Nonprofits Call for Green Investment for NY’s Health and Economy

HUDSON VALLEY, N.Y.,9/24/2009: A group of 11 bipartisan elected officials and 25 nonprofit environmental and community groups is calling on Gov. David A. Paterson and the state legislature to keep their word on funding for the state’s Environmental Protection Fund (EPF).

Although the EPF is less than 1 percent of the state budget and for this year was reduced by nearly 25 percent from funding levels passed into law in 2007, the program creates economic stimulus and spurs private investment in nearly every region of the state. The group says doing right by the EPF is a win-win because the investment in land, healthy air and water, maintaining working farms, and other green infrastructure improvements is not only good for the environment, it is good for business.

The EPF proponents stated that a small investment by the state in land protection creates enormous economic stimulus and serves as a catalyst for private investment. Each $1 of state EPF funds invested can generate as much as $40 in private funds, according to a NYS Preservation Plan study. The elected officials and advocates used real-life projects to showcase that the EPF produces huge returns on investment through creating jobs, generating tax revenues that reduce the need for property-tax increases, and producing spending to fuel regional economies.

EPF land acquisition and waterfront revitalization programs help sustain 1 in every 16 NYS jobsEPF land acquisition is critical for growing the state’s tourism industry. Per a 2008 report by the firm Tourism Economics of Philadelphia, Penn., based on data from the NYS Department of Labor and U.S. Department of Commerce-tourism is responsible for 672,000 jobs, or 6.1 percent of all employment across New York. The report further identified that in the 10-county Hudson Valley region, tourism each year creates $4.7 billion in spending, employs 80,000 people and contributes nearly $300 million in local taxes.

EPF land conservation programs support agriculture-a leading business sector vital to sustainability
Likewise, the EPF supports farm businesses that are responsible for $4.5 billion in sales of farm products statewide and $500 million in the Hudson Valley. Farms and related businesses are part of farm and food industry sectors that annually contribute $23 billion to the state economy. Hudson Valley farms are an increasingly important draw for tourism within scenic landscapes that encompass 1,000 square miles in the valley. In addition to economic benefits, farming provides secure local supplies of fresh food and highly cost-effective ways to improve two pressing environmental challenges – water quality and climate change. The above data is from the Glynwood Center, Cold Spring, N.Y.; NYS Department of Agriculture & Markets; U.S. Department of Agriculture; Cornell University and American Farmland Trust.

State’s Estuary Program another high-benefit piece of EPF
While EPF monies for land preservation and farmland protection are important parts of the EPF, it also supports the Hudson River Estuary Program-a state and private-sector partnership that encourages counties, towns and villages in the Hudson Valley to embrace stewardship of their unique land and waterfront assets and to plan the future of their communities while protecting the general health and beauty of the region. The Estuary Program and its partners conserve the Hudson River’s natural resources, clean up pollution and promote public use of the river-all of which pose economic advantages. In addition to supporting the tourism economy, the Estuary Program protects and enhances the Hudson Valley’s unique quality of life, a cornerstone of a sustainable economy for the region.

According to the Hudson Valley Economic Development Corporation and its 2008 survey of 2,000 corporate executives and site-selection professionals nationwide, the valley’s quality of life, nature and beauty are leading selling points. The Empire State Development Corporation indicates that the Mid-Hudson Region has the largest concentration of Fortune 500 headquarters in the state outside of New York City.

Greenway funding separate from EPF but an important piece of the picture
The Hudson River Valley Greenway is an innovative state agency promoting the intersection of the environment and economy throughout the region. Without adequate funding this group can’t succeed in its innovative approaches to preserving the valley’s scenic, natural, historic and recreational resources and promoting them as building blocks for economic development that complements rather than degrades these irreplaceable land and water assets. In particular the Greenway’s efforts to create continuous hiking and water trails along the Hudson are vital to the Hudson Valley’s economic prosperity and treasured quality of life.

Call to Governor and Legislators
On Earth Day last April, New York’s environmental community celebrated a major victory with the governor and legislative leaders. Although reduced by $78 million from a level outlined by the 2007 EPF Enhancement Act, the EPF was appropriated $222 million for this year’s budget. Also meaningful was a publicly made commitment not to raid EPF funding for use in the General Fund of the budget.

Now a group of legislators and nonprofit community groups is calling for Gov. Paterson and legislative leaders to make good on their commitments by:

  1. Authorizing agencies that administer EPF programs focusing on land protection to spend the money appropriated for this year’s budget;
  2. Resisting further cuts or “sweeping” of uncommitted EPF balances into the General Fund of the budget;
  3. Maintaining funding for the Hudson River Valley Greenway and providing promised resources to fulfill the Hudson River Estuary Program’s Action Agenda as well as Waterfront Revitalization grants that protect the region’s waterfronts and water resources.

State Senator Neil D. Breslin (D,IP,WF-Albany County), State Senator Vincent L. Leibell (R-Patterson), State Senator Suzi Oppenheimer (D-Mamaroneck), State Senator Steve Saland (R,C,I-Poughkeepsie), State Senator Antoine M. Thompson (D-parts of Erie and Niagara counties), Assemblyman Kevin A. Cahill (D-Ulster and Dutchess counties), Assemblyman Pete Lopez (R,C,I-Schoharie), Assemblyman Marc Molinaro (R,C,I-Red Hook), Assemblyman Frank Skartados (D-Milton), Assemblyman Bob Sweeney (D-Lindenhurst), and Ulster County Executive Michael P. Hein (D).

American Farmland Trust, Audubon New York, Cary Institute of Ecosystem Studies, Columbia Land Conservancy, Dutchess County Tourism, Esopus Creek Conservancy, Hudson Highlands Land Trust, Hudson River Sloop Clearwater, Inc., Hudson River Towns, Land Trust Alliance, Metropolitan Waterfront Alliance, Mohawk Hudson Land Conservancy, The Nature Conservancy, New York-New Jersey Trail Conference, Olana Partnership, Open Space Institute, Orange County Land Trust, Parks & Trails New York, Rensselaer Land Trust, Riverkeeper, Scenic Hudson, The Trust for Public Land, Walkill Valley Land Trust, West Branch Conservation Association, and Westchester Land Trust.