The $4.2 billion Environmental Bond Act, also known as the Clean Water, Clean Air, and Green Jobs Bond Act, will provide $650 million for open space land conservation and recreation projects if approved by voters this fall. Open spaces provide essential benefits to New York’s economy, culture, and environment in the forms of:
- Scenic beauty, cultural value, and historical significance
- Food production
- Outdoor recreation and ecotourism
- Protection and restoration of important ecological systems
- Wildlife maintenance
- Mitigation of natural disasters, such as flooding
- Protection of drinking water supply quality
- Green space in urban areas
The Bond Act will spend conservation funds to preserve farmland, reduce runoff, and protect lakes, rivers, and other wildlife habitats. The funding will also be used to increase access to parks, trails, campgrounds, nature centers, and public waterfronts.
The Bond Act will also expand existing open space conservation programs, investing $300 million to promote sustainable growth and outdoor recreation; address climate change; ensure clean water, air, and land; and protect natural resources. The Department of Environmental Conservation currently engages with open space conservation in many ways, including:
- Creating environmental literacy and education programming
- Implementing disaster-resilient design for urban green areas
- Engaging in community management efforts to reduce greenhouse gas and energy use
- Maintaining watersheds and water quality protection efforts
- Helping communities replace urban trees harmed by invasive species
Additionally, $150 million will be allocated for permanent farmland protection. “The programs and mechanisms to deliver financial and technical assistance to farmers implementing climate-friendly farming practices already exist and, with added investment, can be rapidly scaled up to accelerate emissions reductions from sources like nitrous oxide and methane, as well as increase carbon sequestration,” said Mikaela Ruiz-Ramón, New York Policy Coordinator for the American Farmland Trust. “The Environmental Bond Act can provide a critical source of funding to invest in climate adaptation, resiliency measures, and more farmland protection.
The funding allocated in the Environmental Bond Act will continue the State’s long standing Farmland Protection Implementation Grant program that aims to address the threat of farmland loss, and to help farms that are facing financial difficulties due to trade disputes, debts, changing consumer preferences, and climate change. More than 75,000 acres of farmland were protected by the grant as of 2019.
Finally, The Environmental Bond Act will also improve recreational fishing–a longstanding cultural tradition in New York as well as an important ecotourism attraction–by allocating $75 million in hatcheries, which means more salmon, trout, and ciscos in our waterways.
The open space and land conservation provisions of the Bond Act will provide a crucial boost to New York’s economy and culture while enabling our environment to thrive.