ELIZABETHTOWN — The Adirondack Council and other green groups are glad to see a growing Environmental Protection Fund for New York.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo finalized the state budget with Assembly and Senate leaders late last Friday, and the legislature approved it Monday.
The spending plan puts $162 million into the Environmental Protection Fund, a pool of money administered by several state agencies for state land purchases, invasive species protection, Smart Growth grants, Empire State Development resources and projects allocated through the Departments of Agriculture and Markets and the Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation.
CHANGES OVER YEARS
Established in 1993, the fund comes in large part from real-estate transfer taxes. It started with $31 million that year and reached $255 million in 2008 before spending cuts were made during the recession.
The increase of $9 million over last year’s allocation is viewed as a start to what environmentalists consider “fully funded” — restoring the fund to 2008-09 levels.
“This year’s dedication of additional funding to the EPF is a welcome use of the state’s budget surplus and marks a continuation of the state’s reinvestment in environmental programs,” the Adirondack Council said in a statement.
Audubon New York’s Executive Director Erin Crotty said the increased funding would help build wildlife-habitat stewardship partnerships with private landowners to conserve dwindling grassland habitat for songbirds.
That funding, she said in a statement, “would complement the state’s existing programs, such as the open-space and farmland-protection programs, which provide resources to protect priority habitats.”
Adirondack Council Executive Director Willie Janeway said his organization would like to build on the $9 million increase in coming years.
The council had pushed for a $200 million Protection Fund in this budget, charging that key funding is necessary to address aging wastewater treatment systems in the Adirondack Park and the threat of invasive species.