Cuomo would give DEC a $145 million raise

Gov. Andrew Cuomo has proposed a $145 million spending boost in the state Department of Environmental Conservation budget.

As part of his 2020-21 Executive Budget proposal, released Tuesday, Cuomo has proposed a 10% bump in DEC spending, from $1.44 billion this year to $1.58 billion next year.

That increase would come from “growth from the Clean Water Infrastructure Act, the proposed Restore Mother Nature Bond Act, and increases in other capital program spending,” according to a budget book released by the governor’s office.

The Restore Mother Nature program, which Cuomo introduced in his State of the State address earlier this month, would be partially funded by a $3 billion bond act he is asking lawmakers and voters to approve.

“New York State will reduce flood risk, invest in resilient infrastructure and revitalize critical fish and wildlife habitats,” the budget book reads. “It will do this by connecting streams and waterways, right-sizing culverts and dams, restoring freshwater and tidal wetlands, reclaiming natural floodplains, restocking shellfish populations and upgrading fish hatcheries, preserving open space, conserving more forest areas, replanting more trees, reducing contamination from agricultural and stormwater runoff, and expanding renewable energy.”

Cuomo has also proposed the state continue its commitment to spend $2.5 billion on clean water infrastructure as part of the Clean Water Infrastructure Act. An additional $500 million appropriation would support water quality protection, drinking water and wastewater infrastructure, according to the governor’s budget book, “bringing the State’s investment in clean water to $3.5 billion.”

As for the funding for DEC capital projects, the Executive Budget includes $55 million for the DEC to “improve access to State lands, rehabilitate campgrounds, and upgrade its recreational facilities, all as part of the Adventure NY program,” the budget book reads. “This funding will also provide for health and safety repairs to State infrastructure, including dams, wetland restoration, State lands, and fish hatcheries.”

In his Executive Budget, Cuomo recommends adding 47 new staff members to the DEC to “implement the Climate Leadership & Community Protection Act and the Resiliency and Economic Development Initiative.”

The budget does not appear to mention the addition of more forest rangers. The union that represents forest rangers has called in recent years for the state to add more forest rangers in the Adirondack Park. The union’s campaign has spurred more than half of the towns within the Adirondack Park to sign a declaration calling for more ranger positions to be added, as the state has purchased and added to the Adirondack Forest Preserve hundreds of thousands of acres of land in the last 20 years, including notable tracts such as Boreas Ponds. In a poll conducted by the Lake Placid News late last year, Adirondack green groups identified DEC staffing as one of the top five threats to the Adirondack Park.

On behalf of DEC Commissioner Basil Seggos, a state DEC spokeswoman deferred comment on the governor’s budget proposal until a later date.

Environmental Protection Fund

The Executive Budget also proposes $300 million in funding for the Environmental Protection Fund, including $39 million for solid waste programs, $89 million for parks and recreation, $152 million for open space programs and $20 million for the climate change mitigation and adaption program.

“This investment will provide funding for critical environmental programs such as land acquisition, farmland protection, invasive species prevention and eradication, enhanced recreational access, water quality improvement, and an aggressive environmental agenda,” the budget book reads.


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