2023 Budget Testimony

2023 Budget Priorities

 

  • Support a $400 million Environmental Protection Fund (EPF) 
  • Restore the 'Adirondack and Catskill Visitor Safety & Wilderness protection' in the Parks & Recreation account, under the 'State Land Stewardship' sub account, and fund the line at $10 million. The Catskill and Adirondack Forest Preserve Parks collectively represent over 6.5 million acres of land which is nearly a quarter of New York State. The Adirondack and Catskill regions serve as home and recreation lands to over a million residents in Forest Preserve counties. In addition, there are more than 25 million visitors to the Adirondacks and Catskills each year bringing $3 billion to regional economies annually.
    • In 2022, investing in this line funded $8 million in projects including educational stewards, trail work, recreational infrastructure and parking and trailheads (e.g., kiosks and sanitation), water access, accessibility and inclusivity projects, and park-wide management plans known as Visitor Use Management Plans and implementation.
  • Additionally, Catskill Mountainkeeper calls on the legislature to include the following in this year’s EPF:
    • $200,000, directed to the Catskill Center for Conservation and Development for the Maurice D. Hinchey Catskills Visitor Center for operations, staffing, and programming;
    • $150,000, directed to the Cary Institute for Ecosystem Studies for the Catskill Science Collaborative, which directs research on topics of importance in the Catskills;
    • $750,000 directed to Cornell University for the “Save the Hemlocks” initiative to fight the invasive Hemlock Wooly Adelgid with effective biocontrols;
    • At least $300,000 for Smart Growth Grants dedicated to help Catskill communities and nonprofits sustainably improve the Park; and
    • Funding for upgrades and improvements to the state-owned Belleayre Mountain Ski Center.
  • Support increased staffing at the Department of Environmental Conservation
    • Governor Hochul’s executive budget increases staffing at environmental agencies by 265 staff – including 131 at the Department of Environmental Conservation and 89 at the Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation, and Mountainkeeper calls on the Legislature to maintain these increases in the final budget. 
    • These staff are critically important to moving the $4.2 billion in bond act funding. However, they don’t address other needs throughout the agency. DEC has been underfunded for decades, and as a result the agency struggles to meet its mission to protect New Yorkers’ health and safety, and preserve the lands and waters on which we rely.

 

  • Fund the Catskill Park Stewards program

 

    • In 2021 and 2022 the Legislature funded the stewards program through a $100,000 line in the Aid to Localities budget, with $50,000 split evenly between the Catskill Center and Mountainkeeper, and we thank the houses for investing in the program. This year, Mountainkeeper calls on the Legislature to increase stewards funding to $200,000, again split between our organization and the Catskill Center, and to continue the specific call-out for each organization in the budget. 

 

 

  • Support the Climate, Jobs & Justice Package

 

    • As a NY Renews Steering Committee member, Catskill Mountainkeeper fully supports the Climate, Jobs, and Justice Package.
    • Ensure that any the Cap & Invest Program (C&I) is equitable, transparent, and effective in reducing greenhouse gas emissions and raising the necessary funding to implement climate and climate justice solutions. 
    • Reject the Governor’s proposed spending framework for the C&I spending plan. The spending plan is overly vague, leaving executive agencies to determine where, when, and how the funding is allocated.
    • Instead, the legislature should enact a Climate and Community Protection Fund (CCPF). A CCPF would be a permanent special purpose fund in state law, modeled on the EPF and authorizing four accounts to invest C&! revenues to the benefit of communities, workers, and small businesses across New York State. 

 

  • Supporting Sustainable Agriculture & Healthy Communities

 

    • Catskill Mountainkeeper is a member of the NY Grown Food for NY Kids Coalition, an group of organizations working to support both our state’s farms and our children by ensuring our schools are purchasing healthy, local food. As such we support the coalition’s budget proposals  including:
      • $10 million for the Farm to School Incentive 
      • $3 million for the Farm to School Grants
      • Expanding the Farm to School Incentive to include all school meals and
      • $3 million for the Farm to School Grants program.

 

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