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NYCO hopes to swap “Forever Wild” land with NY state

A wall of Wollastonite, the gray colored exposed mineral, can be seen immediately adjacent to state owned Lot 8.

A wall of Wollastonite, the gray colored exposed mineral, can be seen immediately adjacent to state owned Lot 8. Photo by Shawn Ryan.

— Essex County’s second largest private employer, NYCO Minerals, has a plan to ensure another 10 years worth of mining at their Lewis mine, but it will require a land swap with the state.

NYCO is bordered by state land. A small parcel of that land, a land-locked 200 acres known simply as Lot 8, holds enough Wollastonite to keep the mine operational another 10 years, NYCO officials believe.

But because it’s in the Adirondack Park, that state land falls under the state’s, “Forever Wild,” provision. A change in the state’s constitution would be required to approve a land swap.

In exchange for those 200 acres, NYCO is offering the state 1,500 of their property. The property they are offering has considerable road frontage, and is currently acting as a buffer, preventing hikers, hunters and other outdoor enthusiasts access to the massive Jay Mountain wilderness to the east and west. The NYCO parcels, along with road frontage, have streams stocked with brook trout and the occasional salmon is caught in one of the streams.

Only a positive vote by two consecutive state legislatures, and a yes vote on a state-wide ballot, can allow the land to transfer to private hands. NYCO has already gotten those positive votes from the legislature, in 2012 and 2013, and the measure will now come up to a state-wide vote.

“The 200 acres was a parcel of property that the state got for back taxes,” said Theresa Sayward, retired New York State Assemblywoman. “The state is not giving up something that was purchased for environmental reasons.”

Sayward has long been a proponent of the land swap.

An exposed vein of Wollastonite can be seen commanding the exposed rock face just 25 feet from Lot 8. In some places there are only about 10 feet of “over-story,” or material that would need to be removed in order to begin mining.

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