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DEC announces conservation partnership program grants

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Sat, Dec 12th 2020 07:00 am

Funding for 50 land trusts to protect open spaces, improve water quality & support local economies

New York State Department of Environmental Conservation Commissioner Basil Seggos recently announced more than $2.2 million in conservation partnership program grants for 50 not-for-profit land trusts across the state. A total of 69 grants funded through New York's Environmental Protection Fund will leverage an additional $2.6 million in private and local funding to support projects that protect water quality and farmland, boost public access for outdoor recreation, and conserve open space to benefit community health, tourism and economic development. The Land Trust Alliance administers the conservation partnership program in coordination with DEC.

“Over the last year, New Yorkers young and old have been exploring the outdoors in record numbers,” Seggos said. “Land trusts across the state help to preserve and manage some of the special, natural places that the public has come to love. The grants announced today support forest management, conservation agriculture, coastal and wetlands restoration, and other activities that are essential to help address climate change and preserve the ecosystems we depend on. We commend the Land Trust Alliance for administering this important program.”

In addition, the $2.2 million in conservation partnership program grants and $2.6 million in private and local funding will increase state lands’ resilience to the changing climate and contribute to climate solutions by storing carbon. Natural climate solutions will have a significant role in addressing risks associated with climate change.

The grant awards announced range from $3,161 to $100,000, and include:

Western New York/Finger Lakes/Southern Tier – (total $268,393)

  • Buffalo Niagara River Land Trust: Capacity Grant $18,750
  • Chautauqua Watershed Conservancy: Transaction Grant $40,000
  • Finger Lakes Land Trust: Transaction Grant $19,000
  • Genesee Land Trust: Capacity Grant $35,000; Transaction Grant $24,580
  • Grassroots Gardens WNY: Capacity Grants $56,063
  • The Nature Sanctuary Society of Western New York: Capacity Grant $25,000
  • Western New York Land Conservancy: Transaction Grant $50,000 

A detailed breakdown of these grants is available on the DEC website here.

This year's grantees include 34 accredited land trusts that have secured independent verification that their work and operations meet high standards for land conservation, stewardship and nonprofit management. Accredited grantees include Adirondack Land Trust, Agricultural Stewardship Association, Cazenovia Preservation Foundation, Champlain Area Trails, Columbia Land Conservancy, Dutchess Land Conservancy, Finger Lakes Land Trust, Genesee Land Trust, Greene Land Trust, Huyck Preserve, Hudson Highlands Land Trust, Indian River Lakes Conservancy, Lake George Land Conservancy, Mianus River Gorge, Mohawk Hudson Land Conservancy, Mohonk Preserve, Northeast Wilderness Trust, North Shore Land Alliance, Open Space Institute, Orange County Land Trust, Otsego Land Trust, Peconic Land Trust, Rensselaer Land Trust, Rensselaer Plateau Alliance, Saratoga PLAN (Saratoga Preserving Land and Nature), Scenic Hudson Land Trust, The Nature Conservancy, Thousand Islands Land Trust, Tug Hill Tomorrow Land Trust, Wallkill Valley Land Trust, Westchester Land Trust, Western New York Land Conservancy, Winnakee Land Trust, and Woodstock Land Conservancy.

Since the conservation partnership program's inception in 2002, and including this year's grants, the program has awarded 997 grants totaling $21.7 million to 91 land trusts. Cumulatively, the state's investment has leveraged $23.8 million in additional funding from local and private sources.

"At a time when we increasingly value open spaces and need our economy to rebound, this funding will leverage the strength of New York’s land trust community to protect the outdoor places people depend on," said Andrew Bowman, the Land Trust Alliance's president and CEO. "On behalf of the Land Trust Alliance, I applaud Gov. Andrew Cuomo, Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins, Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie, Sen. Todd Kaminsky and Assemblyman Steve Englebright for their work toward ensuring the continued availability of clean water, healthy food, outdoor recreation and economic opportunity."

New York's investment in land conservation and open space supports local businesses, saves taxpayer dollars, and protects public health. The Trust for Public Land found that every $1 invested by New York's Environmental Protection Fund generated $7 in total economic benefits from enhanced tourism, reduced government costs and improved public health. In the 2020-21 state budget, Cuomo sustained the record-high EPF at $300 million for the fifth year in a row, providing funding for open space conservation, parkland stewardship, and other environmental protection projects.

Earlier this year, DEC and the Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation launched the “PLAY SMART * PLAY SAFE * PLAY LOCAL” campaign to encourage all New Yorkers to recreate safely, responsibly, and locally this summer and to always treat fellow outdoor adventurers with respect. The campaign invites people to take the “PLAY SMART * PLAY SAFE * PLAY LOCAL” pledge and promise to use common sense to protect themselves and others when enjoying the outdoors.

A press release said, “During the state's ongoing response to COVID-19, New Yorkers across the state want and need to get outside for a nature break, which is good for physical and mental health. The campaign and pledge include common-sense guidelines for smart and safe recreation, including incorporating social distancing and wearing a face mask, planning trips ahead, choosing a destination close to home because public restrooms and restaurants may not be open, and visiting at off hours. The agencies are also encouraging New Yorkers to take the pledge and use the hashtag #PlaySmartPlaySafePlayLocal when sharing their outdoor adventures on social media.”

Kaminsky, chair of the Senate Environmental Conservation Committee, said, “The funding for the conservation partnership program will bolster services provided by local land trust organizations dedicated to preserving New York’s natural beauty and making open spaces accessible for recreational opportunities.”

Englebright, chair of the Assembly Committee on Environmental Conservation, said, “The Environmental Protection Fund provides critical support for open space programs. Land preservation is one of the most effective ways to protect the environment. The conservation partnership program grants are essential to help land trusts preserve land in perpetuity and ensure that New Yorkers have access to open space, clean water, and local agricultural products.”

Founded in 1982, the Land Trust Alliance is a national land conservation organization that works to save the places people need and love by strengthening land conservation across America. The alliance represents 1,000-member land trusts supported by more than 200,000 volunteers and 4.6 million members nationwide. It is based in Washington, D.C., and operates several regional offices. More information about the alliance is available here

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