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NYS Budget Includes Historic Funding For The Catskills

Atop a Catskills Peak
WAMC, Allison Dunne

The New York state budget enacted last week includes a number of environmental investments, including record levels for the Catskills. Nonprofits in the Catskills and other parts of the Hudson Valley praise the legislature and Governor Andrew Cuomo for funding a number of environmental initiatives.

Deputy Director of Catskill Mountainkeeper Katherine Nadeau is cheering the level of investment in the Catskill Park and region. The budget continues Environmental Protection Fund, or EPF, funding at $300 million.

“Out of that, we’ve got $500,000 coming in to the Catskills for the Hemlock Woolly Adelgid Project, which is a project of Cornell University to try and beat back this nasty, invasive pest which threatens to decimate the Catskills and the hemlocks there, so that’s huge,” Nadeau says. “We’ve got $1.5 million for visitor safety and wilderness protection in the Catskill and Adirondack Forest Preserve. And that’s going to be huge because we have just seen visitor numbers skyrocket, especially with the COVID crisis. So getting money out into the woods and on the trails to help protect the woods, to help protect visitors, that’s exactly what we need. And Senator Hinchey was critically important in securing that funding. She really fought for us to make sure that that came through.”

Democratic state Senator Michelle Hinchey represents the 46th District.

“We were able to secure the first ever stewardship line, funding line for the Catskills Park at $100,000. That’s a first-time investment ever that will be organized by the Catskill Center and Catskill Mountainkeeper, which is really exciting,” Hinchey says. “The second piece as well is making sure that the Catskills Park has funding on par with the Adirondacks in the EPF, specifically for over-usage. As we see more and more people coming to the Catskills, finding our parks and our trails and our waterways, it’s so important that we have the money to steward them, that we have the money to build the infrastructure needed to have this influx of people, and to have the Catskills on par with the Adirondacks on that EPF line is going to be critical to be able to do that.”

The Environmental Protection Fund also includes $150,000 to help fund operations and programs of the Congressman Maurice D. Hinchey Catskills Visitor Center, named for Senator Hinchey’s late father. The Visitor Center is in Mount Tremper, in Ulster County.

The budget authorizes a $3 billion Restore Mother Nature Bond Act, which will be put to voters in the November 2022 general election. Scenic Hudson President Ned Sullivan:

“This is very important and historic because it will invest state resources in creating jobs while protecting our environment and our planet, in particular, in addressing climate change by funding renewable energy, by strengthening support for land preservation, also for protecting drinking water supplies and ensuring that, as the climate changes, we’re both taking steps to address it but also making our waterfronts more resilient and sustainable, protecting property,” Sullivan says.

The Bond Act did not make it into last year’s budget because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Hinchey also hails the restoration of the Restore Mother Nature Bond Act.

“It has a $1 billion for restoration and flood risk reduction, which we know in communities like ours is critical. As we see the effects of climate change, our waters are rising, our rivers are rising and our streams are overflowing, and we have to make sure that our infrastructure is updated adequately so that our communities are protected from that type of flood risk,” says Hinchey. “It also has a lot of money for water quality improvement and water infrastructure. There are communities across the district, in the 46th District, but upstate New York in general, that has infrastructure that’s up to 100 years old. Clean water is a human right, and there’s funding in the Bond Act that will make sure that we’re able to actually update our water infrastructure accordingly.”

Sullivan says it’s not the first time the state has put an environmental bond on the ballot.

“Over the years, there have been both successful and unsuccessful environmental bonds. I actually went to work for New York state some years ago to implement a bond act that was passed under Governor Mario Cuomo that created a $1 billion fund to clean up the hazardous waste sites in New York state," says Sullivan. "That was at the early, the beginning of that important program to investigate and clean up hazardous waste sites throughout New York state, that was part of a federal initiative that created the Superfund law that helped address one of the first toxic waste site discovered in this country — Love Canal, which was in western New York.”

Catskill Mountainkeeper’s Nadeau also praises the Bond Act headed to voters.

“That’s going to be a major shot in the arm for investments in everything from climate resiliency to helping, just helping with better water and sewer infrastructure and upgrades, and that’s going to help Catskills communities as well as communities across the state,” says Nadeau.

Separately, but also in the Catskills, Senator Hinchey helped provide $100,000 in the budget to create and promote a craft beverages trail, linking craft breweries, distilleries, wineries and cideries in the Catskills region.

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