By Jennifer Wilson-Pines

Sometimes working on environmental issues feels like slogging through thigh-high wet cement, but recently there were several pieces of good news on the environmental front that reminded me of why it’s worth it.

Gov. Hochul has proposed a number of environmentally friendly actions in her Executive Budget just sent to the Legislature. It includes the largest ever Environmental Protection Fund.

Her landmark proposal would increase the EPF by $100 million, from $300 million to $400 million. But the Legislature needs to keep that level of funding in the budget. Hearings are starting soon.

The EPF investment creates over 350,000 jobs in a wide variety of industries, from construction, agriculture, recreation, tourism, forestry, to recycling, and recreational fishing. These industries return $40 billion to the state’s economy every year. You can learn more at www.cleanwaterandjobs.org

There are several other exciting proposals in the budget. Reforms to the New York State Freshwater Wetlands Regulatory Program will allow the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation to protect an additional one million acres of freshwater wetlands.

Conserving and restoring wetlands is essential to fight climate change since they are buffers against flooding and help to sequester carbon.

The Executive Budget earmarks an additional $500 million in clean water infrastructure funding, bringing the State’s total clean water investment to $4.5 billion.

This will ensure access to clean drinking water, of particular importance for Long Island with our sole source aquifer, and will allow municipalities to upgrade wastewater treatment plants.

State recreational lands get a boost to $90 million, an increase of $15 million. This will allow the DEC to rehabilitate campgrounds and upgrade recreational facilities and provide for health and safety repairs to state infrastructure, including dams, wetland restoration, state lands, and fish hatcheries.

The Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation (OPRHP) will receive $200 million, an increase of $90 million, to invest in State parks. This will support critical infrastructure projects throughout the park system.

In other good news, the DEC announced restrictions on Neonic pesticides to protect pollinators. They are reclassifying certain products containing the neonicotinoid (neonic) insecticides imidacloprid, thiamethoxam, and acetamiprid as “restricted use” to ensure applications are limited to trained pesticide applicators.

While commercial application of all pesticides is reported to DEC, residential applications and sales to consumers are not. Neonicotinoids have been identified as highly toxic to pollinators and have been banned in most of Europe.

Getting ‘over-the-counter’ neonic products off store shelves is an important first step in reining in widespread neonic contamination. Neonics affect not only pollinators but other insects and songbirds.

Erin McGrath, Policy Manager for Audubon New York said, “Exposure to neonics can prevent songbirds from orienting themselves for their migration, cause significant weight loss, and interfere with their reproductive success.

We thank Gov. Hochul and DEC for taking action to curtail the unrestricted use of neonic pesticides in consumer products, which will help protect birds and the places they need.”

New York has developed a Pollinator Protection Plan, as they are indispensable to the state’s agricultural economy. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, pollinators provide approximately $344 million worth of pollination services to New York and add $29 billion in value to crop production nationally each year.

New York could not produce crops such as apples, grapes, cherries, onions, pumpkins, and cauliflower without pollinators.

The reclassification will take effect on Jan. 1, 2023, allowing time for registrants, distributors, and retailers to prepare for the change in classification.

Products labeled for “limited directed application” to fight invasive species are not included in the reclassification.

The proposals in the governor’s budget must be approved by the Legislature. Let your state senator and assemblyperson know that you are in favor of adding these protections and enhancements to protect our land, water, air and wildlife.

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