Environmental Protection Fund

Support a $300 million appropriation for the EPF

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Through the EPF, New York is conserving and enhancing community parks and trails, farms, forests, rivers, beaches, and lakes. The EPF is supporting recycling programs, and zoos and botanical gardens. EPF programs improve the quality of life for all New Yorkers, attracting businesses, creating jobs and protecting our water, air, and natural heritage.

The EPF is critical to the future of New York’s parks and trails. The EPF, which celebrated its 20th anniversary in 2013, provides funds for the following:

  • NYS and local governments to acquire land for trail corridors and parks;
  • municipal parks grants and waterfront revitalization grants, which fund many local park and trail projects;
  • state land stewardship and public access to state parks, historic sites, and state forest lands and recreation facilities; and
  • capacity-building grants to grassroots Friends groups that support the state parks system.

Unfortunately, current demand for EPF programs far outpaces appropriations and spending. Delays and long waiting lists for EPF dollars continue to threaten opportunities to leverage millions of dollars from local, federal and private sources.

Particularly in light of the extensive damage to our communities wrought by Hurricane Sandy, and previously by Hurricane Irene and Tropical Storm Lee, the Governor and Legislature should work to strengthen this hallmark environmental program as part of the state’s efforts to invest in healthy communities, establish sustainable and resilient infrastructure, and reinvigorate New York’s economy.

The state budget agreement reached on March 31, 2016 included an appropriation of $300 million for the Environmental Protection Fund (EPF). This marked the highest level of funding for the EPF in its 23-year history and put New York in a position of national leadership by ensuring the conservation of critical resources for future generations while creating jobs and making our communities more resilient.

Parks & Trails New York urges an appropriation of at least $300 million for the EPF for FY2017-18. This level of funding for the EPF will enable environmental needs across the state to be addressed, including land acquisition for trail corridors and parks; municipal parks and waterfront revitalization grants; and state land stewardship and public access to state parks, historic sites, and state forest lands and recreation facilities.

A June 2011 statewide survey of New York voters found that more than two-thirds believe that we can promote a strong economy and clean environment at the same time. The EPF does both: a recent analysis by The Trust for Public Land of the economic value of natural goods and services provided by lands protected through the EPF found that for every $1 of EPF funds invested, $7 in economic benefits is returned to the state of New York.

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Support the Park and Trail Partnership Program

Among the important programs supported by the EPF is the Park and Trail Partnership Program, a $500,000 capacity-building grants program for organizations that promote and support the state parks system. The Park and Trail Partnership Program, administered by Parks & Trails New York in partnership with the Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation (OPRHP), will unlock the potential of these organizations by increasing their effectiveness, productivity, and volunteer and fundraising capabilities. This will enhance park, trail and historic site stewardship, leading to even greater economic benefits from outdoor recreation and healthier, more sustainable and resilient communities. (See our new report on the impact of Friends groups on our state parks and historic sites.)

PTNY applauds Governor Cuomo and state legislative leaders for supporting this landmark investment in grassroots Friends organizations and urges inclusion of a second round of $500,000 for this program in the FY2016-2017 state budget.

Support sustainable funding for environmental agencies

In addition to the need to enhance the EPF in the coming budget, state agencies responsible for administering the EPF and implementing important programs that protect our shared environment and public health need resources adequate to meet existing needs. Staffing levels at the Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation, Department of Environmental Conservation, Department of Agriculture and Markets, and Department of State remain deeply reduced. Reductions to staff levels at these agencies by prior administrations were disproportionately large and must be addressed. Staff restorations at each agency would increase efficiency and effective administration of important programs.