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Groups Call on Governor Hochul to Invest More into Forest Preserve

Groups Call on Governor Hochul to Invest More into Forest Preserve

December 13, 2021 — Albany, NY — Twenty-six outdoor recreation and conservation organizations and municipalities have called on Governor Kathy Hochul to devote $10 million in the New York State Budget to address high recreational use in the Catskill and Adirondack Forest Preserve Parks.

Representing 6.5 million acres of land—nearly a quarter of New York State—the Adirondack and Catskill regions serve as home and recreation lands to over a million residents in Forest Preserve counties (including nearly 200,000 who live within park boundaries), and over 25 million visitors annually. They also represent a great force to combat climate change as its forests provide oxygen, sequester carbon, provide clean drinking water, and protect habitat.

Currently, these crucial lands lack adequate funding to manage recreational use, which has increased dramatically over the last decade. Funding for staffing, infrastructure, trail work, and other support systems have not kept pace, putting stress on Forest Preserve communities and ecosystems. To address this, the coalition is calling for the following to be included in the New York State Budget:

  • $4 million for trail crews
  • $2.5 million for trail safety and climate resiliency projects
  • $1 million to support Adirondack and Catskill Park towns and villages for recreational infrastructure
  • $600,000 for Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Justice (DEIJ) programs and training
  • $550,000 for comprehensive planning projects
  • $500,000 for two full-time Park coordinator and support positions
  • $500,000 for more educational stewards in high-use areas
  • $350,000 for trailhead support services (portable toilets, signage, etc.)

For more details, read the letter here (PDF link).

“Over a century ago, New York created the Forest Preserve to protect clean water, habitat, and space for recreation. Today, New Yorkers are relying on these benefits more than ever.” said Michael Barrett, ADK Executive Director “We must invest $10 million in staffing, infrastructure, trail work, and other support systems to ensure that the Forest Preserve remains both protected and accessible for future generations.”

“The two forever wild Forest Preserve Parks of New York — the Catskill Park and the Adirondack Park — are the crown jewels of the state’s natural environment and deserve to be treated as such. A $10 million dollar investment will help protect these natural resources while continuing to offer recreational opportunities,” said Jeff Senterman, Executive Director of the Catskill Center. “The Catskills and Adirondacks, and their hikers, deserve better trails that protect the environment, and our communities need investments to build infrastructure to support the increasing number of visitors. We also need to find new ways to better welcome, educate, and direct visitors within our two Parks, with an eye to ensuring that there is access for all, and that all visitors feel welcome. The Catskill Center strongly supports including this funding for the Forest Preserve in the State Budget as well as long-term plans to provide the necessary funding and support to maintain New York’s most unique and important natural resources.”

“A rise in the number of visitors to the Forest Preserves of New York State has shown that we need to invest in both the protection of natural resources and the infrastructure necessary for responsible recreation.” said Josh Howard, New York-New Jersey Trail Conference Executive Director, “The communities within the Forest Preserves should be seen as resources to assist with visitor management, and New York State must support needed infrastructure for these efforts.”

“Issues of diversity, equity, inclusion, and justice must be incorporated into the management of New York State’s two Forest Preserve Parks,” said Adirondack Wilderness Advocates and Adirondack Diversity Initiative co-founder Pete Nelson. “These world-class preserves belong to all New Yorkers, and every visitor and resident must feel safe and welcomed. This is not just an issue of what’s right to do for the people, it’s also an issue of what’s right to do for the Forest Preserve. The Adirondack and Catskill Parks exist at the pleasure of the citizens of New York. As our state continues to grow more diverse, it is essential that these treasures truly belong to and are relevant to everyone. That’s how they will be sustained for future generations.”

“Increased funding is urgently needed to support the Forest Preserve communities and ecosystems that are a critical component of New York’s ambitious climate agenda,” said Peg Olsen, Adirondack Director of The Nature Conservancy in New York. “The Forest Preserves are a key source of clean air, clean water, and carbon storage and we cannot address climate change without adequately protecting our state’s incredible natural resources.”

“Outdoor Afro supports increased investment in the Catskill and Adirondack Forest Preserve,” said Taishya Adams, Outdoor Afro’s national policy and education director. “Our networks have been uncovering and amplifying significant Black American connections to nature in this area. We’re excited about the opportunity for increased funding that balances outdoor recreation and stewardship with the ecological and cultural contributions.”

“With a rise in visitation to the Catskill and Adirondack Parks, we must ensure that all visitors feel welcome, that those who manage the Parks understand and reflect those visitors, and that these Parks offer the opportunity for all to experience the tremendous natural beauty held forever wild by our Forest Preserves,” said Kim Elliman, President and CSO of the Open Space Institute.

“In the face of climate change, we must invest in the Forest Preserve to build infrastructure that is sustainable and resilient,” said Katherine Nadeau, Deputy Director of Catskill Mountainkeeper. “Our Forest Preserves provide clean air and clean water, and New York State must ensure that they remain as pristine and protected as possible.”

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