Governor Cuomo Announces $1.4 Million in Conservation Grants to Land Trusts to Boost Tourism and Public Access

Grants Leverage an Additional $1.1 Million in Private Contributions and Community Support.

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Albany, NY - April 25, 2014 - Governor Andrew M. Cuomo today announced $1.4 million in Conservation Partnership Program grants for 50 nonprofit land trusts across the State. Representatives of the Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) and the Land Trust Alliance unveiled the grantees at an event today at Indian Ladder Farms in Albany County as part of a weeklong celebration of Earth Day. The grants, funded through the Environmental Protection Fund (EPF), will be matched by nearly $1.1 million in private and local funding and will support projects to protect farmland, enhance public access and recreational opportunities, and conserve open space.

“Land trusts continue to make a difference in local communities, maximizing public and private dollars to protect and preserve our state’s natural resources for generations to come,” said Governor Cuomo. “Through partnerships like these, New York is utilizing the Environmental Protection Fund to provide critical support for many environmental and open space programs, generating revenue, creating jobs, and ensuring a cleaner and healthier New York.”

“DEC’s partnerships with land trusts are crucial to achieving our conservation goals, and we look forward to continuing to work together to protect and enhance our environment,” said Department of Environmental Conservation Commissioner Joe Martens. “Governor Cuomo continues to demonstrate his commitment to the environment and improving recreational opportunities in New York State. This year’s budget provided a $9 million boost to the Environmental Protection Fund, which will help support the work of the State’s land trusts to be effective stewards of valuable lands for generations to come.”

The Conservation Partnership Program grants, administered by DEC, will help local land trusts sustain and expand community and landowner outreach initiatives and develop an array of conservation, stewardship and education programs. The grants will advance regional economic development goals by strengthening partnerships with local and state governments and advancing locally supported efforts to protect prime farmland, enhance public access and recreation opportunities, and conserve private lands prioritized in New York State’s Open Space Conservation Plan and state wildlife action plan. Land trusts will also apply grant funds to prepare for accreditation, supporting New York land trust commitments to rigorous national standards for organizational excellence.

“We commend Governor Cuomo, Commissioner Martens and the New York State Legislature for their tremendous support of this initiative and for increasing the EPF in this year’s state budget. Time and time again we see how the EPF and the Conservation Partnership Program are cost-effective investments that pay vital dividends for public health, local communities and New York’s economy,” said Rand Wentworth, president of the Land Trust Alliance.

“The Conservation Partnership Program has demonstrated impressive statewide success by supporting land trusts in our local communities,” said Seth McKee, chair of the Land Trust Alliance’s New York Advisory Board and land conservation director for Scenic Hudson. “Together with state funding for land conservation and farmland protection, this program helps to protect and care for New York’s natural heritage and working lands, and create trails, preserves and community gardens. It also benefits our economy, from tourism and outdoor recreation to farming and forestry. The program continues to be a model for the EPF because it unites the goals of New York’s Open Space Conservation Plan, meets the needs and desires of local municipalities, and enables private landowners and land trusts to achieve their goals,” he added.

Senator Mark Grisanti, chair of the Senate Environmental Conservation Committee, said, “I am pleased that we were able to secure an additional $9 million for the EPF this year because we need that money to support the work of environmental stewards like the Land Trust Alliance. These Conservation Partnership Program grants will go a long way in protecting farm land from development and providing New Yorkers with more recreational opportunities.”

Senator Cecilia Tkaczyk said, “Land trusts help preserve and protect open space, scenic areas, wetlands and historic sites throughout the state. That’s good for our environment, but it’s also good for our economy, because New York’s history, natural beauty and recreational attractions bring thousands of tourists here each year.”

Assembly Member Robert Sweeney, chair of the Assembly Environmental Conservation Committee, said, “My colleagues and I in the State Legislature were pleased to increase funding for the EPF in this year’s state budget. The EPF funds a variety of environmental programs including these much-needed land trust grants. Land trusts play an important role in protecting and preserving open spaces in our communities. I applaud the work land trusts do on Long Island and across the state.”

Assembly Member Catherine Fahy said, “Land trusts are a terrific example of public/private partnerships that benefit all…the landowner, the local community, and our environment while boosting opportunities for tourism and recreation. Governor Cuomo is to be commended for his forward thinking in providing the funds necessary to the Environmental Protection Fund and ensuring land conservation efforts have continued success in New York State.”

“Anything we can do to protect open space and our environment is critical,” said Albany County Executive Daniel P. McCoy. “Thank you, Governor Cuomo, for continuing to show your administration’s commitment to partnering with local governments as we continue our efforts to make Albany County the greenest county in New York State.”

Grant awards range from $2,450 to $75,000. Among the 50 land trusts awarded grants were Mohawk Hudson Land Conservancy, Agricultural Stewardship Association, North Shore Land Alliance, Hudson Highlands Land Trust, Columbia Land Conservancy, Saratoga PLAN, Otsego Land Trust, Lake George Land Conservancy, Tug Hill Tomorrow Land Trust, Genesee Land Trust, Western New York Land Conservancy, Ducks Unlimited and Open Space Institute.

For a summary of this round of grant awards and awardee directory, please click here.

The EPF-funded grants will also support urban trails and community garden programs administered by the Manhattan, Bronx and Brooklyn-Queens Land Trusts in New York City, as well as the Kingston Land Trust, and Grassroots Gardens of Buffalo.

The $1.4 million was awarded by region as follows:

  • Western New York /Finger Lakes/Southern Tier: 9 awards totaling $145,800
  • Central New York/Mohawk Valley: 2 awards totaling $78,050
  • Northern New York/Adirondacks: 11 awards totaling $307,700
  • Capital Region: 14 awards totaling $349,650
  • Hudson Valley: 22 awards totaling $425,300
  • New York City: 3 awards totaling $81,000
  • Long Island: 1 award totaling $30,000

Since the program’s inception in 2002, the Conservation Partnership Program has awarded more than 570 grants totaling $9.5 million in EPF funds to 85 different land trust organizations across the state. The state’s investment has leveraged more than $11 million in additional funding from local communities and private donors. The Land Trust Alliance administers the Conservation Partnership Program in coordination with DEC.

Recent research underscores how New York’s investment in land conservation and open space boosts property values, supports local businesses, saves taxpayer dollars and protects public health.

The EPF grants announced today will support local efforts that contribute substantially to the Hudson Valley region’s $800 million agricultural sector and $4.3 billion tourism economy by helping to preserve the state’s most productive agricultural lands and expanding public access to trails and other popular recreation areas. According to the Outdoor Industry Association, outdoor recreation in New York directly supports 305,000 jobs across the state, generating $15 billion in wages and tax revenue.

A 2011 study by the Trust for Public Land found that every dollar of investment from New York’s Environmental Protection Fund generates $7 in total economic benefits from tourism, reduced government costs and public health.

A map and a complete listing of the 2014 grant recipients can be found here.