The Friends of New York’s Environment, a broad partnership of more than 100 environmental, public health, agricultural conservation, recreational and urban stakeholder groups, joined Governor Cuomo in commemorating the creation of the Environmental Protection Fund (EPF) 20 years ago. On August 17, 1993, Governor Mario Cuomo signed the Environmental Protection Fund into law at a ceremony at the Heurich Estate on the scenic shores of Lake Champlain.
Since that time, the EPF has invested more than $2.7 billion to conserve some of the most treasured landscapes and sites in New York State – the high peaks of the Adirondacks and Catskills, the iconic beaches of Long Island, old growth forests in the Allegany region, the revitalized waterfronts and parks in the Hudson Valley, working farmlands in the Southern Tier and our northern coast along the Great Lakes.
The EPF has allowed communities to create local parks, and preserve and restore historic sites like the Apollo Theater in New York City and the Darwin Martin House in Buffalo. The Fund has supported our world‐class environmental education and tourism destinations, from the Walkway over the Hudson to Niagara Falls State Park to the Bronx Zoo and New York Botanical Garden. It has helped communities close landfills and operate recycling programs, improving neighborhoods for future generations, and all leading to economic improvements.
In the past twenty years, annual EPF appropriations have grown from $31 million in 1993 to more than $250 million in 2008 at the Fund’s highest. The EPF now stands at $153 million. Governor Cuomo, together with the Legislature, added $19 million to the Fund in this year’s budget – the first increase since the recent economic crisis – which will enhance critical programs that benefit every county in New York State by creating jobs, conserving clean air and water, and supporting essential municipal services.
A 2011 study by The Trust for Public Land showed that every $1 invested in land and water protection through the EPF has returned $7 to the state in natural goods and services.
Jessica Ottney Mahar, director of government relations for The Nature Conservancy in New York said: “The Nature Conservancy appreciates our successful partnership with the State, local governments and others over the last 20 years on EPF projects that enhance the economy and the quality of life for New Yorkers. Projects such as conserving the former Finch Pruyn lands in the Adirondacks, protecting the drinking water supply for the City of Rochester at Hemlock and Canadice Lakes, creating community-based invasive species prevention and management partnerships, and stewarding unique natural resources at our more than 100 preserves around the state, are only possible with support from EPF programs. The Nature Conservancy applauds Governor Mario Cuomo and the Legislature for having the vision and foresight to create the EPF, and Governor Andrew Cuomo and the Legislature for working to enhance the Fund in this year’s budget.”
“A perfect example of how the EPF has improved both the economy and the environment are the projects completed over the past 20 years in the Adirondack Park,” said Adirondack Council Executive Director William C. Janeway. “It has been used to buy and protect tens of thousands of acres of new Wilderness, boosting tourism while protecting wildlife and water quality. It has also allowed the state to buy development rights on hundreds of thousands of acres of commercial timberland, ensuring that they will remain healthy forests forever, while providing jobs and wood products for generations to come. And the law was signed by Gov. Mario Cuomo right here in the Adirondack Park.”
Erin Crotty, executive director of Audubon New York said: “Over the past twenty years through economic challenges and opportunities, the EPF has proven to be a stable source of critical funding supporting essential programs that have simultaneously protected New York’s land, air and water, and enhanced the State’s economy through ecotourism, job creation, and improved public health. We applaud the long‐standing bipartisan support for the EPF, the leadership of former Governors Mario
Cuomo and George Pataki, the legislature, and the unwavering commitment, vision and leadership of
Governor Andrew Cuomo. We look forward to working with Governor Cuomo, the Legislature, and the
Friends of New York’s Environment Coalition to ensure the EPF investments continue to put people to work improving our environment.”
Neil Woodworth, executive director of the Adirondack Mountain Club said: “The land stewardship monies of the EPF make it possible for the Adirondack Mountain Club to work on hundreds of miles of foot trails and mountain bike trails each year, providing additional outdoor recreational opportunities for New Yorkers of all ability levels.”
Richard Schrader, policy and legislative director for Natural Resources Defense Council said: “The 20th anniversary of the EPF is an opportunity to acknowledge a strong and vibrant environmental program that has expanded the state’s ability to protect its land and oceans as well as fund zoos, aquariums, and botanic gardens. The next step is to bring its funding back to the levels required.”
Andrew Postiglione, fiscal policy associate for Environmental Advocates of New York said: “For 20 years, the EPF has been one of the state’s most successful programs, protecting our environment while creating economic opportunity for local communities. With climate change causing more severe and unpredictable storms and weather patterns, the EPF is going to play an even more important role in the next 20 years. We applaud Governor Cuomo and the Legislature for committing new funds to the program in this year’s budget, and will continue to work hand‐in‐hand with them to leverage additional support for the vital community projects that the EPF makes possible.”
Ned Sullivan, president of Scenic Hudson stated: “Governor Cuomo has once again demonstrated his understanding of the close relationship between New York’s economic rebirth and the environment. His support of the Environmental Protection Fund in the recently‐passed state budget and acknowledgement of job‐creating natural resource strategies in regional economic development plans are fitting tributes to the 20th anniversary of the fund. We look forward to collaborating with his administration in the year ahead to safeguard our land and create parks important to recreation, public health and the tourism economy, restore the Hudson Estuary and its world‐class fisheries, and sustain our agricultural businesses through strategic conservation of working farms.”
Adrienne Esposito, executive director for Citizens Campaign for the Environment said: “The Environmental Protection Fund is the most significant environmental program in the history of New York State and has improved the quality of life for every New Yorker. Today, Citizens Campaign for the Environment thanks both those with the foresight to create EPF twenty years ago and Governor Cuomo, for recognizing the immense benefit the EPF continues to provide to both the environment and economy, and for his leadership to increase the EPF for the first time in years.”
Ricardo Gotla, legislative director for the New York League of Conservation Voters said: “New Yorkers expect our state government to protect its natural resources. Thanks to bi‐partisan support, the
Environmental Protection Fund has invested more than $2.7 billion over 20 years to preserve our water, air and land. We look forward to working with Governor Cuomo and legislative leaders to grow the EPF for the next generation of New Yorkers.”
Aaron Bouska, associate vice president for government and community relations for the New York Botanical Garden said: “The New York Botanical Garden, as one of the nation’s premiere living museums, applauds Governor Cuomo for his leadership and commitment to the Environmental Protection Fund and the Zoos, Botanical Garden, and Aquarium program. Across New York State, living museums like NYBG use EPF funding to educate and inspire the next generations of conservation stewards, maintain beautiful and important tourist destinations, and support thousands of jobs from the Bronx to Buffalo. We look forward to continuing this historic partnership and are deeply appreciative of this collaboration.”
Ethan Winter, New York conservation manager for the Land Trust Alliance said: “On behalf of New York’s 90+ land trusts and the many communities they serve from Long Island to Lake Erie, we commend Governor Cuomo’s commitment to the Environmental Protection Fund. For twenty years, the Fund has leveraged resources to help private landowners and community partners work together, conserving working farms and forests, protecting clean water, and preserving our rich natural heritage. In turn, the EPF supports thousands of jobs associated with tourism, outdoor recreation and agriculture, three important pillars of New York State’s economy.”
Marc Matsil, New York state director for The Trust for Public Land said: “We applaud Gov. Cuomo for recognizing the important role that the Environmental Protection Fund plays in protecting and enhancing New York’s environment and economy. Our research has shown that every $1 invested in land and water protection through the program returns $7 in economic value to the state, so this is a smart investment in our future.”
The Friends of New York’s Environment plans to highlight the local benefits of the EPF in 20th anniversary events around the State in the coming weeks. Organizations are hopeful that the progress made in this year’s budget will continue, and the EPF will be enhanced again in the next state budget. For more information on the EPF, visit www.keepprotectingny.org.