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Brooklyn Bridge People enjoy urban nature out at Brooklyn Bridge Park in New York. © Jonathan Grassi for The Nature Conservancy

Stories in New York

2017 Policy Highlights and Achievements for New York

How We Advance Policy to Protect People & Nature

As 2017 draws to a close, we reflect on our biggest policy accomplishments for people and nature.

Major Victories for Clean Water and Healthy Communities

In 2017, Governor Cuomo and the State Legislature made historic commitments to rebuild New York’s drinking water and wastewater infrastructure. The state budget included $2.5 billion for water projects in every corner of the state. Our policy team at The Nature Conservancy in New York worked with elected officials and environmental, labor, and business groups to help secure this major victory. We helped shape this funding to include cost-effective and nature-based conservation solutions that will safeguard New York’s clean water.

The $2.5 billion investment includes $100 million to protect our drinking water sources, $50 million to build green infrastructure, and $75 million to update outdated septic and cesspool systems, which are causing water quality issues and threating local economies. This multi-billion-dollar investment will go a long way in addressing the widespread need to rebuild our water infrastructure.

The budget also included a second year of record funding for the Environmental Projection Fund (EPF). A $300 million EPF is great news for New York communities. The EPF provides funding for programs that conserve land and water; protect our oceans, Great Lakes, and Hudson River Estuary; support parks, community gardens, waterfronts, and zoos; reduce pollution; and address invasive species and climate change.

Triple Win for Local Communities and New York’s Beloved Adirondack and Catskill Parks

Over the last few years, the Conservancy’s policy staff worked in partnership with affected communities, conservation partners, and lawmakers to enhance the future sustainability of Adirondack and Catskill Park communities. To provide a more efficient process for communities to make needed health and safety improvements–like fixing a road hazard or improving wells for drinking water–and ensure a net benefit to the Forest Preserves, an agreement was reached to amend the New York State Constitution to establish a land bank to draw upon. In November 2017, Ballot Proposal 3, the Forest Preserve Land Bank amendment, was approved by New York voters.

Our team at the Conservancy worked tirelessly to get this measure on the ballot and secure its passage. It was an uphill battle, but thanks to efforts we conducted with partners including a targeted, digital education campaign in the weeks leading up to the election, the ballot proposal passed by a narrow margin. Proposal 3 is a triple win for Adirondack and Catskill communities, our valuable forest lands, and all of New York. It will make our government more efficient, communities more secure, and protect our beloved Adirondack and Catskill Forest Preserves.

Accelerating Large-Scale Wind and Solar Energy in New York

To help meet New York’s critical goals to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and create a clean energy future, the Conservancy and the Alliance for Clean Energy launched an ambitious initiative to expedite the responsible development of renewable energy in New York. The project was a collaboration among non-traditional partners–energy developers and conservationists, land use planners and agricultural interests, State agencies and government officials. Members of the initiative worked together over a nine-month period to identify obstacles to siting large-scale wind and solar power and develop strategies to overcome hurdles to ensuring a clean and secure energy future. To learn more and read the report, visit nature.org/nyenergy.

Innovative Project Protects Water and Fights Climate Change

In June, the Albany Water Department and the Albany Water Board joined the Conservancy’s Working Woodlands Program and agreed to permanently protect Basic Creek and Alcove Reservoirs and the surrounding forest lands, a total of 6,400 acres, which provide clean drinking water to the City of Albany. The City’s participation in our Working Woodlands program will safeguard clean drinking water for Albany and surrounding communities, protect critical forests, and generate revenue for the City by marketing carbon credits.
Through the Working Woodlands program, the Conservancy works with landowners to improve the health of their forests and increase the amount of carbon stored on their lands. This helps limit greenhouse gas emissions while simultaneously enabling forest owners to generate significant revenues to selling carbon credits. This project is the first-ever carbon agreement with a water authority in New York, and by embracing a Working Woodlands approach, the City of Albany has protected their forests and drinking water for generations to come.

Capitol Hill Advocacy Day

In June, we spent an energizing day on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C. with our trustees and staff. Together with colleagues from other states, we conducted hundreds of meetings with members of Congress about climate change, energy policy, and investing in nature.