“There is no similar provision in any other state constitution, and it is generally regarded as the most important and strongest state land conservation measure in the nation,” writes William R. Ginsberg about the “Forever Wild” provision in the book Decision 1997: Constitutional Change in New York.
The “Forever Wild” provision, approved in 1894, came out of a Constitutional Convention. Article XIV’s original wording, found below, still survives today in spite of numerous efforts to modify it. The clause was reaffirmed by delegates to the 1915 Constitutional Convention.
As important as the “Forever Wild” clause is, it has been amended nearly a dozen times since its inception. On a number of occasions it has been amended to allow “for the exchange of parcels of forest preserve for other parcels of equal or greater acreage and value,” explains Ginsburg. It has also been amended to allow for the construction of ski trails, to eliminate dangerous curves and grades on state highways, and to allow for the building of an interstate.
Most recently, in 2013, voters approved an amendment to “Forever Wild” to allow the company NYCO Minerals to prospect for wollastonite on approximately 200 acres of forest preserve in Essex County in exchange for an equal acreage land swap and the remediation and return of the land NYCO is authorized to utilize after it is done mining it.