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An Agenda and Budget Flowing with Opportunity for the Adirondacks

Wednesday, January 20, 2016
By Kevin Chlad - Director of Government Relations

Uploaded Image: /vs-uploads/images/Boreas Looking South.jpgLast week, Governor Cuomo presented his 2016-17 budget proposal and report on the state of the state. With a slew of transformational investments proposed at the start of this budget process, the Governor has shown how he wants the state to better protect water, wildlife, wilderness, and communities, both in the Adirondacks and statewide.

What follows are key Adirondack funding and policy initiatives, proposed by the Governor, that will largely be the focus of this year’s budget planning efforts with the legislature.

The Environmental Protection Fund (EPF)
The Governor’s budget plan calls for a $133-million increase in the EPF, which would increase to $300 million for the first time in its history. This fund supports a litany of projects, such as open space protection, invasive species eradication/prevention and community infrastructure improvements. This year, we are very pleased to see the open space protection/land acquisition line funded at $40 million, up 50 percent from last year’s $26.5 million. In the Adirondacks, this funding line has made places such as the Essex Chain Lakes tract in Newcomb available to the public, and will soon open up the Boreas Ponds tract in North Hudson.

The EPF’s invasive species eradication/spread prevention category, proposed to be funded at $10 million, will help communities in the Park. The Adirondack Invasive Species Spread Prevention strategy is expected to continue its success, and there should also now be more funds for grants to local communities and lake associations.

While widely unknown to the public, the State Land Stewardship fund in the EPF is one of the more critical sources of funding in providing well-kept, varied and resilient access to New York’s state lands. This year, the Governor has proposed to increase this funding to $28 million, up from $18.5 million.

Community Water Infrastructure Funding
Building upon the tremendous success of last year’s creation of a new water infrastructure grant fund, the Governor proposed $250 million to this fund over the next two years, an increase of $100 million. For communities of the Adirondacks, clean water is needed to maintain and grow business. Water infrastructure upgrades in hamlets equal opportunities for new business, as inadequate infrastructure stands as one of the greatest economic impediments of our time.

Still Loving NY
The Adirondack Park thrives on a robust tourism economy. This makes the Governor’s proposal to increase his annual investment by $5 million to $50 million all the more important. Of the Governor’s $50 million proposal, half would support the widely known I LOVE NY campaign, while $13 million would be used for a Market NY program that will promote hotels, convention centers and other attractions. The remainder would continue to support the continuation of the summer and winter Adirondack Challenges, fishing tournaments and wine cups. These efforts continue to highlight many of the wonderful assets in the Adirondack region from clean water to healthy and abundant wildlife to vibrant communities.

Uploaded Image: /vs-uploads/images/Essex Chain High Peaks_small.jpgClimate Change
Of the most significant environmental announcements of the day was Governor Cuomo’s proposals to help fight climate change. The Governor proposed $32.5 million for a new category in the Environmental Protection Fund titled Climate Change Mitigation and Adaptation. This category will fund greenhouse gas management projects not funded by the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI) auction proceeds as well as resiliency planning, smart growth projects, adaptive infrastructure, and a climate smart communities competition.

In addition, the Governor is now requiring compliance with a Clean Energy Standard that will have 50 percent of all of New York’s energy come from renewable resources by 2030. The Governor is also pledging to make the state coal-free by 2020. Governor Cuomo also proposed a plan to incentivize and provide funding for the installation of solar power on 150,000 new homes and businesses by 2020. The Shared Renewables Program will also allow nearby community members to share in the solar power generated by projects on commercial properties, further reducing emissions across private residences. However, the Governor’s proposal to incentivize the addition of 300 new wind turbines in New York holds promise for climate change, but does draw caution from environmentalists who share concerns about migratory paths for birds and mammals, and for fish in the case of offshore wind.

In Other News….
It does not appear that the Adirondack Park Agency or the Department of Environmental Conservation will see any staffing increases, as the Governor has called for zero-increase budgets across these agencies.

Although long called-for, we will likely go another year before we have another opportunity to reform Real Property Tax Law 480/480a. The Council has long-held an interest in enhancing incentives for private forest land conservation while better protecting local tax bases.

We still have yet to see reforms to ATV riding that would protect our public lands, educate and ensure safe riding, and provide riding opportunities on private lands.

As Adirondack Council Executive Director William C. Janeway mentioned in our 2015 State of the Park report, the Adirondack Park is poised for change. With the Adirondack resources the Governor has proposed, our state stands at a point in history where great victories can be achieved. However, resources do not ensure victory. The manner in which our state’s resources are ultimately used will determine true success or failure.
 
 
 

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Uploaded Image: /vs-uploads/kevin-chlad.jpgKevin joined the Adirondack Council staff in 2011.

Kevin leads the Council’s Albany-based Government Relations team, building coalitions and lobbying government officials to improve protection and grow funding for the Adirondack Park.

Kevin Chlad graduated in 2008 with a degree in Environmental Studies of the Adirondacks from SUNY Potsdam. Besides his previous time spent at the Adirondack Council as a Clarence Petty Intern in 2009, Kevin has held numerous other Adirondack occupations, including Ausable River Steward, canoe guide, and fire tower summit steward. When not advocating for the Park, Kevin can be found on the golf course, deep in the wilderness, or clinging to the occasional rock face or hanging from an icicle drip. He lives in Delmar, NY with his best friend and wife Michelle.

 

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