild forest lands. This unique constitutional protection in New York grants the highest level of protection for wilderness in the United States.

So that’s a good thing, right? I think Laurentian Chapter members as a whole feel that this protection is good. The next question is, does that imply that we should favor the constitutional convention to be voted on next November?

Not necessarily. Is there an upside for the Adirondacks? The constitutional protection of our wilderness and wild forest lands does not need improvement. Is there a downside? I think the answer is “yes”. While it is not likely that this clause would be eliminated, there would no doubt be advocates to modify it. The recent discussions on the DEC’s Grasse River Unit Management Plan and the Adirondack Park Agency’s classification of the Boreas Ponds Tract show significant differences of opinions on how our state forest preserve lands should be managed.

Should the Adirondack Mountain Club take a position on the Constitutional Convention Issue? The ADK Board of Directors will consider this question at the March meeting. I seek comments from our members on this issue, so that I can best represent the Laurentian Chapter in this vote.