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Forest Preserve Group Calls for State Support

Forest Preserve Group Calls for State Support

February 13, 2023 — Albany, NY — Following the release of Governor Kathy Hochul’s executive budget, a Forest Preserve group comprised of 32 organizations and municipalities is calling on the governor and legislature to provide funding for the Forest Preserve in the state budget. This comes after a key item from the 2023 budget—a dedicated line for the Forest Preserve—was not retained in the governor’s proposed 2024 budget, which threatens important progress made in the Forest Preserve over the last two years. 

Since 2021, the state budget has included a dedicated budget line for the Forest Preserve under State Land Stewardship in the Environmental Protection Fund. This has permitted the NYSDEC to expand trail work and educational stewards, initiate accessibility and parking projects, and prepare to implement actions following this year’s Visitor Use Management (VUM) projects in the Adirondack High Peaks and in the Catskills at Kaaterskill Clove. Removing this budget line imperils these efforts, which have made tangible progress toward addressing high recreational use in the Adirondack and Catskill Parks. 

The group does applaud the fact that the governor proposed retaining the overall State Land Stewardship budget and increasing NYSDEC staffing. It hopes both are carried over to the final budget, and that the latter is devoted toward increasing staffing in the Lands and Forests, and Operations divisions specifically. 

“We urge legislators to put Forest Preserve funding back as a line in the Environmental Protection Fund, as appeared in the final budget the past few years,” said Jeff Senterman, Executive Director of the Catskill Center. “This funding is critical for addressing high use and environmental protection, particularly at hot spots in the Catskill Park.” 

“The Forest Preserve needs dedicated 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. “We urge legislators to restore the dedicated Forest Preserve funding line in the state budget so that we can maintain the incredible progress made over the last two years.” 

“Forest Preserve funding makes it possible for us to educate the millions of visitors who come to the Catskill Park, and in doing so ensure that our environment and drinking water supplies are protected,” said Katherine Nadeau, Deputy Director of Catskill Mountainkeeper. “We’re calling on legislators to continue their commitment to the natural spaces that New Yorkers love and depend on by including Forest Preserve funding as a line in the Environmental Protection Fund” 

“OSI advocates for the restoration of funding dedicated to the Adirondack and Catskill Forest Preserves in the State Land Stewardship section of the EPF. Last year’s state EPF budget devoted $8 million to visitor safety and wilderness protection in the forest preserves. With increased visitation, these dedicated funds are needed now more than ever,” said Kathy Moser, Chief Conservation Officer, Open Space Institute. 

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