In & About the Park Blog
Written by: Kevin Chlad - Adirondack Council Director of Governemnt Relations
Monday, January 30, 2017
Whenever you think about the Adirondacks and what they mean to you, remember that the success or decline of the Adirondack Park depends on a wide swath of different funding sources and policy initiatives in any given year. The Adirondack Council keeps a full-time presence in Albany, our state capitol, to ensure that New York’s annual budget and policies keep as a priority the best interests of the waters, wildlife and communities of the Adirondacks.
Over the course of the last two weeks, Governor Cuomo has released his State of the State message and Executive budget proposal, which detail his legislative and budget priorities for New York in 2017. Next, the Legislature will conduct a series of hearings on the budget and prepare their respective “one house budgets,” which are the Senate and Assembly’s take on what they believe the budget should look like. Then, the Governor, the Senate, and the Assembly will begin negotiating a final version of the budget for the 2017-18 Fiscal Year, with a deadline of March 31.
As Governor Cuomo’s Adirondack Park Agency reviews the public comments indicating overwhelming support for Wilderness at Boreas Ponds, this budget could provide a unique opportunity to compliment a Wilderness classification, showing how Wilderness protection and community vibrancy go hand-in-hand. Climate change proposals and clean water funding round out broader initiatives related to our Park and the environment.
What follows is our initial analysis of Governor Cuomo’s Executive Budget proposal:
The Environmental Protection Fund
The Environmental Protection Fund (EPF) is the cornerstone of environmental funding. The Governor’s budget plan calls for a $300 million appropriation for the second year in a row, hearing the call of the environmental community. Most recently, the EPF funded the state’s purchase of Boreas Ponds, and, since its inception, has provided funds to buy many other special Forest Preserve gems in the Park. The EPF also pays for important programs such as the Adirondack Park Invasive Species Prevention Plan, which provides voluntary boat washing, stewardship, and public education about this threat to the Parks ecology and communities. In addition, the EPF helps communities with “smart growth” grants that support planning and implementation of community projects that provide sustainable economic development.
Clean Water Funding
The Governor has demonstrated a clear understanding of the incredible needs in our state relating to clean water infrastructure, proposing a $2 billion Clean Water Infrastructure Act (CWIA). If enacted, the CWIA would provide investments in drinking water and wastewater infrastructure, as well as the protection of waterbodies from nutrient runoff and the impacts of road salt. The plan appears to provide increased financial support for water management planning, albeit a not very exciting subject to discuss, but the most important aspect of any water quality project.
As part of the Governor’s State of the State message, he has proposed legislation to require the testing of private drinking wells at the sale of a property or construction of a new well. His proposal provides a hardship assistance for low-income homeowners. We have advocated for the Governor to expand his program to include septic system testing, and are pleased to see the hardship proposal.
The Governor has gone above and beyond when it comes to supporting tourism in the Adirondacks. He has proposed a $5 million increase in I ♥ NY funding, which supports promotion of the Adirondacks and has undoubtedly increased Adirondack visitation. This year, he also proposes to advance a private, local and state partnership that will create a new “Gateway to the Adirondacks” welcome center at Exit 29 on the Northway, located on the old “Frontier Town” property. This concept is supported by the Adirondack Council, and should provide an excellent complement to a Wilderness designation at the nearby Boreas Ponds property.
Furthermore, the Governor has proposed to complete the “Empire State Trail,” which consists of completing two multi-use trails: the Erie Canalway and the Hudson River Valley Greenway. The Hudson River Valley Greenway trail would connect New York City with the Canadian border, and travel along Route 9 when passing through the Park.
Also, the Governor has proposed a new “Adventure NY” program, which would fund campground renovations, which have been long-needed, and access projects around the state. This includes “infrastructure at Boreas Ponds” and trail building as part of the “Hut-to-Hut” Initiative. We will monitor these proposals closely as specific plans become available.
In his State of the State message, the Governor committed to advocating for a 30-percent reduction in the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI) carbon allowance cap, between the years 2021 and 2030. While this requires agreement amongst all states that participate in the Program, Governor Cuomo and New York State have been climate leaders for quite some time, and as the biggest state in the program, this offers great promise for the future of RGGI. The Adirondack Council was the first non-profit to participate in RGGI auctions, buying pollution rights for our members to retire. Click here to learn more about the Adirondack Council’s role in RGGI, and about our new Cool Farms/Healthy Park Program.
Agencies and Staffing
Governor Cuomo has proposed to keep his funding for all of his agencies flat for the sixth straight year. Although this means that there hasn’t been a decrease in staffing at the Adirondack Park Agency and Department of Environmental Conservation, it does place an undue burden on the existing staff and resources. The Council will continue to advocate for staffing increases at environmental agencies, as clean water and public health are at risk.
Forest Tax Law Amendments
Private forestry has been part of the Adirondack Park’s history and culture and will be its future as well. Forest tax incentives protect private lands from development and support good paying jobs in the Park. That being said, the current tax incentive programs that support private forestry are in great need of a tune up. Right now, it is cost prohibitive for smaller landowners to enroll their property in these programs. Also, the property tax reduction portion of this program can hurt the local base. Reimbursement for local governments affected by this incentive and changes in enrollment policy will protect more forest, while helping the communities that in which these lands are located. In his State of the State message, the Governor proposed to tackle these challenges by proposing legislation.
It is clear from this State of the State and the Executive Budget proposal that Governor Cuomo has a vision for how New York can protect its environment. Should he and the legislature and come to an agreement on these proposals, the Adirondack Park stands to benefit greatly in a number of ways. But as always, we must pay attention to the details. Funding is only as strong as the policies, and the policymakers behind it.
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Kevin joined the Adirondack Council staff in 2011.