Photo Credit: Jerry Monkman

Vast Majority of New York Voters Support Increased State
Investments in Conservation

Thatcher With Albany
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Voters recognize critical importance of water quality, infrastructure, natural resources

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ALBANY—December 2, 2015—A newly-released statewide bi-partisan public opinion survey shows that New Yorkers overwhelmingly support increasing public investment in the state’s environmental quality. The survey revealed extraordinary support statewide, across party lines in every demographic—confirming that voters understand investing in clean water, resilient infrastructure, and conserving natural resources are essential to building strong, healthy communities and economic prosperity in New York. The public release of the survey coincides with this week’s international focus on climate change and the environment in Paris.

The public opinion survey, commissioned by the Open Space Institute, The Trust for Public Land, The Nature Conservancy and the Adirondack Council, was conducted by a bipartisan team of polling firms to assess public support for proposals to enhance funding for land, water, and wildlife conservation in the state.*

Among the survey’s results are that New York voters overwhelmingly favor a new environmental bond measure (the last environmental bond act dates back to 1996), and that the public is eager to restore funding to the existing Environmental Protection Fund. Notably, 70 percent of voters said they would vote “yes” on a $5 billion bond act to protect clean air and water in the state. Among an array of potential uses of conservation funding, protecting water quality and rebuilding failing infrastructure are top priorities for New York voters. More than seven in ten voters also back providing funding for the Environmental Protection Fund (EPF) at $300 million per year—that pre-recession goal has not been achieved despite the economic recovery.

Support for investing in New York’s environment transcends party lines, is consistent across the state, and is important to all surveyed groups of voters. In fact, a majority of all voter segments surveyed support investments that will ensure water quality, help prepare for and cope with extreme weather events, and conserve our natural resources for future generations.

This public opinion survey is the latest in a series of surveys conducted over the past decade to gauge voter interest and support in environmental investment. While interest has been trending up over the past decade, the results of this most recent survey reflect extraordinarily high interest in and support for conservation initiatives.

Other key specific findings from the survey include:

  • Water quality and infrastructure rank among voters’ top concerns.
  • Voters overwhelmingly support a conservation bond measure for New York State. Seventy percent said they would vote for a bond measure to fund clean water, clean air and infrastructure projects. Significantly, there are nearly three times as many “definitely yes” as “definitely no” voters, a reliable predictor that a bond measure would pass.
  • Shares of “yes” voters were robust across a variety of demographic groups, such as:
  • Majorities in each party: 81 percent of Democrats, 51 percent of Republicans, and 68 percent of independents;
  • Three-quarters (76%) of women, and nearly two-thirds (65%) of men;
  • More than four in five (83%) voters of color, and 66 percent of white voters; and
  • Twice as many upstate voters said they would vote “yes” (61 percent) as “no” (32 percent), while New York City voters were also strongly in favor at 77 percent “yes.”
  • Voters remained supportive, even when faced with hypothetical household cost estimates—70% supported the measure for a cost of $33 a year and 61% supported the measure for a cost of $55 a year.
  • Water and disaster preparedness are voters’ clear top priorities—but they believe a wide array of conservation funding projects are important. New York voters are by far most supportive of conservation spending on water quality and rebuilding infrastructure, and they also support funding programs that preserve forests and wildlife habitat, improve air quality, keep parks open and well-maintained and provide public access to waterfronts.
  • New York voters also strongly support fully funding the Environmental Protection Fund. Voters were offered a description of the state’s Environmental Protection Fund, which was created to provide reliable funding to protect clean drinking water, natural areas, state parks and farmland, and to protect public health. More than seven in ten (73%) voters said they support fully funding the Environmental Protection Fund.
  • Taken together, the survey results indicate that voters show a clear interest in conservation and would support a variety of mechanisms to increase state investments in programs that protect clean drinking water, increase community resilience and reduce impacts from extreme weather, and protect land and water for future generations.

 

“This poll confirms that New Yorkers overwhelmingly recognize the importance of protecting our natural resources and ensuring that our communities are environmentally healthy and strong. Moreover, it provides a clear message that voters are willing to pay for improved environmental security through enhanced investment in reliable and resilient infrastructure, water and air quality and the long-term protection of forests, habitats, parks and farmland,” said Kim Elliman, president and CEO of the Open Space Institute.

“New Yorkers’ willingness to fund conservation investments demonstrates that across the state, regardless of politics, people understand how important clean water, resilient infrastructure, and protecting the state’s incredible natural resources are—community prosperity, recreation and tourism opportunities, quality of life, and the potential for economic development all depend on making sure that we make the needed investment to protect our environmental resources,” said Stuart Gruskin, Chief Conservation and External Affairs Officer for The Nature Conservancy in New York.

"In the advent of more severe climate-driven weather events, and recognition by global leaders of the devastating impacts of Sea Level Rise, drought and episodic weather events on our neighborhoods and local economies--the role of land conservation as buffers that protect our communities and drinking water has never been more important. The Trust for Public Land's Return on Investment Study shows that every $1 invested from the Environmental Protection Fund on land and water conservation produces a $7 economic return for New York that supports local businesses and tourism. It is encouraging that New Yorker voters demonstrate such widespread support for environmental funding,” said Marc Matsil, New York State Director for The Trust for Public Land.

“When it comes to the Adirondack Park, New York voters know that investments in clean water, wilderness and wildlife are investments in the future and the health and resiliency of our communities,” William C. Janeway, Executive Director of the Adirondack Council. “Tourism and agriculture are top industries. Adirondack businesses depend on state investments in clean air, pure water, healthy forests and scenic beauty.”

 

*Methodology: Fairbank, Maslin, Maullin, Metz & Associates (FM3) and Public Opinion Strategies (POS) conducted a statewide telephone survey, on landline and wireless phones, of 800 New York voters likely to cast ballots in November 2016. The survey was conducted from Aug. 30 to Sept. 4, 2015. The margin of sampling error for the full study is +/- 3.5 percentage points at the 95% confidence level; margins of error for population subgroups will be higher.

 

 
 
Contact:

Eileen Larrabee (OSI)
518.427.1564

Jessica Ottney Mahar (TNC)
518.690.7873

Matthew Zieper (TPL)
617.367.6200, ext. 532

John Sheehan (The Adirondack Council)
518.432.1770


 

 

 

                            

                     

 

For Immediate Release:                                                                                                      Contact: Eileen Larrabee (OSI) 518.427.1564

October 20, 2014                                                                                                                                                Andy Bicking (Scenic Hudson) 914.489.1568

                                                                                                                                                                Jessica Ottney (TNC) 518.690.7873

                                                                                                                                                                Ethan Winter (LTA) 518.587.0774

                                                                                                                                                                Laura Ten Eyck (AFT) 518.581.0078

                                                                                                                                                                Andrew Zepp (FLLT) 607.275.9487

                                                                                                                                                                Marc Matsil (TPL) 212.574.6868

 

 

Conservation Groups Applaud Cuomo Administration’s Open Space Conservation Plan

 

Urge funding increase to combat impacts of climate change

and promote clean water and air, outdoor recreation and farmland protection.

 

October 20, 2014                – A group of New York State’s leading conservation organizations today affirmed their support for Governor Andrew Cuomo’s draft statewide Open Space Conservation Plan and called for a renewed state funding commitment to implement the plan. Once finalized, the plan will guide New York State’s open space and farmland protection investments through the state Environmental Protection Fund (EPF) and other sources of public and private funding.

 

Leaders from the Open Space Institute, Scenic Hudson, The Nature Conservancy, the Land Trust Alliance, the Trust for Public Land, the American Farmland Trust and the Finger Lakes Land Trust offered praise for the governor’s momentous plan which underscores the multitude of benefits derived by effective land conservation. The Cuomo plan underscores the importance of protecting natural resources and emphasizes the important role land conservation plays in promoting clean water and air, outdoor recreation, working farms, habitat protection and climate change mitigation.

 

In offering support for the draft plan, the groups also urged Governor Cuomo and other state leaders to renew the state’s financial commitment to land conservation, which has fallen sharply since the recession hit and has not rebounded. This year’s total of $51 million in funding for land conservation programs within the Environmental Protection Fund (EPF) through the state land conservation, farmland protection and municipal parks programs, stands at just 50 percent of what it was in 2008-09.

 

In order to reverse the funding trend and achieve the governor’s plan, the groups urged that the EPF be increased from $162 million to $200 million in the next state fiscal year. Within the expanded Fund, the groups urged land conservation funding programs be increased by $26 million (including a $10 million increase for the state land conservation program; an $11 million increase for the farmland protection program; and a $5 million increase for the municipal parks program).

 

 

“Governor’s Cuomo’s Open Space Conservation Plan outlines a land conservation agenda in keeping with our time; connecting land conservation to protecting our natural resources, promoting public access to parks, protecting farmland and responding to the effects climate change is having on ecosystems and habitats,” said Erik Kulleseid, senior vice president for the Open Space Institute. “The governor’s plan provides a terrific framework and we urge him and state leaders to renew New York’s commitment to investing in land conservation in a way that will achieve the goals set out in the plan.”

 

“The Nature Conservancy commends Governor Cuomo, DEC Commissioner Joe Martens and Parks Commissioner Rose Harvey for crafting a new Open Space Conservation Plan that captures the critical benefits land conservation provides our state. New York’s land conservation program generates a $7 return for every $1 invested while creating jobs, buffering communities from extreme weather, protecting natural resources and improving our quality of life. We look forward to working with the Governor and other state leaders to enhance funding for this program in the coming budget to achieve these goals for all New Yorkers,” said Jessica Ottney Mahar, Director of Government Relations for The Nature Conservancy in New York.

 

“New York State and the Hudson Valley are ripe with opportunities to implement Governor Cuomo’s Open Space Conservation Plan. Doing so will provide a multitude of benefits – designing resilient waterfronts in the face of sea level rise and destructive storms protects property values, while conserving the region’s farmland secures access to fresh, local food and the jobs of our food economy. New York State is fortunate to have such visionary planning document in place that shows us the path toward a vibrant and economically productive future,” said Ned Sullivan, President of Scenic Hudson.

 

“Governor Cuomo's Open Space Plan sends a clear message that New York must protect the land that is needed for our farmers and food businesses and to make farming and our food supply more resilient to severe weather. We look forward to working with Governor Cuomo and the State Legislature to securing the state funding and taking other steps that are necessary to put this plan into action,” said David Haight, New York State Director, American Farmland Trust.

 

“Renewed investment from the Environmental Protection Fund will leverage a highly capable network of local, regional and statewide land trusts and other community partners. New York's 90+ conservation organizations, from Brooklyn-Queens Land Trust to the Western New York Land Conservancy, are dedicated to assisting families and local communities across the state. We greatly appreciate Governor Cuomo’s efforts to restore the Fund, and we look forward to doing what we can as partners to advance the state’s ambitious open space goals. Working together, we are building on a century of forward-thinking stewardship and collaborative land conservation in New York,” said Ethan Winter, New York conservation manager for the Land Trust Alliance

 

“The Governor’s Open Space Plan clearly outlines the steps that are needed to ensure the future of lands that are vital to both our quality of life and our economy here in the Finger Lakes Region. We applaud the priorities highlighted in the plan–specifically the conservation of prime farmland; lands that provide clean water to our lakes; and lands that provide outstanding opportunities for outdoor recreation to residents and visitors alike. To achieve the ambitious goals laid out in the plan, however, we must make a greater commitment to funding these projects through the state's Environmental Protection Fund,” said Andrew Zepp, executive director of the Finger Lakes Land Trust.

 

Note:  Governor Cuomo’s Open Space Conservation Plan is available here:

 

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