The Environmental Bond Act, also known as the Restore Mother Nature Bond Act, will provide $550 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 on fishery improvement, open space conservation, and farmland protection.
The Act will allocate $75 million in fish hatchery improvements to invest in recreational fishing, a longstanding cultural and historic recreational tradition in New York. Fishing sites are also an important ecotourism attraction, and so this investment is of both economic and cultural importance. The State will triple walleye fingerling production, raise an additional 500,000 trout and salmon, raise 100,000 cisco for native fish population restoration, and continue development of a hardier strain of brown trout. Governor Andrew M. Cuomo has pledged to improve public fishing access sites, hand launch boat sites, and public fishing rights in warm-water streams and rivers.
The Bond Act will also expand existing open space conservation programs, investing $200 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
Open space conservation under the Bond Act will also fund monitoring, restoration, recovery, and reintroduction projects for species listed as threatened, endangered, or of special concern. Biodiversity is an important aspect of ecosystem resilience and contributes to the scenic and cultural value of New York’s nature.
Finally, $100 million will be allocated for permanent farmland protection. Samantha Levy, New York Policy Manager for the American Farmland Trust, said that “Our farmers are on the front lines of climate change, bearing the brunt of the impacts of extreme weather while trying to remain financially viable to continue to feed us all,” highlighting the importance of farmland protection. The funding will continue the State’s long standing Farmland Protection Implementation Grant program that aims to address the threat 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.
The open space and land conservation provisions of the Bond Act will provide crucial support for New York’s economy, culture, and environment to thrive, especially as the State recovers from COVID-19.