In My Opinion: Governor's Budget Supports Wilderness, Communities

Tuesday, January 26, 2016
By: William C. Janeway - Adirondack Council Executive Director

This Op-Ed ran in the Press Republican on Friday, January 22, 2016

Uploaded Image: /vs-uploads/images/Marcy and Boreas heilman_WM.jpgGov. Andrew Cuomo’s proposed 2016-17 state budget includes record funding for clean water, wilderness, wildlife, and communities in the Adirondack Park. It is an ambitious plan that provides an historic opportunity for Adirondack Park stakeholders to work together, protect wilderness and support vibrant communities.

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.

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

Adirondack viewers, who tuned in for Governor’s combined State of the State and budget address, may have been surprised to see the smiling face of Newcomb Town Supervisor George Canon on their television screens. George has been critical of state land purchases in the past. But he thanked the Governor for purchasing 69,000 acres of former Finch, Pruyn & Co. lands that will be added the Adirondack Forest Preserve.

Among the Finch parcels are the Essex Chain Lakes, which has already been purchased, and Boreas Ponds, which will soon be purchased. Parts of both tracts are located in Newcomb, where they are expected to attract thousands of new visitors and new business opportunities.

State ownership will also ensure that Newcomb receives full tax payments on those lands. The state is not eligible for the timberland tax abatements Finch received for decades on these parcels. It allowed the tax breaks to expire before selling its lands to The Nature Conservancy in 2007.

Since that time, the state has used the Environmental Protection Fund to purchase a conservation easement on 95,000 acres of former Finch lands. That acreage will remain in private hands as commercial timberland. It has also bought more than 47,000 acres of Finch land for the Forest Preserve. Boreas Ponds would bring the total to 69,000 acres.

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).

Uploaded Image: /vs-uploads/images/Moose.jpgThe 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. This money could be used to rebuild and improve aging wastewater and sewage systems around the Park.

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 at Adirondack landfills. This community funding, and the funding for land acquisitions, are among the many pieces of the budget proposal that the Adirondack Council supports.

On tourism, the Governor gave his economic development agencies a $50.5 million tourism campaign fund, up $5 million from this year. He will again host an Adirondack Challenge rafting race.

Unfortunately, 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. We are pleased that the Governor recognizes that the park is poised for change and requires his attention right now.

Uploaded Image: /vs-uploads/images/Willie_Janeway.jpg

William C. (Willie) Janeway returned to the Adirondacks to become the Executive Director and leader of the Adirondack Council in May 2013 after close to six years as the Regional Director for the State Department of Environmental Conservation Hudson Valley/Catskill Region. He brings to the Adirondack Council team a life-long passion and interest in the Adirondacks and nearly 30 years of experience as a professional conservationist, fundraiser, administrator, coalition builder and advocate for the environment.

After graduating from St. Lawrence University where he majored in economics and environmental studies, Willie lived in the Adirondacks for nine years while working for the Adirondack Mountain Club as the first Trails Coordinator, and North Country Director.  Willie also served as the first Executive Director of the Albany Pine Bush Preserve Commission, Executive Director of the Hudson Valley Greenway, and State Director of Government Relations for The Nature Conservancy.

When not working Willie can be found outdoors. He is an Adirondack 46er, a year-round hiker and skier, a runner and a fisherman.  He and his family share a camp in the Park.  Willie and his wife Mary live in Keene.

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