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Forest Preserve Group Calls for State Action

Forest Preserve Group Calls for State Action

December 6, 2022 — Albany, NY — In a letter to Governor Kathy Hochul, twenty-nine organizations and municipalities have outlined three key actions that they would like to see taken in the 2023/24 state budgeting process to address high recreational use in the Catskill and Adirondack Forest Preserve Parks.

  1. Retain the dedicated line for the Forest Preserve Parks as an annual appropriation of $10 million under the Environmental Protection Fund’s (EPF’s) State Land Stewardship funding;
  2. Add and support agency staff positions necessary to implement the use of EPF and Clean Water, Clean Air, Green Jobs Bond Act funding;
  3. Invest in Forest Preserve Park communities through implementing projects funded by the Bond Act; Smart Growth initiatives; and support of visitor centers.

The signatories also applauded this year’s historic commitment to the environment, which included a $400 million EPF, and passage of the $4.2 billion Clean Water, Clean Air, Green Jobs Bond Act. The former included $8 million in dedicated funds for the Catskill and Adirondack Forest Preserve Parks, representing an impressive step toward meeting the vision outlined by the Catskill Park and Adirondack High Peaks Strategic Planning Advisory Groups (CAG and HPAG).

The full contents of the letter can be read online.

“New York State’s crown jewel — the Forest Preserve — needs funding to manage the issues of today and tomorrow. Without these resources, we risk losing the many benefits that come from public lands, including space for recreation, clean drinking water, forests to sequester carbon, and more,” said Michael Barrett, ADK Executive Director. “This $10 million investment by New York will directly support Forest Preserve communities, the millions of visitors who benefit from these lands, and our environment as a whole.”

“Investing resources to preserve New York’s forever wild Catskill Park and Adirondack Park benefits local communities, promotes recreational opportunities, and shows visitors just how much natural resource protection matters to the state,” said Jeff Senterman, Executive Director of the Catskill Center. “In addition, helping to fund our Catskills Visitor Center — the only official visitor center for the Catskill Park — plays a key role in helping us let visitors know about great places to visit in the Catskills and educate them on how to recreate responsibly, to protect this Catskills gem for generations.”

“I applaud New York State’s progress in 2022 to address the recommendations made by the High Peaks Advisory Group,” said HPAG member and Adirondack Wilderness Advocates board member Pete Nelson. “The State is moving with real purpose toward a more inclusive and effective management paradigm for the Forest Preserve which values all residents and visitors and uses science and data to best protect our incomparable wild places. The funding commitments we are calling for will continue this momentum. There could not be a more important time to keep it going.”

“The large coalition signed on to this letter highlights the importance of state investment in the natural and human communities in the state parks,” said Joe Pete Wilson, Supervisor, Town of Keene, NY. “The 2023 budget reflects a vision that allows for investments that can protect, support, and create in ways that haven’t been possible in the past. Thanks to the Governor for this vision.”

“Dedicating New York State resources to the Adirondack and Catskill Parks is a critical investment in the future of this great state,” said Cali Brooks, President & CEO of Adirondack Foundation. “It will also be a strong sign that State leaders care about and value the people who live in these special places.”

“As an NYS-based non-profit focused on increasing diversity in the world of travel, Travel Unity supports the preservation of our state’s public lands and investment in positions and programs that help make sure that people of all backgrounds and abilities are able to have rewarding experiences in the outdoors,” said Roni Weiss, Executive Director, Travel Unity.

“Through these three key actions, New York State will demonstrate its commitment to sustaining both our natural environment and the communities of people who live, work, and recreate within the Catskill and Adirondack Park Forest Preserves.” Erin Tobin, Executive Director, Adirondack Architectural Heritage.

“In the State of New York, our most vital resources are those which are protected by the NYS Forest Preserve,” said Andy Mossey, Executive Director, Woodstock Land Conservancy. “Dedicated funding and proper management of the preserve not only ensures a conservation minded future for these wild spaces but also access for NYS residents and visitors alike. Millions of people visit the preserve each year, and proper funding and management should reflect those trends to protect the Forest Preserve for future generations. Committing to these action items is the best step forward in the continued effort to protect the Forest Preserve.”

“As New York State moves ahead with implementation of historic new investments in the environment and the protection of our precious natural surroundings, it is critical that resources are in place to effectively deliver on these transformational goals – including agency staff and well-thought-out programs,” said Kathy Moser, Chief Conservation Officer at the Open Space Institute. “A significant and sustained infusion of dedicated land conservation and staffing resources are critical to the long-term protection of the natural and cultural treasures of the Catskills and Adirondacks.”

“Governor, our state’s magnificent Forest Preserve in Adirondack and Catskill Parks has been short-staffed since the 1990s. DEC Lands and Forests, Operations and Forest Ranger staffing have never recovered from severe staff cuts during Governor Pataki’s terms. The negative results of those cuts are clear to see in the pressures placed on natural resources, trailheads, trails, and the long wait for stewardship and management plans. Please seize the opportunity this year to strengthen our hardworking DEC Forest Preserve staff to benefit not just our generation of outdoor enthusiasts but our children’s,” said David Gibson, Managing Partner, Adirondack Wild: Friends of the Forest Preserve.

“One hundred and thirty-seven years ago, our forefathers had the inspirational insight to set aside Lands within our Great State laying the groundwork as one of America’s earliest Forest Preserve Parks. We have for too long not lived up to our moral responsibility of investing in this natural treasure to protect them for our future generations. Our Parks have become a mecca for those searching for a wilderness experience, turning many areas into the new Central Park. So, after years of financial neglect, it is time! We applaud the Governor for supporting those visions, as New York State demonstrates its commitment to sustaining both our natural environment and the communities of people who live, work, and recreate within the Catskill and Adirondack Park Forest Preserves,” said David Kukle President Mt Cloves Scenic Byway, and CAG member.

As a coalition of diverse outdoor recreation nonprofits, businesses, and communities, the New York Outdoor Recreation Coalition supports these key steps, which will protect our valuable natural areas and improve equitable access to the outdoors,” said Melissa Abramson, Co-Chair of the New York Outdoor Recreation Coalition.

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