Amanda May Metzger
February 11, 2015
The Adirondacks were given plenty of ink in Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s 20152016 budget, including seed money for an “invasive strategy” for the entire Adirondack Park.
The budget calls for a $10 million boost to the Environmental Protection Fund — to $172 million — and for using $5.7 million of that for invasive species control. That is $1 million higher than the amount included in the 201415 budget.
“To protect the Adirondacks from invasive species, the DEC will work in partnership with local governments, environmental groups, lake associations, and community organizations to develop an Adirondacks invasive strategy, using seed money” from the proposed increase, according to Cuomo’s plan.
The state Invasive Species Council recommended working toward a $10 million annual investment statewide. The boost to the Environmental Protection Fund would be dispersed among 14 categories, including land conservation, stewardship, invasive species control and prevention, and grants to groups that support state parks.
Lawmakers in the state Senate and Assembly are working to complete a budget before April. If this increase passes, the protection fund will have gone up 28 percent since Cuomo took office. The Adirondack Council is asking the Legislature to increase the fund to $200 million, with the goal of restoring it eventually to the $300 million level it once had. The fund was created in 1993 and serves as the state’s dedicated funding for a variety of environmental programs, including open space and farmland protection, water quality, recycling, park development, historic preservation, zoos and botanical gardens, regional planning and waterfront revitalization.
“I think it’s likely that you’ll see the EPF go up. Will we land on what the governor proposed? Will it be slightly more or less? That’s a guess. We won’t know for a few more weeks. I’d be surprised if it did not go up. How much of that will go into the Adirondack Park invasive species plan? Who knows?” said Assemblyman Dan Stec, R-Queensbury, who sits on the Assembly Environmental Conservation Committee.
According to Cuomo’s deputies, details aren’t done yet, but they are working with advocates who want a parkwide plan to fight invasive plants and animals. In total, Cuomo’s budget proposes an increase for the DEC of $11 million, to $898 million. According to an analysis by Adirondack Council’s Legislative Director Kevin Chlad, some of that increase would restore DEC staffing in wildlife habitat and in the forest ranger ranks.
DEC spokesman Tom Mailey did not return a call Tuesday.
Stec said he did not have details on how the invasive species funding would be broken