Adirondack Park advocates are applauding the NY Senate and Assembly one-house budget proposals, each of which proposed millions of additional dollars to Adirondack and environmental investments above current funding levels put forward in Gov. Kathy Hochul’s recent budget plan.
“It is wonderful to see such strong environmental investments proposed by the leaders of both houses, and from the new Environmental Conservation chairs in both chambers,” said Adirondack Council Acting Executive Director Raul J. Aguirre. “We can also see the influence of the Black, Puerto Rican, Hispanic & Asian Legislative Caucus on these plans. All are to be commended on this great start to the negotiations. Both house’s proposals contain significant improvements for the Adirondacks and for environmental protection statewide.
“I can’t overstate the importance of the support from Legislative leaders in both houses for the comprehensive Adirondack lake survey. The multi-year survey is vital to our struggle to reduce air pollution and climate change,” Aguirre said. “We need the scientific evidence produced by studies like this if we hope to persuade federal officials to tighten pollution standards until the damage here stops.”
Aguirre was reacting to the inclusion of $5.5 million in the Senate plan and $4 million in the Assembly plan for a comprehensive Survey of Climate and Adirondack Lake Ecosystems. The survey would update scientific understanding of how all life in and around Adirondack lakes respond to changes in air pollution and a warming climate. The Governor’s budget didn’t include the SCALE effort. The current state budget contains $500,000 to create and design the survey program, but lacked operational funding.
Both budget plans signaled a potential three-way agreement on $2.1 million for the Timbuctoo Summer Careers and Climate Institute a summer education program linking City University of NY students in Brooklyn to the SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry Campus in the High Peaks region of the Adirondack Park. The careers institute was first proposed by the Legislature in 2022. The Governor adopted it into her proposal this year.
The program will provide opportunities for students from ethnically and culturally diverse backgrounds to learn about rewarding environmental careers not generally available at urban campuses. Supporters hope it will create a new jobs pipeline to good careers for Black and Latino students, while providing the Adirondack Park with a larger, more diverse pool of talented young people. Students will explore careers in climate and ecological sciences, planning, visitor management and environmental advocacy, among others.
“Both budgets also seek to set aside $10 million to manage and reduce visitor impacts on the public Forest Preserve in the Adirondacks and Catskills,” said Aguirre. “Legislators proposed this as part of the Environmental Protection Fund which is a fitting and necessary use of the Fund to support NY’s signature public lands. Both houses are seeking to boost the EPF significantly.”
Aguirre noted that state officials have begun awarding contracts for visitor use management plans for the Adirondacks and Catskills, with funds from the 2022 EPF.
Both houses also included $600 million for municipal clean water projects, a $100 million increase over the Governor’s plan. In the Adirondacks, that translates to both grants and loans to towns and villages. The financial help could lift burdens from local property taxpayers, who would otherwise foot the bill for millions of dollars-worth of new drinking water and wastewater treatment facilities. Most of the Adirondack Park’s 92 towns have fewer than 2,000 residents.
The Senate also signaled its support for expanding the work of the Adirondack Diversity Initiative, by adding $100,000 to the $300,000 proposed by the Governor and Assembly. The initiative is a state government effort to make the park safer, more welcoming and inclusive to all, while seeking to promote equity and reduce bias-based conflict.
Aguirre said that the Adirondack Council, a privately funded not-for-profit established in 1975, seeks funding for public projects, but the organization doesn’t accept state grants or taxpayer funded donations of any kind.