Objective is to preserve public aquifers, wetlands and habitat
By Gwendolyn Craig
New York will be part of a national and international initiative to preserve 30% of its lands and waters by 2030. Gov. Kathy Hochul signed legislation on Friday that sets the conservation goal. Environmental groups had been anxiously waiting for her signature, which had to come before the end of the year to make the bill a law.
“New Yorkers rely on our clean water for recreation, forests to provide wildlife habitats and outdoor spaces for jobs and adventures,” Hochul said in a statement. “It’s more important than ever to safeguard these resources and setting the goal to conserve 30% of public land by 2030 will ensure we’re protecting our state for future generations.”
The governor did not mention the carbon sequestration services forests provide, the protection of drinking water sources or how the bill might relate to the state’s climate goals.
President Joseph Biden’s executive order, “Tackling the Climate Crisis at Home and Abroad,” includes a nationwide challenge called “America the Beautiful.” It encourages the nation “to conserve, connect, and restore 30% of lands and waters by 2030 for the sake of our economy, our health, and our well-being,” according to the U.S. Department of Interior. Last week, many countries participating in the United Nations Biodiversity Conference in Montreal, Canada made the same conservation goals for the globe.
New York is on its way to the 30% goal with about 19% of its lands and waters currently conserved, according to a memo accompanying the original bill.
The state Department of Environmental Conservation and Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation will work together on a land acquisition plan that prioritizes protecting “water sources and sole source aquifers, including wetlands protections,” according to the bill’s text. It also emphasizes protecting endangered and threatened species’ habitat, providing wildlife migration corridors, preserving farmland and “expanding access to nature and nature’s benefits” to all communities.
The agencies must put the state land acquisition plan out for public comment before submitting it to the governor and state Legislature.
The bill was introduced by state Assemblymember Patricia Fahy, D-Albany, who called Hochul’s signature on Friday “a tremendous gift to the environment that will last long past the holidays.”
“In the United States alone, 1 million acres are lost annually to development, while globally, 1 million species are now at risk of extinction due to habitat loss,” Fahy said in a news release. “As climate change continues to increase the frequency of natural disasters, natural climate resiliency will be key to helping mitigate the devastating impacts of these weather events.”
Meme Hanley, senior program manager of the Land Trust Alliance, also highlighted the social justice benefits of protecting more land, in a news release. It will “provide more equitable access to the outdoors, support local food production, offer flood risk reduction, lower summer temperatures particularly in urban areas and address the biodiversity crisis,” she said.
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