ALBANY, NY (January 9, 2024) – In today's State of the State address, Governor Kathy Hochul announced several proposals that will benefit birds, other wildlife, and people:
Plant 25 million Trees by 2033. The Governor has proposed planting 25 million trees by 2033, which will help New York State meet its goal of planting and maintaining 1.7 million acres of new forest by 2040.
Blue Buffers Voluntary Homeowner Buyout Program. Many New Yorkers are threatened by rising sea levels, which can put homes at risk of repeat flooding and years of costly damage. Voluntary buyout programs give New Yorkers the option and means to relocate to safer areas, and then allows those properties to be used as part as part of natural flood control strategies, such as the restoration of living shorelines and salt marshes.
Update Coastal Erosion Hazard Area Maps. The Coastal Erosion Hazard Areas program allows the Department of Environmental Conservation to protect coastal areas by requiring permits for activities or development that significantly alters the landscape. This helps the State and local governments to build resilience, protect at-risk habitats, and reduce the risk of property damage caused by wind and water erosion.
Green Resiliency Grant Program. Many communities rely on “gray infrastructure” such as storm drains, pipes, and culverts, for stormwater management. However, with more extreme weather events occurring, gray infrastructure is struggling to keep up with increased precipitation. Green infrastructure, which relies on natural features and systems, can help ease the load by either replacing or being integrated into existing stormwater systems. Green infrastructure can include urban forests and parks, green roofs and walls, and strategically placed bioswales.
Resilient Watersheds Implementation Grant Program. This grant program will allow for the restoration of small, natural waterways that aid in flood control. Restoring streams will also improve water quality and provide habitat for birds and other wildlife.
Funding Clean Water Infrastructure. New York State’s investments in clean water infrastructure have provided significant and needed funding that improves our wastewater and drinking water infrastructure. Providing renewed funding for the Clean Water Infrastructure Act will help ensure that birds and people have access to clean drinking water.
In response, Erin McGrath, Senior Policy Manager for the National Audubon Society’s New York State office, issued the following statement:
We applaud Governor Hochul for advancing proposals to make New York State more resilient as our warming climate continues to impact communities across the state. We can make New York State more resilient by prioritizing green infrastructure and leaning into natural climate solutions, which help to safeguard communities against extreme weather events while also providing important ecosystem services such as wildlife habitat, clean water, and carbon sequestration. We are especially pleased to see the Governor propose programs and funding that will help New Yorkers living on our coasts navigate more frequent storms and rising sea levels. We strongly support efforts to conserve and restore our tidal wetlands and salt marshes, which will help protect coastal communities and at-risk shorebird species – like the Piping Plover and Saltmarsh Sparrow – which need natural shorelines to survive.
We are also excited to see the Governor’s commitment to planting twenty-five million trees in the next decade, which will support efforts to plant and maintain 1.7 million acres of new forest by 2040. Forests in New York State provide breeding habitat for over 100 bird species, including some of Audubon's highest priority birds like the Wood Thrush and Black-throated Blue, Cerulean, Canada, and Golden-winged Warblers, Ruffed Grouse, and American Woodcock. Planting new forests has the potential to support these declining species by creating new high-quality habitat and will also increase carbon sequestration, improve flood control, and provide clean water and air.
We look forward to learning more about these proposals and working with the Governor to make New York State more resilient for birds and people.
Audubon New York, a state program of the National Audubon Society, protects birds and the places they need, today and tomorrow, throughout the Americas using science, advocacy, education, and on-the-ground conservation. Audubon's state programs, nature centers, chapters, and partners have an unparalleled wingspan that reaches millions of people each year to inform, inspire, and unite diverse communities in conservation action. Since 1905, Audubon's vision has been a world in which people and wildlife thrive. Audubon is a nonprofit conservation organization. Learn more at www.ny.audubon.org.
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