Trail Conference staff and volunteers annually attend lobby days in the New York capitol to speak with elected officials about issues that affect our work and mission, such as funding for the Environmental Protection Fund and the Catskill Park. You can find recaps of two of our recent visits below. We’ll be posting updates on the legislature’s final votes on these important initiatives at nynjtc.org.
Catskill Park Awareness Day
By Doug Senterman, Catskills Program Coordinator
On Feb. 9, organizations and individuals from around the Catskills traveled to Albany to speak with elected officials for Catskill Park Awareness Day. Created to help secure funding to build a modern Catskill Park, the day is organized by the Catskill Park Coalition (CPC). The Trail Conference is a founding member of the Coalition and sits on its steering committee, which decides the group’s priorities for each year:
2016 Catskill Park Awareness Day Requests
• Support for a $300M Environmental Protection Fund
• Creation of a $4M line item in the EPF for the Catskill Park and Forest Preserve
• Creation of a Catskills line item in the DEC Aid to Localities budget of $500K
• NYS DEC Forest Ranger and Division of Lands & Forests support
• Catskill Interpretive Center improvements and support
• Priority land acquisition
• Support for park stewardship programs
A number of Trail Conference staff and volunteers assembled for this year’s Catskill Park Awareness Day, meeting with 47 representatives from Niagara Falls to Montauk, including legislators from every part of the Catskills region. We also had the opportunity to speak with members of every important committee related to the Catskills, from Environmental Conservation to Agriculture to Small Business Development.
As a result of our in-person efforts, the Coalition received an official proclamation from the State Assembly honoring Catskill Park Awareness Day. Thanks to everyone’s enthusiasm, a letter was circulated by Assemblywoman Aileen Gunther—before our morning meetings had even concluded—in support of our request for a permanent line item in the NYS Environmental Protection Fund.
On March 11, news broke that the Senate Democratic Conference had included our request for a $4 million line for the Catskills in the Environmental Protection Fund in their budget priority letters to the Senate majority leader. One day later, the State Assembly put its full support behind the $4 million Catskills budget. This was a monumental step towards securing the 2016 funds needed to start building a modern Catskill Park.
We now need to ask representatives in the Senate and Governor Andrew Cuomo to include an ongoing $4 million budget line for the Catskill Park in a fully-funded Environmental Protection Fund budget. How you can help:
• Use this email form, provided by our Catskill Park Coalition partner, Catskill Mountainkeeper, to ask your State Senator for support.
• Tell Governor Cuomo to support the Catskills budget. Call 518-474-8390 or use this email form.
• Thank the Assembly and Senate Democrats for including this critical funding in their budget proposals.
We’ll keep you posted about NYS budget negotiations at nynjtc.org. To find out more about the Catskill Park Coalition, including how you can get involved in promoting the Catskills year-round, visit catskillparkcoalition.org.
EPF Lobby Day
By Sona Mason, West Hudson Program Coordinator and John Leigh, Volunteer Coordinator
Every winter, staff and volunteers from the Trail Conference travel to Albany with several other environmental groups to meet with elected officials and ask for their support in funding the New York State Environmental Protection Fund (EPF). The EPF pays for programs that protect open space and parks, enhance trails, and more, so it’s important that the Trail Conference be an active participant on EPF Lobby Day, organized by We Love New York and The Nature Conservancy. Luckily, we went to Albany this year with one influential politician already on our side: Governor Andrew Cuomo.
In January, Cuomo announced his commitment to funding a $300M EPF—the highest in state history and more than double what we’ve seen since 2011—in his executive budget. Our job on EPF Lobby Day was to convince representatives to back the Governor’s proposal.
Lobby days in Albany are surprisingly genial, with most legislators happy to meet with us (and perhaps relieved to find a friendly crowd). During our visit on Feb. 24, several elected officials expressed intimate knowledge of their districts and a passion for protecting the environment. They demonstrated their support for our concerns, and most were, in fact, already supportive of the EPF.
For more information about the EPF, including how the EPF has benefitted each county throughout the state, visit keepprotectingny.com.