New legislation proposed in New York would set a state goal of conserving at least 30% of land by 2030.
State Senator Todd Kaminsky, chair of the Senate Environmental Committee, said the bill he sponsored would direct the state to identify land that hasn’t been developed and preserve it as open space.
“There's no doubt having lived through Hurricane Sandy, that resilience and ensuring that we've pushed back against the severe weather we've had as a top priority. And preservation will certainly help do that,” Kaminsky said.
Natural disasters have cost New York and the federal government over $37 billion in the last decade, according to Rebuild By Design, a coalition of infrastructure experts in the state. The group expects climate change will intensify extreme weather events and cost an additional $55 billion by 2029.
"Our natural areas are one of our most vital environmental assets and help combat climate change and protect clean water. New Yorkers rely on conserved lands now more than ever as places to stay socially distant and this bill will help to expand public access to nature," said Julie Tighe, president of the New York League of Conservation Voters, which is one of the group's members.
A model for land preservation
Southampton Town Supervisor Jay Schneiderman said New York should use as a model legislation what the state approved more than 20 years ago on eastern Long Island.
“The Community Preservation fund has been a great engine for preservation providing the dollars needed, without having to increase, you know, other taxes. It's been a good model. And it sort of makes sense. You're contributing to a fund that will help preserve New York State moving forward,” said Schneiderman, who also chairs the East End Supervisors and Mayors Association.
The Community Preservation Fund has generated over $1.5 billion for preservation and water quality with a 2% tax on real estate transactions in the five eastern towns of the state.
Kaminsky said coastal open space can be used as a buffer to shield Long Island from storm surges and shelter local wildlife.
"First of all, the less development we have, the less heat generation that we're going to have. So I think preserving that open space is important," he said. "But you know, reaching this goal will not be easy. And we're gonna have to take every opportunity we can to preserve space, and looking for those opportunities in coastal areas, especially where the flooding would start. I think it's important for a lot of reasons."