Last week, Adirondack Council members called on Gov. Andrew Cuomo to build on his Adirondack successes by providing funding in his 2018-19 budget plan to help the Adirondack Park survive acid rain and climate change, sustain its healthy environment and build its tourism and outdoor recreation industries by welcoming a more diverse group of visitors and residents.
The Governor’s Adirondack successes are threatened by climate change and acid rain, aging wastewater treatment systems, overuse in some areas of the Forest Preserve and by invasive species. Dedicated funds will be needed to address these concerns in 2018. We wanted to reinforce these needs before the Governor completes his budget plan.
The Governor is due to present his annual State of the State message on January 3. His budget will be released later in the month.
Adirondack Council members were writing to the Governor this month to ask for funding for both capital projects and continuing operations of important state programs. Some of those programs are partially funded by the federal government. In the case of programs designed to combat acid rain and climate change, federal funding is in danger of severe cuts that could spell the end of important research and environmental monitoring.
First, we are thanking the Governor for funding Adirondack land acquisitions, providing more than $2.5 billion grants to curb water pollution and for dedicating $300 million to environmental projects in the Environmental Protection Fund. Then we are asking him to continue to invest in and preserve Adirondack priorities including wilderness, clean water, wildlife and communities.
It’s important for me to point out here that the Adirondack Council isn’t asking for funding for its own use. The Adirondack Council is entirely privately funded. It doesn’t accept government funding or taxpayer-supported donations of any kind. The money is instead for state programs and personnel, as well as grants to local communities and grants to other not-for- profit organizations.
Among the Adirondack Park’s top priorities for 2018-19 are:
o Clean Water Funding: Accelerate distribution from the $2.5 billion in clean water funding approved last year, and increase the Environmental Facilities Corps Engineering Planning Grants for towns that don’t have engineers on staff;
o Environmental Agency staffing – 40 staff for NYS Dept. of Environmental Conservation Division of Water, new Rangers and Environmental Conservation Officers, and personnel for the Division of Lands and Forests;
o Environmental Protection Fund: Continue to fund it at $300 million-per- year, including:
– $40 million for Open Space Protection
– $700,000 for monitoring and restoration of waters impacted by acid rain
– $500,000 for Adirondack and Catskill long-term strategic research
– $2.5 million for the Conservation Partnership Land Trust Program
– $100,000 to support the expanding Adirondack Diversity Initiative
– $15 million for Invasive Species ($1 mill. for Adirondacks, $450k Lake George)
– $5 million for Smart Growth grants to Adirondack hamlets
– Climate Change funding (for circuit riders, education outreach)
– State Land Stewardship (w/ funds dedicated for Wilderness management)
– Farm Land Protection and Local Waterfront Revitalization for Adirondack towns.
o Empire Forests for the Future – would amend Real Property Tax Law (section 480a) to provide incentives for sustainable private forest management, with funding from outside the EPF
o Adirondack Visitor Interpretive Centers – $100k or more for Newcomb and $100k or more for Paul Smiths; and, support for support cultural educational institutions.
New York’s annual budget is one opportunity the State has to positively impact and sustain the success of the Adirondacks in the face of current threats. For more detail on non-budget priorities for 2018, see the Adirondack Council’s 2017-2018 State of the Park report. This serves as a simple list of things to watch for during and after the Governor’s January 3 State of the State address.
If you want to send a message to the Governor about this year’s NYS Budget priorities, you can use the Adirondack Council’s website.