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What the Adirondack Park Should Expect in the New State Budget

Monday, March 30, 2015
By: Kevin Chlad - Adirondack Council's Legislative Director

Uploaded Image: /vs-uploads/images/Ausable Marsh Wildlife Management Area.jpg

With the New York State budget deadline of April 1 fast approaching, lawmakers are working at a furious pace to hammer out details and come to an agreement by the Tuesday midnight deadline for an on-time budget. The Adirondack Council has remained a constant presence at the Capitol, representing the interests of clean water, wildlife and vibrant communities in the Park we all love. When the budget is released later this week, there are a number of priority funding areas we will be watching closely.

Environmental Protection Fund
The Environmental Protection Fund (EPF) has been the state’s most significant source of funding for the environment throughout its 22-year lifespan. It has paid for state land acquisitions, invasive species boat washing and rapid response teams, trail maintenance on state-owned lands, community waterfront revitalization, and land-use planning projects, just to name a few. The impacts of the EPF can be seen across the state. You might have a park where you live, a fishing access site, a zoo or Botanical Garden that has been paid for in whole or in part by the EPF. Some projects are less visible than others like landfills closures, biodiversity research efforts and clean water projects.

Historically, the main source of funding for the EPF has been the Real Estate Transfer Tax (RETT) which has steadily provided $119 million for quite some time. The “Bottle Bill” also provides funding, paid for by unreturned nickel deposits on cans and bottles, alongside a number of other fees on various environmental permits. Since the rebound of the housing market, RETT proceeds have been projected to exceed $1 billion this year. The last time the RETT brought in that much money for the state, the EPF was funded at a healthy $250 million.

This year, the Adirondack Council, along with the Friends of NY’s Environment, called for a $200 million EPF as we work in the long term towards achieving a $300 million EPF. We are hopeful the final budget will produce a robust EPF this year.

Clean Water Infrastructure Funding
The Council and a broad coalition of advocates from across the state have asked the Legislature and the Governor to create a new program to help fund clean water infrastructure projects. It would provide grants to communities and augment available loans to prevent failing sewage and water treatment facilities from polluting the Park’s waters.

The communities in the Adirondack Park face great challenges in keeping up with their clean water needs. Their small populations are must pay for clean water investments, not only for their residents but for the 10 million annual visitors that come to the Park to enjoy its clean water, wilderness and communities. They need grants, not just long-term loans, to pay for these projects.

In 2015, the Adirondack Council, in partnership with many organizations across the state, have worked towards securing $200 million for clean water infrastructure grants, as part of an $800 million statewide investment.

State Agency Budgets
Since the 2008 economic recession, our state environmental agencies have faced disproportionate cuts in staffing and resources. This inhibits their ability to protect  Uploaded Image: /vs-uploads/images/Forest Rangers_FWD2012_SMALL.jpg Forest Rangers Honored at the Council's 2012 Forever Wild Dayour water, air, wildlife, and land resources as well as the recreating public. Since the initial cuts in staffing and operational funding, agencies have not had a significant increase in their budgets. To allow both the environmental and economic health of the Adirondack Park to flourish, the Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) and Adirondack Park Agency (APA), amo ngst many others, require more staffing and newer equipment.

This year, the Adirondack Council has called for a 2015 Ranger Academy for Forest Rangers and Environmental Conservation Officers and a fully-funded Assistant Forest Ranger program at the DEC, as well as more staffing at the APA for regulatory affairs, planning and compliance.

The state budget is expected to be approved by April 1. In the final hours of negotiations, the Adirondack Council will continue to push for a budget that will benefit the environment and economy of the Adirondack Park.

 
 

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

Kevin provides support to the Council’s Albany-based Legislative and Communications team, assisting with outreach to government officials and the media to help spread the word about the Council’s advocacy for the Adirondack Park and specific policies that will impact the Adirondacks.

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 (Poke-O-Moonshine Mountain). When not advocating ecological integrity, Kevin is an avid ice climber and adventurer.

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