Protecting Your Park In Albany

By Aimee Privitera - Legislative Associate
Tuesday, June 18, 2024

The 2024 NYS Legislative Session ended on the morning of June 8, after a 20-hour long meeting by the Assembly. Despite the expected, and unexpected, curveballs thrown at the end of session, the Adirondacks fared well throughout its entirety. What passed, and what didn’t pass, reflects many of the major priorities of the Council’s VISION 2050 report. VISION 2050 is a narrative of the Park’s future that inspires support and specific actions to preserve natural communities, foster vibrant human communities, and manage the Park.

We are grateful to the Legislature and Governor for passing bills and approving budget items that support the organization’s VISION 2050 long-range plan for the protection of the Adirondack Park. These budget and legislative wins safeguard wildlife and fund climate initiatives, as well as provide critical funding for clean water, vital scientific research and career training for wilderness managers, and others seeking employment in the fight against climate change. 

The Council's Government Relations staff, Kevin Chlad, Aimee Privitera, and Safa MammeriWhat Got Done

The Wildlife Crossings Act (S4198B/A4243B), passed in May, will protect wildlife while also preventing automobile accidents and saving lives. If approved by the Governor, this legislation would give New York a brand-new tool for reducing habitat fragmentation and the related impacts on wildlife across the state, particularly in the Adirondack Park. With over 5,000-miles of public roadway in the Adirondacks, we look forward to helping the Dept. of Transportation identify locations that need infrastructure updates to make them safer for human and wildlife species. Additionally, if this bill is signed into law and its requirements fulfilled, New York State will become eligible for hundreds of millions of dollars in federal funding for wildlife crossings projects. 

The Climate Superfund Act (S2129A/A3351A) passed both houses as the session ended. It is designed to create a new pool of funding to combat the impacts of climate change, funded by fossil fuel companies.  We welcome more investment in a sustainable climate and are watching to see whether the Governor will sign this into law, and also how this superfund will fit into the state’s plans for a carbon ‘cap-and-invest’ program.

What Didn’t Get Done

We are so grateful to our 500 advocates for writing letters and encouraging Senate leaders not to advance a bill that would have altered the management of the “forever wild” Forest Preserve by prioritizing the retention of specific historic buildings instead of allowing wild forest lands to thrive. If approved, this bill would have required that any lands or buildings either eligible or listed on the national register of historic places be given consideration by the Adirondack Park Agency for a historic classification, under the Adirondack Park State Land Master Plan. Since the Adirondack Forest Preserve is listed as a National Landmark, every acre of the Adirondack Forest Preserve could have been considered for a reclassification. This legislation had the potential to erode the integrity of one of New York’s greatest assets: the Adirondack Forest Preserve. We must continue to preserve and protect our Wilderness lands belonging to all New Yorkers, and thanks to our members, we did that this session. 

On the other hand, we were frustrated that first passage was not achieved for a constitutional amendment to deal with former state-owned prisons in the Adirondacks. The state Constitution is clear in stating that, “The lands of the state, now owned or hereafter acquired, constituting the forest preserve as now fixed by law, shall be forever kept as wild forest lands. They shall not be leased, sold or exchanged, or be taken by any corporation, public or private….” These now unused prison facilities could be repurposed by private entities for a variety of public benefits with the help of a constitutional amendment.

The Senate passed a Constitutional Amendment resolution designed to remove Camp Gabriel’s, a former state prison located in the town of Brighton, NY from the public Forest Preserve and replace it with greater acreage in a land swap. The Adirondack Council supported this resolution, but unfortunately, the proposal did not advance in the Assembly.  

Another proposal was discussed by the Governor and Legislature that would remove Camp Gabriels, as well as the former Moriah Shock Incarceration Facility in Mineville, Essex County and the former Mount McGregor Correctional Facility in Moreau, Saratoga County from the Forest Preserve. The Council signaled its conceptual support for this plan to remove all three prisons, but a formal draft of this proposal, in the form of a resolution, was not introduced in time for consideration.   

In the Budget 

The Adirondack Council and partners secured another $2 million dollars towards the Survey of Climate and Adirondack Lake Ecosystems (SCALE), bringing the total value of funds secured from the state to $4.5 million. A consortium of non-profit partners and academic institutions have designed SCALE to examine how climate change impacts water bodies and explore the relationships between climate change and harmful algal blooms, food webs, and mercury bioaccumulation amongst other things. What is most exciting about this study is that we will learn now our lakes help fight climate change. This data will prove valuable to the state as a whole, informing future climate policymaking and guiding strategic investment in greenhouse gas reduction and climate resiliency.

Together with partners, the Adirondack Council also secured $1.25 million for the Timbuctoo Summer Climate and Careers Institute (SCCI). The Timbuctoo SCCI introduces high school students to a broad spectrum of green job opportunities, fostering the next generation of environmental stewards and climate advocates. The first year of this program was a great success, with SUNY ESF and CUNY Medgar Evers hosting dozens of students from the Bronx, Queens, and Brooklyn in the Adirondacks. 

The Governor and Legislature approved a budget with $500 million for the Clean Water Infrastructure Act to assist rural communities with gap-closing grants that will support clean water, affordable housing, and business development. The funding restored by the Legislature following the Governor’s proposed cut for clean water will help bring relief to Adirondack communities struggling to afford multi-million-dollar drinking water and wastewater treatment system upgrades. In towns with only a very small population of residents, greater state assistance is needed.  

Steps in the Right Direction, Creating Hope for Next Year 

A new bill (S9658) advanced by the Senate, that didn’t make it through the Assembly, would have created a Road Salt Reduction Council and Advisory Committee  to carry out the recommendations of the state’s recent Road Salt Reduction Task Force. Road salt has become a major source of clean water contamination in the Adirondacks and other regions of the state. The Adirondack Council led the charge in the passage of legislation to create the Adirondack Park Road Salt Reduction Task Force and its subsequent report, and now seeks to implement the recommendations from the report. The Report has excellent recommendations for road salt reduction, but it lacks an action plan, budget and timeline for implementation. The Road Salt Reduction Council and Advisory Committee will provide much-needed human infrastructure to move the report recommendations forward.  We are hopeful that the bill will pass in both houses next year. 

Further, the Adirondack Council supported legislation (S6606A) that would allow the state to purchase title insurance  to gain a clear deed to lands it intends to purchase for the Forest Preserve. Currently, lengthy title searches must be completed before a state purchase, which can delay state action for years. This puts unnecessary strain on land trusts and other third parties who help the state to buy new lands by purchasing them and holding them until the state can complete the paperwork. More than 25 state officials must consent to the purchase of new Forest Preserve lands. The bill passed in the Senate, but didn’t pass in the Assembly. 

The Senate also passed the Open Water Data Act (S239E), which will make it easier for scientists, residents and advocates to obtain and report information on drinking water quality. The Adirondack Council’s VISION2050 Report calls for the establishment of a “shared research agenda” for the Adirondack Park, supported by a consortium of public and private research partners. The data collected through this effort should be a public resource, accessible to all. This legislation is an important step towards fulfilling that vision, with the express purpose of protecting the abundant water resources of our Adirondack Park and our state. Unfortunately, the bill didn’t pass in the Assembly. 

Critical decisions are made in Albany each year that can determine whether your Adirondack Park is better protected or not. The Adirondack Council is your full-time presence at the state capitol, ensuring that the Park’s waters, wildlife, and communities are protected now and for future generations. We are grateful to those who wrote letters, joined our lobby day, donated, or supported us in other ways. If you didn’t join our lobby day or write a letter this year, please consider joining us in the future! 

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