30% of New York would be kept under invoice on Hochul’s desk

ALBANY — Thirty percent of all land in New York could be kept under a bill passed by the state Senate overwhelmingly earlier this week.

If signed by Governor Kathy Hochul, the state would have until 2030 to conserve 11% more of its lands and waters — 19% are already protected — in a plan to fight climate change, to expand the state’s biodiversity and preserve farmland.

Rep. Pat Fahy, D-Albany, one of the architects of the bill, said nothing would require property owners in New York to surrender their property.

“There is no eminent domain,” she said.

Instead, land will be conserved through conversation easements — paid agreements with landowners that their land will remain undeveloped — and voluntary land acquisitions, according to Fahy. The state will also have partners in non-governmental conservation groups, whose easements and purchases will count toward the 30% goal, as will conservation easements on farms.

Easements on farms, agreements with farmers not to develop their fields, are “certainly seen as a significant part of the bill,” Fahy said.

These easements “are essential for smart growth efforts and for preserving the land instead of it turning into the sort of runaway sprawl that has been a problem for decades,” she said.

The legislation also talks about how land conservation can build resilience to natural disasters, which are on the rise due to global warming, but the main purpose of the bill is to combat climate change and its effects.

The genesis of the bill lies with the United Nations, which is in the process of finalizing the “Post-2020 Global Biodiversity Framework“, which recommends the goal of conserving 30% of the planet’s land and oceans.

The legislation would tie into the Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act of 2019 (CLCPA), which requires the state to achieve net zero carbon emissions by 2050. The CLCPA actually sets the goal of reduce emissions by 85%; New York will need to remove carbon from the atmosphere to achieve net zero emissions.

According to Jessica Ottney Mahar, director of New York City policy and strategy for The Nature Conservancy, one way to do this is to “sequester” carbon in plant life in natural lands, though she has added that carbon storage technology should be developed. to achieve the net zero goal.

An “exciting” aspect of the bill, Mahar said, was the potential to preserve underrepresented habitats. Catskill Park and Adirondack Park, the state’s largest conservation areas, are both forests, and the bill could prompt the state to look at the science of the kind of ecosystems it protects .

The bill would require that a variety of habitats be conserved and that conservation be split between rural, suburban and urban settings.

Urban forests are important in the face of climate change because they cool cities during heat waves, and it is important for the state to distribute investments in different neighborhoods, because urban open spaces are traditionally located near richer areas, Mahar said.

The bill’s passage through the Senate and State Assembly has been applauded by The Nature Conservancy and other conservation groups.

This included the Scenic Hudson Group, whose director of government relations and public policy, Andy Bicking, said the group and its partners in the Hudson Valley “have worked together to continuously protect the lands and natural resources of our region, and we are ready and ready to partner with the State to carry out [proposed] Politics.”

Conserving New York’s land would also help plant and animal species that have been impacted by climate change and other anthropogenic pressures.

The impacts were severe. In 2019, the Cornell Lab of Ornithology published a study that found there were 2.9 billion fewer birds in North America than there were in 1970, a 29% drop. .

Erin McGrath, senior policy officer for the New York Audubon Society, said the new bill could help mitigate that loss.

“One of the main drivers of these population declines is habitat loss, which means we need to prioritize the rest of the bird habitat we have in order to see populations rebound,” he said. she declared.

Eleven percent of New York is a big chunk of land — about 6,000 square miles — but the bill doesn’t include a tax claim.

Fahy said the state’s $300 million Environmental Protection Fund could help, as could the $4 billion Environmental Bond Act, which is expected to be passed by New Yorkers in the election. of November.

The bill passed the Senate 58 to 3, with overwhelming bipartisan support.

Sen. Mike Martucci (R-Catskills), one of the bill’s co-sponsors, said in a statement that he supports the legislation because he believes in “preserving our agricultural production and heritage.” , protecting open space and defending against overdevelopment in order to maintain and improve the quality of life here in the Hudson Valley and Catskills and throughout New York City.”

“Being good stewards of our environment shouldn’t be a partisan issue, and I’ve worked hard to get realistic goals and practical policies like this no matter who else joins me,” according to Martucci. .

Comments are closed.