New York’s $221 billion budget for the new fiscal year allocates billions of dollars to economic development and environmental protection, including millions to deal with the impacts of increased hiker traffic in parks Adirondack and Catskills.
This year’s budget increases state spending by more than $8 billion from last year’s $212 billion budget. The state expects to balance the higher budget with increased federal funds and higher-than-expected tax revenue, according to The Associated Press.
The new budget, approved more than a week past its April 1 deadline, includes $4.2 billion in investment in green energy, climate change mitigation efforts and environmental protection. environment through the Environmental Bonds Bill for Clean Water, Clean Air and Green Jobs. The law, originally passed by the state legislature in 2020 with a $3 billion prize, would allow the state to assume $4.2 billion in obligations for environmental initiatives.
This act will be on the ballot in November. He was supposed to be on the ballot in 2020, but the vote was delayed by the administration of former Governor Andrew Cuomo.
The new state budget also includes $400 million for the Environmental Protection Fund; $500 million in funding for clean water grants, which would give communities new water and wastewater treatment facilities; and donates $15 million to the state Department of Environmental Conservation to “improve state lands, rehabilitate campgrounds and upgrade recreational facilities”, according to Governor Kathy Hochul’s office.
The state budget also provided $105 million in additional capital funding to the state’s Olympic Regional Development Authority, primarily for the upgrade of Olympic facilities and ski resorts ahead of the World University Games in Washington. FISU winter of 2023.
Environmental Protection Fund
The state Environmental Protection Fund, which distributes millions of dollars each year through DEC to finance large green projects, is set at $400 million under the approved budget, an increase $100 million over last year’s fiscal budget.
Eight million ETH dollars are allocated to projects aimed at increasing visitor safety and addressing the various impacts of hiker traffic in the park, which have become a growing concern in recent years – particularly along the popular Route 73 Corridor – as an increasing number of hikers and other nature lovers travel to the High Peaks region. Some efforts to limit the impact of hiker traffic in the frontcountry and backcountry, such as the creation of a new shuttle route for hikers and a pilot parking reservation system at the parking lot of the Adirondack Mountain Reserve, are already underway.
A coalition of 26 local organizations, environmental groups and municipalities advocated for $10 million in funding to address the impact of hiker traffic on state lands last year. Adirondack Mountain Club Directory of Advocacy Cathy Pedler said in a statement that the $8 million that was ultimately included in the budget will be used for trail safety and resilience, educational outreach, trailhead infrastructure and to implement High Peaks and Catskills strategic planning recommendations. Advisory groups.
Keene Town Supervisor Joe Pete Wilson, Jr., who was on the High Peaks advisory group, applauded the new funding.
“Funding to manage heavy use is a much-needed boost to the partnerships and efforts of state, local government and conservation groups that have taken shape over the past few years. Stewardship and environmental protection are key to ensuring the park remains a special place for New Yorkers for generations to come,” Wilson said in a statement.
EPF includes $600,000 to support a new visitor use management framework similar to those in national parks. The framework would help officials assess the need to modify or add trails, reroute traffic patterns, and create and maintain outdoor facilities such as restrooms, campsites, interpretive centers, parking lots, and kiosks. of information. The DEC plans to hire a visitor management expert with the funds by the fall, according to a press release from the Adirondack Council.
Paul Smith’s College received $225,000 for its visitor interpretive center this year, up from $180,000 last year. VIC director Scott van Laer said in a statement that the funding would help the VIC hire more staff and complete its environmental programming.
Essex County received $150,000 in landfill closure and gas management funding.
The EPF also includes $48.7 million for statewide land stewardship, $40 million for new park lands and forest preservation, $21 million for farmland, $15 million for the Climate Smart Communities program, $19 million for municipal recycling, and $3 million in smart growth grants to encourage development in the Adirondacks. All of these investments have increased since last year’s budget.
The new budget includes $105 million in capital funding for the state’s Olympic Regional Development Authority. Of this amount, $92.5 million is expected to fund an upgrade and modernization plan to improve Olympic facilities and ski resorts, with a focus on preparation for the 2023 World University Winter Games. ; $10 million will go to “critical maintenance and energy efficiency upgrades”; and $2.5 million will come from the budget of the State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation as part of the New York Works Initiative, which aims to create jobs that pay at least $50,000. per year. This funding for ORDA is the same amount Hochul proposed in its budget book earlier this year.
It is unclear which locations and projects, in particular, the state funding will go to; an ORDA spokesperson was unavailable for comment Thursday at press time.
New headquarters of the APA
The approved budget provides $29 million for the new offices of the Adirondack Park Agency. The APA has met in a small 1950s log cabin for the past 50 years on a campus shared with the New York State Police and DEC in Ray Brook. APA public information officer Keith McKeever said in an email Thursday that the building was poorly designed and in poor condition; he didn’t think it wouldn’t be profitable to renovate it for the agency’s needs.
McKeever said the agency is always considering all of its options before deciding on the location of the new building or whether the agency will opt to renovate an existing building. He said the agency wants a building that is energy efficient, accessible, meets the needs of staff and gives the agency more opportunities to engage with the public. When asked if the state had given the APA a deadline to complete the project, McKeever said the project was a “high priority” for the agency and that it would move forward as quickly and efficiently as possible.
The Tombuctoo Summer Climate and Careers Institute, a new program that helps City University of New York students find conservation jobs in partnership with the SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry in Newcomb, has received $2.1 million. federal funding dollars through the state budget. The institute was named after one of the 1840s suffrage colonies in the Adirondacks, where 3,000 black men acquired ownership of a 40-acre farm that gave them the right to vote.
The Adirondack Lake Survey Corporation, a Ray Brook-based nonprofit that has been conducting long-term monitoring of 52 lakes in the park since the 1990s, was awarded $500,000 for a $6 million survey of the lakes Adirondack. The survey would be similar to the extensive survey of 1,400 Adirondack lakes that the ALSC did before widespread acid rain regulation in the 1980s, according to the Adirondack Council statement. This multi-year study would focus on climate change and employ a team of scientists working in partnership with the ALSC. The company currently employs one full-time employee.
The ALSC and the Ausable River Association announced this week that the two nonprofits plan to merge by the end of this year. ALSC would remain an independent program as part of the merger.
The Adirondack Diversity Initiative, a Saranac Lake-based organization that works to improve diversity and inclusiveness in the park, received $300,000 in federal funding this year, an increase of $50,000 from the year last.
The budget also includes a review of a state policy that protects wetlands. The new policy allows the state to have jurisdiction over smaller wetlands, as little as 7.4 acres, outside of the park. The previous minimum area was 12.5. The state can already protect wetlands as small as an acre in the park, though the policy revision expands APA control over development on the lakeshore and other deep-water wetlands. .