Advocacy

2019 New York State Policy Agenda

Audubon New York works with a network of 65,000 members, hundreds of volunteers, 27 local Audubon Chapters, and dozens of other partners to achieve its mission of protecting birds and their habitats through science, advocacy, education, and on-the-ground conservation programs. The below constitute our legislative and policy priorities for the SFY 2019-20 Legislative session.

If you have any questions or would like more information, please contact Erin McGrath, Policy Manager at Audubon New York at 518-869-9731 or emcgrath@audubon.org.

Working Lands

New York State contains 18.95 million acres of forested land, which amounts to 63% of the total land area of the state. These forests provide important habitat for more than a hundred species of birds, including forty-five priority bird species, and important ecosystem services such as carbon sequestration, watershed protection, flood control, forest products, and recreation.

Unfortunately, many of New York’s forested lands need active management to diversify forest age classes and promote more natural, healthy, and resilient forests. Currently, 14.4 million of our forested acres are held by private landowners, which means that their choices regarding land management can have significant impacts on declining bird populations and the environment. Audubon works with these landowners to increase the quality of habitat on privately managed lands to benefit threatened bird species by applying bird-friendly land management practices. To support these efforts, we ask New York State to:

  • Develop and fund private landowner incentive programs that encourage the use of sustainable forestry practices, which help conserve and restore habitat for species of concern, support forest regeneration and resiliency, and aid in the development of natural climate solutions.
  • Adequately fund and implement programs that support open space acquisition, establishment of conservation and agricultural easements, invasive species control and removal, and reforestation on public land.

Coasts

Protecting and restoring coastlines will strengthen populations of shorebirds while increasing resiliency that combats the effects of climate change. Audubon’s coasts strategy focuses on the most threatened and iconic bird species that rely on coastal habitats and targets the most important breeding, stopover, and wintering sites. We ask New York State to:

  • Finalize and adopt updated state coastal erosion hazard area and wetlands maps, which will help agencies to better manage these important resources and assist localities in making decisions about future coastal development and resiliency strategies.
  • Continue to fund and implement policies that support coastal resiliency, including prioritizing the protection and restoration of salt marshes, the development of natural infrastructure, and encourage coastal buy-outs or set-backs.
  • Support legislation that protects and conserves our forage fish populations, which provide critical food for coastal and marine bird species.
  • Support legislation to prohibit offshore drilling in New York State’s coastal waters. Exploration and drilling for oil or gas would have serious repercussions for marine and coastal ecosystems, which are critically important to the survival of hundreds of bird species.

Water

New York State’s rivers, lakes, and embayments provide habitat and sources of water that are paramount to birds’ survival. Audubon’s Water strategy engages the public on water-management and water-quality issues, and works to restore habitats along rivers, wetlands, and the Great Lakes. We ask New York State to:

  • Ensure continued funding for programs that improve water quality, address nutrient pollution, combat harmful algae blooms, and support the development of clean water infrastructure.
  • Support funding and programs that promote the conservation and restoration of the Great Lakes.

Climate

Audubon’s scientists have established that climate change is the greatest threat to birds. Our research shows that roughly half of all North American bird species are threatened with the loss of at least 50 percent of their current range by 2080. Our climate strategy has two key elements: protecting the places that birds need in a warmer world and advocating for significant public policy changes at the local, state, and federal levels to mitigate climate change. We ask New York State to:

  • Ensure that the State continues to meet its 50% by 2030 goal for clean energy by supporting transmission modernization and expansion, accelerating the development of large-scale renewables, and providing financial incentives for the development of renewable energy.
  • Establish uniform siting principles for large-scale renewable energy projects that are consistent with the protection of natural resources and continue to prioritize the development of brownfields, rooftops, and capped landfills.

Bird-Friendly Communities

Birds are the most common visible wildlife on the planet, and 47 million Americans say they enjoy birdwatching. Our communities can provide critical refuge for birds, and studies show that cities can contain important functional ecosystems and biodiversity hotspots. However, habitat destruction, window collisions, and other threats all take their toll on both rare and common birds. We ask New York State to:

  • Support legislation and policies that minimize bird collisions with glass by promoting the use of bird-friendly building designs and technologies
  • Support measures that will decrease the use of single-use plastics and curb microplastic pollution.
  • Mitigate the effects of neonicotinoids on pollinators and other wildlife by enacting reasonable restrictions on residential and commercial uses and enhancing state oversight.

Funding

New York State has an ongoing obligation to provide reliable funding for environmental conservation. Recurring funding allows the State and its partners to establish long-term plans that are cost-effective and utilize both public and private funding for priorities such as land acquisition, increasing resiliency to climate change, and improving water quality. We ask New York State to:

  • Maintain funding for the Environmental Protection Fund at $300 million for SFY 2019-20, which will ensure that New York State is able to achieve its environmental and conservation priorities. The fund provides financial support for land acquisition, invasive species management, water quality improvements, and operational support for Audubon’s nature centers and sanctuaries.
  • Provide adequate funding and staff for the agencies that help steward our natural resources, including the Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation, Department of Environmental Conservation, Environmental Facilities Corporation, Department of State, and Department of Agriculture and Markets.