What’s at stake?
The Environmental Protection Fund (EPF) is the state’s only dedicated capital investment program for over 100 environmental projects and initiatives in every village, town, and city in the state. Scenic Hudson supports maintaining the EPF at $400 million without the $25 million reduction for agency operations and staff. We join with the New Yorkers for Clean Water and Jobs coalition in urging the Legislature to once again reject this proposed offload, and restore the EPF programs that were reduced because of it.
We are supportive of funding for individual EPF line items and programs at the following levels:
- Soil and Water Conservation Districts: $18 million (Governor proposed at $18 million)
Much of the current work to transition farms to climate-resilient farming practices in New York State would not be possible without local Soil and Water Conservation Districts (SWCDs). SWCDs form one pillar of an information delivery system that is among the strongest in the nation and is very effective at delivering technical assistance to farmers and land managers. In particular, SWCDs in every county of the state are vital to enabling the on-the-ground application of research-informed climate-resilient farming practices. Scenic Hudson supports the Governor’s forward-looking proposal to increase the funding level for SWCDs to $18 million from last year’s $16 million. Increased funding is needed to further build the capacity of SWCDs in every county of the state to assist and educate farmers and land managers on the front lines of a changing climate. Scenic Hudson is working collaboratively with SWCDs in the Hudson Valley through the Northeast Carbon Alliance to promote economically productive and climate-effective healthy soils management.
- Climate Resilient Farming Program: $15.25 million (Governor proposed at $15.25 million)
Farmers throughout New York State have been building healthy soils by employing systems that have been used for centuries as well as innovative practices that reduce emissions, sequester carbon, protect and increase water quality, and support greater biodiversity. While we would ideally like to see this program restored to its historical $16.75, we support the Governor’s proposed $15.25 million in funding for climate resilient farming projects. This funding will support the farmers who are already using these methods and will enable more farmers to adopt practices that reduce on-farm emissions, increase food system resiliency, and provide essential ecosystem services.
- Farmland Protection: $25 million (Governor proposed at $18.25 million)
The need to protect farmland is especially urgent in fast-growing regions of the state — such as the Capital Region and Hudson Valley — facing acute development pressure and conversion of working farms to non-agricultural uses. To keep local farms in business and meet growing demands for fresh food, the state must protect more farmland. Successfully accomplishing this requires an allocation of at least $25 million (up from last year’s $21 million). Protecting farmland and avoiding its conversion to other uses is a critical step in achieving the state’s 30×30 goals and ensuring that these precious lands are available to feed our communities and achieve climate solutions. Scenic Hudson is continuing our work to conserve farmland in the Hudson Valley’s Foodshed.
- Municipal Parks: $26 million (Governor proposed at $22.75 million)
The Grant Program for Parks, Preservation and Heritage (Municipal Parks program) currently provides up to $26 million in matching grants to projects that acquire, develop, and plan municipal parks and recreational facilities. These grants empower municipal governments to work with both the state government and local organizations to build and improve the outdoor spaces that their constituents enjoy. In recent years, the total amount of annual applications for this program has frequently met or exceeded $90 million. Maintaining the $26 million appropriation from last year’s budget will allow the NYS Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation (OPRHP) to continue fulfilling many of the grants needed to improve the recreation infrastructure so critical to our state.
- Open Space/State Land Conservation: $38.9 million (Governor proposed at $34.5 million)
New York state has a goal to conserve at least 30 percent of state land and water by 2030 (30×30). 20% of the state has been protected so far, leaving another 3,190,806 acres needed to meet the goal. In the Hudson Valley alone, approximately 360,000 acres need to be conserved in order to meet a 30% conservation goal of the lands in just our ten county region. We encourage the NYS Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC), OPRHP, and the Attorney General’s Office to work with the land trust community to streamline the land acquisition process in New York so more land is protected at a faster pace – for climate mitigation, biodiversity habitat, and public use. The state needs to ramp up conservation efforts in order to meet 30×30 goals, and consequently, the ambitious goals set by the NYS Climate Action Plan.
Conservation of land and water has a big role to play in achieving climate goals. Scenic Hudson developed Hudson Valley Conservation Strategy (HVCS) in part to identify the best potential conservation investments for achieving a resilient, functional, and productive landscape in the Hudson Valley region. Guided by the HVCS and our existing conservation strategies, we have conserved more than 50,000 acres, including creating or enhancing more than 65 parks, preserves, and historic sites that provide places for people to relax, enjoy recreation, and be inspired by the valley’s natural beauty and heritage. Maintaining funding for open space and land conservation at $38.9 million will allow Scenic Hudson and our regional and statewide partners to continue conserving New York State land that matters most.
- Hudson River Estuary Program (HREP): $7.5 million (Governor proposed at $7.25 million)
In 2022, funding for the HREP received a $1 million increase to $7.5 million, the first substantial growth for the program since its inception in 1996. We support the maintenance of this funding level in this year’s budget, as demand for this program and a safe, accessible Hudson River necessitates an annual allocation of at least $7.5 million. Maintaining this allocation will enable HREP staff and its partners to continue providing technical support and grants to local communities and projects committed to preserving and increasing connections to the Hudson River.
- Conservation Partnership Program (CPP): $3 million (Governor proposed at $3 million)
We join with the Land Trust Alliance in requesting that the CPP be maintained at $3 million in this year’s budget. The CPP is a successful public-private partnership between DEC and the Land Trust Alliance. It offers competitive grants to New York land trusts to advance local land conservation for the climate, health, and economic benefits they provide. The CPP is a model of efficiency as appropriated dollars are awarded annually in coordination with DEC, delivering tangible outcomes for communities and directly advancing New York’s Open Space Plan. The program has protected more than 36,000 acres without adding to the state’s management burden. With increased demand for open space, worsening climate change impacts, and growing awareness of the importance of locally led conservation in achieving a 30×30 goal, it is critical to continue funding for this program at a level of at least $3 million.
- Hudson River Estuary Action Agenda 2021-2025 (NYS Department of Environmental Conservation)
- Sea Level Rise
- The Climate-Resilient Agriculture Initiative: Cultivating Climate Solutions in the Hudson Valley
- The Hudson Valley Conservation Strategy
- Protecting the Pathways
- Securing Fresh, Local Food for New York City and the Hudson Valley: A Foodshed Conservation Plan for the Region