New York State Capitol in Albany.
A view of the New York State Capitol in Albany. © TNC


Testimony of Jessica Ottney Mahar Before the Joint Legislative Hearing on the Environmental Conservation Portions of the Executive Budget Proposal

My name is Jessica Ottney Mahar, and I am the New York Policy and Strategy Director for The Nature Conservancy. On behalf of our 85,000 New York supporters from every region of the state, thank you for the opportunity to testify today regarding the Executive Budget Proposal for State Fiscal Year 2020- 21 (FY 2020-21).  

A portion of  testimony is included below; the full version can be found here.

The Nature Conservancy in New York

The Nature Conservancy in New York is the state program of the world’s largest conservation organization. Our mission is to conserve the lands and waters on which all life depends. We work in all 50 United States as well as in 79 countries and territories to protect nature for the benefit of people today and future generations. We have a collaborative, science-based approach to environmental problem-solving. We are engaged in scientific research, we are innovating new tools and approaches to address the most important environmental challenges: tackling climate change, protecting land and water, providing food and water sustainably and building healthy cities. We have our feet on the ground as land stewards for the 135 preserves – almost 200,000 acres -- we own in New York, and on a daily basis we work with all levels of governments, community groups, industry, and other stakeholders locally in New York and around the world to secure a more sustainable future.

Thank you for your dedication to conserving the natural resources New Yorkers depend on. Last year was truly historic for New York’s natural resources and our future generations who will depend on them. Most notably, the enactment of the Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act made New York a national leader and set our state on a course to confront the greatest challenge facing our planet and our people. The Nature Conservancy is enthusiastic about working with the new Climate Action Council and various advisory panels to contribute science and help shape policy that will advance the implementation of the goals within the Act.

Important commitments of funds in the FY 2019-20 budget for water infrastructure, the Environmental Protection Fund (EPF), capital programs in our State Parks System and at Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) facilities protect clean water and air, provide recreational opportunities, improve quality of life, support good-paying jobs, and attract businesses and workers to our State.

This year’s budget presents us new opportunities to make additional, historic commitments to our environment and build on the extraordinary foundation of environmental investment in New York that the Legislature and Governor have been making. We ask for your support to build on that foundation by seizing these opportunities.

That foundation starts with the $300 million Environmental Protection Fund (EPF) – a longtime goal of our community – which has now been sustained at that level for four years and is proposed to continue for a fifth. It includes the Water Infrastructure Improvement Act, first spearheaded by the Legislature, which has grown from $400 million to a successful $3 billion program – and now another $500 million is proposed to provide essential funding for infrastructure upgrades and repairs and the protection of drinking water sources across New York. And it includes a long-term significant infusion of capital into our world-class State Parks system and Department of Environmental Conservation facilities that has improved public access to outdoor recreation, allowing more people to connect with nature.

In addition to continuing successes like the $300 million appropriation for the EPF, capital funding for environmental agencies, and the Water Infrastructure Improvement Program, this year’s Executive Budget proposal includes a new and exciting opportunity to conserve our critically important natural resources and reduce flood risk to our communities through the first environmental bond act in nearly a quarter century. I respectfully ask that the Legislature support these proposals, and work with Governor Cuomo to make them even stronger during the budget negotiation process.

The Nature Conservancy is a global conservation organization dedicated to conserving the lands and waters on which all life depends. Guided by science, we create innovative, on-the-ground solutions to our world's toughest challenges so that nature and people can thrive together. We are tackling climate change, conserving lands, waters and oceans at an unprecedented scale, providing food and water sustainably and helping make cities more sustainable. Working in 75 countries and territories: 37 by direct conservation impact and 38 through partners, we use a collaborative approach that engages local communities, governments, the private sector, and other partners. To learn more, visit or follow @nature_press on Twitter.