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Adirondack Council Applauds Governor's Wilderness & Communities Funding Proposals

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John F. Sheehan
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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Thursday, January 14, 2016

Adirondack Council Applauds Governor's Wilderness & Communities Funding Proposals
$300 Million EPF Plus Millions for Infrastructure Will Protect Environment, Boost Economy

ALBANY, N.Y. -- The Adirondack Council today applauded an announcement from Gov. Andrew Cuomo that his 2016-17 budget proposal includes record funding for clean water, wilderness, wildlife, and communities in the Adirondack Park.

“Governor Andrew Cuomo's ambitious budget proposal provides an historic opportunity for Adirondack Park stakeholders to work together, protect wilderness and support vibrant communities,” said Adirondack Council Executive Director William C. Janeway.

“Protecting our Adirondack legacy requires the kind of bold, transformational investments proposed by the Governor for open space, invasive species, climate change, clean energy, tourism, and community infrastructure.

“Strong funding, combined with strong policies and agencies, will protect the beauty, charm and allure of the Adirondacks for generations to come,” Janeway said.

Many of the Governor’s environmental funding programs will also help improve the Adirondack Park’s economy and cut costs to local taxpayers, Janeway explained.

The Governor’s budget plan calls for a $133-million increase in the Environmental Protection Fund (EPF), which would grow to $300 million for the first time. The fund supports environmental capital projects.

If approved by the Legislature, the EPF would provide $40 million for new park lands and open space, which would constitute a 50-percent increase from this year’s $26.5 million appropriation.

The EPF’s support for invasive species controls would rise to $10 million (currently $5.8 million). Farmland protection funding for conservation easements would increase from $15 million to $20 million. State land stewardship would increase from $18.5 million to $28 million. The EPF also contains a new $32.5-million climate change category that will fund community projects to improve community resiliency ($20 million); create a new Climate Resilient Farms program ($2.5 million); and, encourage smart growth ($2 million).

The Governor’s budget plans also add $100 million to the Water Infrastructure Improvement Act, bringing total spending up to $250 million over the next two years.

In addition to the major statewide funding programs that benefit Adirondack wilderness protection and Adirondack hamlets, some of the EPF is aimed at specific communities.

The Adirondack towns of Newcomb, Indian Lake and Minerva will receive $660,000 of EPF money for waterfront revitalization grants. Also, Essex County will receive $300,000 and Hamilton County $150,000 in grants aimed at landfill closure/capping costs and landfill gas management. Another $500,000 is set aside in a separate capital projects account for pre-closure and post-closure costs Adirondack landfills, in accordance with an agreement with Essex County. Both counties’ landfills are closed.

In the Governor’s combined State of the State and budget address Wednesday, he also announced grants to ensure that New York has 150,000 solar-powered homes by 2020. In addition, he vowed that no coal will be burned to create power in NYS by 2020.

On promoting tourism, the Governor said the state’s economic development agencies will implement a $50.5 million tourism campaign to attract visitors from around the world, a $5 million increase in funding from FY 2016.

He said he would again hold an Adirondack Challenge rafting race with other state and local politicians, which helps to increase awareness of Adirondack outdoor recreation and wilderness preservation. He specifically invited Sen. Majority Leader John Flanagan, R-Northport, and Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie, D-Bronx. He also said he would create a Catskill Challenge this year.

The Governor’s proposed funding for staff at the Adirondack Park Agency and Department of Environmental remains flat for the next fiscal year.

"The Adirondack Park is a national treasure, a globally unique legacy that requires and deserves special attention,” Janeway said. “We are pleased that the Governor recognizes that the park is poised for change and requires his attention right now.”

Founded in 1975, the Adirondack Council is privately funded, not-for-profit organization whose mission is to ensure the ecological integrity and wild character of the Adirondack Park.

The Council envisions an Adirondack Park comprised of core wilderness areas, surrounded by working forests and farms, and vibrant rural communities. The Council carries out its mission and vision through research, education, advocacy and legal action. Adirondack Council members live in all 50 United States.

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