Adirondack Council

The 2020 Restore Mother Nature Bond Act

The Restore Mother Nature Bond Act is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for the state to invest in Adirondack water, wildlife and wildlands and create quality jobs that will support local communities and protect public health. This Bond Act is a way to help pay for many environmental programs that will benefit both our natural and human communities in the Adirondack Park and around the state.

What is a Bond Act? 

A bond act is a mechanism by which the state can borrow money to immediately fund projects. Once a bond act is approved by the voters, the state issues bonds which are purchased by investors. These bonds are essentially loans that the state will repay to the bondholders over a period of time. The New York State Debt Reform Act of 2000 requires that bonds be repaid within at least 30 years, and bond act money only be used for capital projects. Furthermore, only projects that fall under the descriptions outlined in the bond act legislation can be paid for with those funds.

Why a Bond Act Now? 

It has been over 20 years since the last environmental bond act was implemented in New York State, so the need for the Restore Mother Nature Bond Act is crucial. The Adirondack Park faces pressing challenges from climate change to overuse of popular trails and destinations that require immediate and significant investments. Aging clean water infrastructure, increasingly severe and frequent storm events and insufficient recreational infrastructure to protect Adirondack Wilderness Areas are all important issues that the Bond Act will help address.

What is the Process for the 2020 Bond Act? 

In the 2020 New York State Budget, Governor Cuomo and the Legislature authorized sending the $3 billion Restore Mother Nature Bond Act to the polls in November, where it requires final approval by the voters. But before the Bond Act can be placed on the ballot, the state Budget Director must certify that it may proceed without adversely affecting the state’s financial stability. Then the Bond Act can be put on the ballot for the November 3 election and voted on by the people of New York State. If the Bond Act is approved by a majority of voters, then it will become law.

What is in the 2020 Bond Act?

The $3 billion in the Restore Mother Nature Bond Act will be divided among categories of environmental and community investments. Here’s the breakdown. 

Uploaded Image: /vs-uploads/bondact2020/Irene_Damage_Heilman.jpgDamage from Hurricane Irene 2011

Restoration and Flood Risk Reduction: $1 billion
A portion of these funds will be dedicated to:
- Voluntary Buyout Program: $250 million
- Shoreline Protection: $100 million
- Inland Flooding and Local Waterfront Revitalization: $100 million

Many Adirondack communities are located on a lakeshore or river which makes them vulnerable to flooding. In 2011, Hurricane Irene left many communities devastated. Due to climate change, storms like this are becoming more severe and more prevalent and cost New Yorkers billions of dollars in repairs. Investing in flood risk reduction now will save money and protect Adirondack communities in the long run.

Uploaded Image: /vs-uploads/bondact2020/North_country_creamery.jpgNorth Country Creamery – Photo by Ben Stechschulte

Open Space Land Conservation and Recreation: $550 million 
A portion of these funds will be dedicated to: 
- Fish Hatcheries: $75 million
- Open Space: $200 million
- Farmland Protection: $100 million

The Bond Act may support the acquisitions of sensitive ecological areas that would become part of the “Forever Wild” Forest Preserve. The Bond Act may also be used to build certain recreational facilities, such as Visitor interpretive centers and educational signage as part of a comprehensive plan to combat overuse. Money for farmland protection efforts will support access to viable farmland and local food systems and help farmers invest in more climate-friendly agriculture methods.

Uploaded Image: /vs-uploads/climatelawinparkblog/Arial_Heilman.jpg
Climate Change Mitigation: $700 million
A portion of these funds will be dedicated to:
- Green Buildings: $350 million                   

The Bond Act will also serve as an investment to achieve the state’s 2019 Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act which commits the state to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and transition to 100% clean energy over the coming decades. Using money from this bond act to invest in energy-efficient buildings will reduce greenhouse gas emissions and save communities money on energy expenses. This will also create construction jobs needed to upgrade existing buildings and build new climate-friendly ones. 

Uploaded Image: /vs-uploads/waterpage/LP_Wastewater_Heilman.jpgLake Placid Wastewater Treatment Facility

Water Quality Improvement and Resilient Infrastructure: $550 million
A portion of these funds will be dedicated to:
- Water Infrastructure Improvement Act Projects: $200 million
- Municipal Stormwater: $100 million

Many Adirondack communities face challenges in updating old wastewater treatment and drinking water facilities. In 2015, the state boosted its investment in water infrastructure projects, which has already provided $57 million in grants to many Park communities. This Bond Act will build on this success and ensure that Adirondack residents and visitors have access to clean drinking water and the environment is protected. 

Other Projects: $200 million

There is also $200 million slated to complement the types of projects listed in other categories of the Bond Act.

How Previous Bond Acts Helped the Adirondack Park

Since 1965, there have been five voter-approved environmental bond acts in New York State. Each has signified the renewed commitment by state’s policymakers and citizens to protect our natural resources. Many bond act projects have helped shape the Adirondack Park’s legacy.

Uploaded Image: /vs-uploads/bondact2020/Rock_Pond_Whitney2.jpgRock Pond in the William C. Whitney Wilderness Area

The $1.75 billion Clean Water and Clean Air Bond Act of 1996 allowed the state to purchase Little Tupper Lake and 70 miles along the St. Regis, Oswegatchie and Grass Rivers and add them to the Adirondack Forest Preserve. These lands and the existing Lake Lila Primitive Area were combined to create the William C. Whitney Wilderness Area, which provides opportunities for hiking, camping, angling, bird watching, paddling, and cross-country skiing.

The 1986 Bond Act not only allowed the state to acquire land to add to the Forest Preserve but also to purchase development rights on land using conservation easements. This was a way for the state to protect many of the Park’s unique private lands without purchasing them outright. Easements allow timber harvesting to continue on private lands under sustainable, state-supervised management conditions. This ensured the continued success of the local timber industry. Also, monies from this bond act were used to acquire 15,000 acres of land which included parts of the Cedar River and Cedar River Flow that border the West Canada Lake Wilderness Area.

Uploaded Image: /vs-uploads/bondact2020/Noonmark2.jpgNoonmark Mountain purchased with monies from the 1972 Environmental Quality Bond Act - Photo by Anthony Muccari

The 1972 Environmental Quality Bond Act allowed the state to acquire lands that became part of the High Peaks Wilderness Area. In 1977, the state finalized the purchase that included 11 High Peaksmaking all 46 High Peaks part of the “Forever Wild” Forest Preserve. These areas are some of the most special in the Adirondack Park.

How Can We Make the Restore Mother Nature Bond Act a Reality?

The residents of New York State need to approve the Restore Mother Nature Bond Act on the 2020 November general election ballot before it can become law. To ensure the Bond Act passes, take some time to educate others on the importance of this initiative and urge them to look for the Bond Act on the ballot when they vote in the November 3 election. It’s our chance to take part in a historic moment in Adirondack Park history.

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