The Adirondack Council has announced its legislative priorities agenda for 2016, that will have the environmental protection organization urging state lawmakers to expand the High Peaks Wilderness, ban most all-terrain vehicles permanently from the “forever wild” Forest Preserve, and address community infrastructure needs.
Also on the Council’s Adirondack agenda are:
• The Environmental Protection Fund;
• State grants to communities that need to repair and replace outdated clean water systems;
• Restoration of environmental staff positions at the Adirondack Park Agency and Department of Environmental Conservation;
• Money to fight invasive species; and,
• Changes to timberland tax laws that would encourage conservation of private forests.
The Governor is expected to release his State-of-the-State and 2016-17 budget proposal on January 13th. The NYS Legislative Session runs from January to June.
“Looking ahead to 2016, the Adirondack Council is optimistic,” said Adirondack Council Executive Director William C. Janeway.
“State finances are strong and Governor Andrew Cuomo and state officials have made positive statements regarding purchasing land in the Adirondacks, setting bold new goals to combat climate change and expand use of renewable energy, investing in infrastructure, and investing in communities.”
Janeway said the Council and other environmental partners are urging the Governor and Legislature to fully fund the 22-year-old Environmental Protection Fund with $300 million.
That sum would include $60 million for open space protection, $10 million to combat invasive species and at least $25 million for state land stewardship.
To protect lakes, rivers and drinking water supplies throughout the Adirondack Park, the Adirondack Council recommends approval an $800-million Wastewater Infrastruc-ture Investment Act.
The money would help bridge the divide between the cost of fixing failing sewage systems and the amount that the park’s small, rural communities can afford to pay.
The Council urged state lawmakers to amend the Real Property Tax Law, Sections 480/480(a) to create new incentives for owners of private forests to earn tax breaks by agreeing to sustainable management plans for their undeveloped forest lands.
Securing a stable future for private forest owners is essential to keeping large, unbroken forests intact to protect existing wildlife and provide migration pathways for wildlife whose habitat will change along with a warming climate, Janeway explained.
Finally, the Council will seek a permanent ban on most ATV riding on public Forest Preserve inside the Adirondack Park. Currently, the state ban on ATV use on the Forest Preserve is policy, not a law.
“The Adirondack Forest Preserve is just too sensitive to be used as a recreational playground for ATV riding,” Janeway said.
“There are other, less fragile places inside and outside the Adirondack Park where the State can expand but still control ATV access. This includes locations where the state owns recreational rights on commercial timberlands.”
Hiring Environmental Professionals
In the 2015–16 State fiscal year 36 vacant staff positions were restored at the Department of Environmental Conservation, but there were no restorations at the Adirondack Park Agency (APA), according to Janeway.
“To assist with community outreach, planning and oversight for new and existing state lands, and compliance, at least two of the vacant positions at the APA should be filled,” he said.
Founded in 1975, the Adirondack Council, a privately funded not-for-profit organization, seeks to ensure the ecological integrity and wild character of the Adirondack Park.