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Environmental groups praise Adirondack and Catskill Forest Preserve funding in newly passed budget

Adirondack Park sign
Pat Bradley/WAMC
Adirondack Park sign

Environmental groups in New York are praising the newly passed state budget, saying it will help the environment and projects to support municipalities and increase diversity.

New York legislators passed a $229 billion budget Tuesday night, just over a month past its April 1st deadline. It includes a number of provisions that will impact the Adirondack and Catskill Forest Preserves.

Protect the Adirondacks Executive Director Peter Bauer followed the budgeting process closely and says the Adirondacks came out fairly well.

“Not everything that a coalition of groups advocated for is in the budget but there’s a lot to be really happy about. Principally the Environmental Protection Fund which was boosted last year to $400 million, was funded at that level again this year. That funds a variety of critical programs for the Adirondacks. There’s land acquisition money; over $35 million of land acquisition money; there’s money for state land stewardship. In addition to that there’s funding for the visitor interpretive centers. There’s a boost in funding for the Adirondack Diversity Initiative and a number of other programs as well. So all of those things are highlights for us in this budget.”

Bauer highlights one of the individual programs receiving funding that should benefit the Adirondacks.

“It’s funding the SCALE (Survey of Climate and Adirondack Lake Ecosystems) program which is a really innovative program led by Cornell and RPI but working with the Adirondack Watershed Institute and the Adirondack Lakes Survey Corporation looking to update a major survey that was done in the 1980’s around acid rain to look at about 400 lakes in the Park around climate change issues. So that’s really critical and that’ll give us a ton of information.”

The comprehensive survey of Adirondack lakes is one of the most significant items being funded, according to Adirondack Council Spokesman John Sheehan.

“Last time it got about a half-million dollars in funding to set up the program. This time it got a full $2 million worth of annual funding and that’s a very good start for the program and one that will help to get the major research projects under way.”

There is $2.1 million in funding for what is called the Timbuctoo Summer Careers and Climate Institute. Sheehan says it’s part of an effort to expand diversity in the Adirondack Park.

“This will help to bring a number of students from the Brooklyn area to Newcomb where they can learn about both the Adirondacks and careers in climate science and I think it will really help to diversify over time the ranger force as well.”

Adirondack Mountain Club Executive Director Michael Barrett is pleased that there is $8 million dedicated under the State Land Stewardship funding for the Adirondack and Catskill Forest Preserves.

“Other than last year this has never happened before. Even though the Adirondacks and the Catskills represent 6.5 million acres, nearly a quarter of New York state, we’re always fighting for our piece of the pie. We don’t have to do that necessarily any more. We’ve got $8 million in dedicated funding. That’s going to go towards the things that are important: to municipalities, environmental organizations, visitors, educational stewards, trail work, recreational infrastructure, accessibility and inclusivity projects. This is what is to be excited about. The recognition by state legislators that the Adirondacks and Catskills Forest Preserve is a unique place and we have an obligation to protect it.”

The new budget also includes funding for a rail trail between Lake Placid and Tupper Lake, clean water grants for communities and diversity programs.