Vision for the Catskills 2018 - Spring Update

Earlier this year, Catskill Mountainkeeper released Vision for the Catskills 2018, a report highlighting our top priorities for working toward our vision for the Catskills: A region of healthy, thriving, diverse, and sustainable communities where wild places are conserved for people and nature.

The report talks about changes at the local and state levels necessary to bring this vision to life, and describes some of the ways Mountainkeeper is working to get us there.

In particular, we see four key areas for opportunity and growth this year:

  • The Catskill Park
  • Food & Farms
  • Regional Projects for Vibrant Communities, and
  • Building Our Clean Energy Future.

As always, we are grateful for Mountainkeeper’s many and diverse partners—and for amazing friends and supporters like you, who do so much to help make all this essential work possible. Please continue to reach out with any questions or suggestions.

With appreciation and best wishes, 

Ramsay Adams, Executive Director

 Kaaterskill Clove


Blue Hole

The Catskill Park - The Catskill Park is our region's crown jewel. It takes significant investment and resources to keep the park safe and accessible, while maintaining the spirit of the Forever Wild lands. This year, Mountainkeeper and our partners advocated for funding in the New York State Budget to support additional forest rangers and staff, a $300 million Environmental Protection Fund (EPF), stewardship projects, campground upgrades, and dollars to fight the Hemlock Woolly Adelgid (HWA)—a little bug with a big appetite that's destroying a critical Catskills species, the majestic eastern hemlock tree.

We're pleased to report that the enacted state budget addressed many of our requests. The Governor and Legislature designated $500,000 to fight the HWA, fully funded the EPF, invested in Catskills gems like the Blue Hole, and provided for campground upgrades. Throughout the budget process Mountainkeeper tirelessly advocated alongside our partners at the Catskill Coalition, a great group of organizations that fights tirelessly every year to make sure our region gets its fair share.

Speaking of the Blue Hole, you'll recall that in 2017 Mountainkeeper staff blew the whistle on the damage and destruction to this popular swimming hole that was being loved to death. This year the Department of Environmental Conservation is proposing a mandatory, free, day-use permit for weekend visitors to the popular swimming area, in an attempt to reduce the crowds flocking to the area. We support the idea 110% as striking a balance between making this special place accessible to everyone, while protecting it from degradation and overuse.  Our team will be commenting on the DEC's proposal, and we encourage you to weigh in with your thoughts on this issue on the DEC's website. 

One real disappointment in this year's budget was a lack of funding for additional DEC rangers and staff. With the number of visitors to the region rising every year, we need additional boots on the ground to keep the Catskills safe for the people and wildlife. We'll be returning to this issue in 2019.

Food & Farms - As spring arrives, the plans for our farmers markets, community and school gardens are in full swing. Mountainkeeper is engaging students and residents of Sullivan County to grow and eat fresh food grown in their gardens, and running two farmers markets in Liberty and Monticello. Our markets accept vouchers from assistance programs that help make fresh produce available for eligible individuals. 

Be sure to stop by our markets this summer!! The Monticello Market opens on Thursday, June 28th and the Liberty Market opens on Friday, June 29th – both from 3 to 6pm. Visit our Facebook page for weekly updates!

In addition to addressing food insecurity, we're also fighting the scourge of food waste. Mountainkeeper supported the Food Waste and Recovery Act in this year's state budget, a measure that would have directed large food waste producers to pull food scraps out of waste streams, while also sending wholesome unused food to food banks and pantries in our area that are in desperate need. Though the bill was included in the Governor and Assembly's budget proposal, the Senate would not agree to the measure. We'll continue to work with the Senate throughout the session to get this critical bill passed into law.

Young gardener helping out in one of Mountainkeeper's edible gardens

Regional Projects for Vibrant Communities - For first part of 2018, we've continued supporting rail trail development throughout the region. We're advocating for expansion and a Catskills connection to the Empire State Trail, supporting the Ashokan Rail Trail, and working with partners on the O&W Rail Trail in Sullivan County. We're also working to update and redesign to promote getting outdoors in Sullivan County. Stay tuned for the relaunch!

Hiking out on the rail trail

 Solarize Sullivan solar installation







Building Our Clean Energy Future - The past few months was a busy time for Mountainkeeper's energy programs, and we're pleased to report tremendous headway on growing New York's solar capacity, in our ongoing fight against fracking, and in the fight against climate change. 

Our Solar Outreach Initiative has ended on an exciting note. For the past three years, Mountainkeeper and our partners have made it easier and more affordable to go solar in fifteen New York State counties. During that time, our campaigns helped nearly 800 homeowners and small businesses to go solar and we added more than 6.3 megawatts of solar capacity to the grid. Additionally we hosted 94 internships throughout the three years, training the energy leaders of today and tomorrow; placed hundreds of stories about solar in local, regional, and statewide news outlets; and held more than 300 community outreach events. We're proud of all Mountainkeeper and our partners at Binghamton Regional Sustainability Coalition, Cornell Cooperative Extension--Tompkins County, and Sustainable Hudson Valley accomplished. Check out more details in our program's final report and stay tuned for our next iteration of renewable energy community outreach campaigns, coming later this year!

As you know, fighting fracking is like fighting a Hydra—chop off one head, and two grow back in its place. This time we're fighting fracking, and all of the activities that go along with it, in the Delaware River Basin—the source of drinking water for over 15 million people. This winter, following an intense campaign by Mountainkeeper and our partners, the Delaware River Basin Commission released draft regulations that propose to ban fracking. This was a major victory, but unfortunately those same draft regulations would allow for wastewater treatment, storage, transport, and disposal. We pushed back, and with our supporters and partners submitted more than 40,000 comments calling for a complete fracking ban. We'll be continuing to work on this issue and pushing DRBC to do the right thing by protecting the Delaware River Basin from fracking and all its impacts.

More than 1,500 in Albany on April 23 sent Governor Cuomo a strong climate message

Finally, the fight against climate change is heating up in New York. On Monday, April 23, more than 1,500 people marched in Albany, calling on Governor Cuomo to move New York to 100% renewable energy, stop all fossil fuel infrastructure build out, and to make polluters pay for their climate changing emissions. 

Then on Tuesday, April 24, the Assembly voted overwhelmingly to pass the Climate and Community Protection Act (CCPA). The CCPA is the legislative answer to slowing climate change’s advances, slashing our state’s contribution to climate pollution from all human-produced emissions sources by 100% below 1990 levels, and building climate resilient communities by providing a just transition to renewable energy. Now we need the Senate and the Governor to join the Assembly in leading the way to enact the nation's most progressive climate bill.