the Joint Fiscal Committees of the State
Legislature on the FY2016-17 Budget
Institute’s Alliance for New York State Parks Program
ALBANY, NY - January
28, 2016 - Senate
Finance Chair Young and Assembly Ways & Means Chair Farrell, Chairs O’Mara,
Englebright, Funke and Markey, distinguished legislators – thank you for the
opportunity to discuss Governor Cuomo's proposed budget as it relates to our
state parks and the Environmental Protection Fund.
am Erik Kulleseid, Senior Vice President at the Open Space Institute and
Executive Director of its Alliance for New York State Parks program.
is one of New York's leading land and park conservation nonprofits. As such, we are grateful that with his budget
proposal, Governor Cuomo is expressing a renewed and historic commitment to the
state’s Environmental Protection Fund and continuing his state park
revitalization initiative; as well as a new program aimed at strengthening park
its 40-year history, OSI, working with our land conservation partners, has
added more than 40,000 acres to state parks. These transactions achieve a
variety of goals, from creating new parks and adding valuable acreage, to
providing important buffer zones and connectivity.
overall effect on the state park system has been significant. OSI’s work
accounts for more than 10 percent of the state park system’s total acreage of
more than 335,000 acres.
with its Alliance for New York State Parks program, OSI has extended its
commitment to public enjoyment of parks through advocacy, private fundraising
and support of public-private endeavors that are adding to the revitalization
of New York’s magnificent state park system.
am here today to express our enthusiastic support for the governor’s environmental
and parks budget – particularly as it pertains to this year’s historic increase
to the EPF. Of course, in praising the
EPF budget advanced by the governor, I would be remiss if I did not acknowledge
and credit both chambers of the Legislature who have been ardent supporters of
both protecting and expanding the EPF.
we applaud the governor’s plan, we know that we have many active and steadfast
friends in both the Assembly and Senate who have been fierce supporters of the
EPF and we are grateful for this longstanding commitment.
I get in to detailed remarks, I think it’s worthwhile to pause and reflect on
the remarkable turnabout that has occurred for our state parks and
environmental funding in the past five years.
In 2010, 90 out of 213 state parks and historic sites were at risk of
closing due to budget cuts. The EPF
collapsed by 47 percent.
that dark moment, however, Governor Cuomo, the Assembly and the Senate have
forged a bipartisan and stable consensus that our parks are reflections of our
state, and that we need to burnish the places that help drive New York’s
tourism industry and quality of life, particularly upstate and on Long
this year’s infusion to the EPF, we urge that you forge the same bipartisan
consensus around the need to invest in New York’s environment generally, and
restore our leadership. New Yorkers are
with you, boosting their visitorship to parks by 10 percent in recent years and
by showing 70 percent support for a $300 million EPF in polling conducted late
governor’s proposal to fund the EPF at $300 million represents an historic
advancement in the conservation and protection of New York’s natural resources;
and supports clean water, land preservation, job creation and stronger
are particularly grateful that among the EPF categories slated for increase are
the open space acquisition fund (which grows from $26.5 million to $40 million)
and the State Lands Stewardship fund (which grows from $18.5 million to $28
increased support for open space conservation underscores the value that smart
and effective land conservation can and does play a role in building stronger
communities. From promoting clean water
and air, outdoor recreation, working farms and forests, to protecting habitats
and mitigating the storm-related impacts of climate change, land conservation
is an invaluable, long-term solution in the pursuit of environmental security.
State Land Stewardship category not only maintains $500,000 for
capacity-building grants to state park and historic site friends groups it also supports both DEC and State Parks capital
and operations programs. We urge funding
support for these critical stewardship initiatives.
addition to the EPF dollars, we are delighted to see the governor include another
$90 million installment to support ongoing efforts to restore and upgrade New
York’s wonderful system of state parks.
With his budget proposal, Governor Cuomo is maintaining a 10 year
commitment outlined in his Parks 2020 Plan to revitalize state parks and make
them more accessible, appealing and welcoming for generations of park
decades of state park underinvestment resulting in a $1 billion backlog in
maintenance and repairs, Governor Cuomo launched his Parks 2020 initiative,
resulting in a state park renaissance that is underway in every region
throughout the state. Funding announced
in the executive budget builds on this success.
are extraordinarily grateful to Governor Cuomo for his unwavering commitment to
New York’s beloved state parks. Thanks
to the governor, and legislators who stood with state parks when they were at
their lowest, and have been partners in turning the fortunes of our spectacular
natural and cultural treasures, great things are happening at state parks
throughout New York. This ongoing
commitment marks the most significant and sustained infusion of resources
needed to repair, upgrade and enhance New York’s increasingly popular state
to him and to you, great things are happening at state parks throughout New
York. From new nature centers at Letchworth and Thacher state parks, to major
restoration projects at Niagara Falls, Jones Beach and Minnewaska, our state
parks are undergoing a transformation unlike anything this state has ever
investments are transforming a once beleaguered system and restoring our
greatest natural treasures as sources of pride, community vitality and economic
strength. On behalf of the more than 62 million people who visit state parks
each year and the businesses and workers that benefit from the economic
activity they spur, we appreciate all Governor Cuomo and the Legislature have
done to address the park’s capital backlog needs and look forward to working
with the Senate and Assembly members to secure this latest installment in parks
the operations side of the ledger, this year’s budget once again by-and-large
freezes state parks funding at last year’s levels. For an agency that has seen
its budget cut by twenty percent over recent years in the face of rising fixed
costs, and a growing number of visitors, it is difficult to maintain confidence
that the agency or the New Yorkers it serves is truly being held harmless.
once again credit Commissioner Rose Harvey for leading the Office of Parks
during these lean times. The Commissioner’s efforts to establish operating
partnerships, improve efficiency and enhance the visitor experience shine
through with the capital projects and programs advancing through Parks 2020.
you for your time this afternoon and for the work you do to advance the cause
of protecting and enhancing New York’s precious environmental and recreational
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