“Forty percent of New York’s bird species depend on marine and freshwater habitats to survive, and one hundred percent of birds and people depend on clean drinking water,” said Ana Paula Tavares, executive director of Audubon New York. “At a time when climate change is putting a real strain on our wetlands, rivers, lakes, and streams, we need all the protection we can get. Our communities need it, and our birds and wildlife need it. We urge all New Yorkers to voice your support for the Restore Mother Nature Bond Act, by ‘Voting Yes’ for this smart investment in our state.”
First, an important update from the Governor.
As of July 30, 2020, Governor Cuomo has postponed the bond act and it will not appear on the November ballot. “The financial situation right now is unstable," said Cuomo.
Cuomo has said the state faces a $13 billion deficit because of costs from the COVID-19 virus, including declining state and local government tax revenues and increasing unemployment benefit costs. Cuomo has lobbied for billions more in stimulus aid from Congress, but the chances of that are uncertain.
“Washington's failure to help states just sunk a $3 billion Environmental Bond Act in New York,” said Senate Environmental Conservation Committee Chairman Todd Kaminsky (D-Long Beach). “This will have long-term consequences for combating climate change, increasing our storm resiliency and creating jobs. There is just no excuse for this and it is shameful."
Why do New York's birds and people need the "Restore Mother Nature Bond Act" in 2021?
This $3 billion bond act, the first environmental bond act in over 24 years, could provide a critical and recurring source of funding for protecting our environment. The act proposes to create more resilient coastlines, safeguard our drinking water, and ensure parks and natural areas remain accessible and free from development.
It's a chance to invest in a statewide approach to protect our resources and save money, and it all comes down to a vote, should it reappear on next year's ballot.
Protecting Our Drinking Water, and Coastal and Marine Habitats
The Environmental Bond Act will protect New York’s waterways by helping communities make critical upgrades to water and sewer lines, maintain water treatment plants, and update roads to ensure that rivers, lakes, streams and our drinking water are safe and clean.
These projects can create thousands of good, reliable jobs and give a much-needed boost to small businesses and local economies in every region of the state.
Our birds need safe, healthy water bodies too. Not only for drinking water, but to fish, nest, and raise chicks. Birds like the Saltmarsh Sparrow, of which 80% of the population has disappeared in the last 15 years, are sounding the alarm bell.
In the densely-populated Long Island/NYC region, coastal habitats for wildlife are being squeezed by rising seas on one side and development (homes, seawalls, roadways, and other hard structures) on the other. As a result, Saltmarsh Sparrow nests are failing at astonishing rates.
The decline of this species is in direct correlation to the decline of salt marshes across western Long Island. In the last century, these salt marshes have suffered losses of over 75% between 1900 and 1970 and continue to decline at rates of 0.5 to 3% per year (Hartig et al. 2002). This puts local communities and homes at risk as well.
Navigating COVID-19 and Public Health Crises
The pandemic has further revealed how environmental inequities harm people of color. Air pollution can cause or exacerbate numerous health problems including stroke, heart disease, lung cancer, and respiratory infections like pneumonia (World Health Organization). New York’s Bond Act will invest more than $1 billion in frontline communities disproportionately affected by pollution.
Ensuring Long-Term Financial Benefits
Over the last 10 years, every county in New York State has been impacted by severe storms and flooding, tropical storms, or hurricanes.
Projects that improve air quality, protect clean water and prevent flooding will improve public health and prevent costly damage from extreme weather. A Nature Conservancy study found that coastal wetlands in New Jersey saved the state $625 million in property damages during hurricane Sandy. During the same storm, New York had little preventative wetland and faced $19 billion in damage costs. Creating these critical preventative measures will save New York taxpayers millions, if not billions of dollars in the near future.
Improving Access to Nature (And Birds, Of Course)
Now, possibly more than ever, New Yorkers are tuning in to the joy of birds and appreciating our state’s outdoor spaces.
We need access to the green spaces, parks and trails that have proven to provide critical mental and physical health benefits, particularly at a time of heightened anxiety.
While many New Yorkers have easy access to clean air and water, and outdoor spaces, many communities—especially communities of color—do not include green space and are disproportionally affected by environmental pollution. Investing in projects that reduce air and water pollution will help improve the public health of residents in these communities, and beyond.
Voting ‘Yes’ for the Environmental Bond Act next fall is a vote to protect our natural resources—water and air—as well as our birds and the places they need for generations to come.