Statement from Erin Crotty, Executive Director of Audubon New York on Governor Andrew Cuomo's FY 2017-2018 NYS Executive Budget proposal:
Governor Andrew Cuomo recently released his New York State Executive Budget proposal which includes significant funding for programs to protect people, birds, and the places they need to survive and thrive. Governor Cuomo’s plan contains $300 million for the Environment Protection Fund (EPF) maintaining last year’s historic level of funding for environmental protection projects throughout the state. The EPF will continue to provide critical funding for many Audubon New York priorities and programs, including natural resource stewardship, open space and farmland protection, invasive species prevention and eradication, water quality improvements, parks, and climate change mitigation and adaptation.
Governor Cuomo proposes a $2 billion Clean Water Infrastructure Act. If enacted, the Act will provide $400 million per year over five years to upgrade and improve municipal drinking water and wastewater systems, protect source waters, and increase funding to the state Superfund to expedite the cleanup of contaminated sites that may impact drinking water sources.
Governor Cuomo proposes $120 million for capital rehabilitation and improvements to State parks and historic sites. This proposal builds onto Parks 2020, a public-private partnership initiative that by 2020 will invest $900 million in capital design and construction projects across the State Parks system, and NY Works, a multi-year capital commitment that is supporting projects to access State lands managed by both DEC and Parks.
Governor Cuomo proposes $35 million in new State funding to DEC for capital improvements, including stewardship of State lands and campground improvements. $5 million of this funding will be dedicated to the Catskill Forest Preserve to conserve land, improve signage, increase trail mileage, and upgrade our campgrounds.
Governor Cuomo proposes a new capital investment of $200 million ($53 million for phase one) to create the Empire State Trail. The capital investment will develop nearly 350 new trail miles, ultimately creating a 750-mile multi-use trail network. This initiative will help connect communities to many of New York’s best bird watching destinations, increase access to green and open spaces, and be an economic driver for many communities.
The Executive Budget maintains staffing levels at the agencies charged with environmental protection, including the Departments of Environmental Conservation and Agriculture and the Office of Parks Recreation and Historic Preservation.
A high priority initiative of Audubon New York’s is the Governor proposed Empire Forest for the Future (EFF) Initiative, a program for private forest landowners to reduce the conversion of forests to non-forest uses, and encourage sustainable forest management on privately owned lands - which account for 75% of the State’s total forested property. Proposals include modification to forest tax law, grants to help landowners implement best forest management practices, and grants to support local governments and non-profits acquiring and managing community forests. Although the proposals were not included in the Governor’s budget proposal, Audubon New York will work with the Administration and Legislature to advocate for their inclusion in the enacted State Budget.
Audubon New York commends Governor Cuomo for demonstrating his continued commitment and leadership to protecting New York’s environment. We look forward to working with the Governor and the Legislature to ensure New York continues to lead the nation in protecting and restoring New York’s environment for birds and people. Thank you for enabling us to protect birds and the places they need to survive.
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