Environmental Conservation Proposals to Help Hunting, Tourism; Others to Hurt Business, Ag and Localities

By Assemblyman Will Barclay
The Governor’s 2014-15 proposed budget contains, among other things, details relating to his funding and programmatic requests in regards to environmental conservation.

As with much of his proposed budget, there are some good ideas and some not so great ideas in regards to environmental conservation.

The Governor has proposed a number of items that are popular with sportsmen.  A cynic might say this is because he is trying to improve his reputation with sportsmen after it was badly damaged as a result of his ill-conceived NYS SAFE Act gun control measures that he rammed through the legislature last year.  Regardless of his motive, there are a number of proposals that are good ideas and which I support.

It’s estimated that New York sportsmen and women have a $9 billion ripple effect on the economy so proposals that benefit this industry are good economically as well as culturally.

Some of the hunting and fishing changes that are beneficial, and will hopefully attract more to the sports include:

· Authorizing the Department of Environmental Conservation to reinstate crossbow regulations. This would allow people to hunt big and small game with a crossbow. It also reduces the distance from an occupied structure from 500 feet to 150 feet for discharge of a crossbow or longbow.

· Authorizing the DEC to offer promotional, reduced-cost licenses up to 10 days per year, and to designate 8 free sport fishing days per year.

· Creating three-year and five-year license options for hunting, fishing, trapping and other activities, and reducing the price of the seven-day fishing license.

· Creating an “Adventure License.” This is a driver’s license that includes optional icons for hunting and fishing license designations.

Also included in the budget is an increase of funds for State Parks and Historic Sites.

The following are the Governor’s proposals that are either problematic or need additional discussion:

· Eliminating funding for Maple Producers, Northern New York Agricultural Development, and significantly reducing funding for NYS Apple Growers, and rabies vaccine programs. These are all bad ideas. I will fight to restore all of these through budget negotiations.

· Decreasing local aid for programs that manage invasive species and pests. Foreign invaders and pests pose problems for farmers and for our recreational and commercial waterways. We should increase funding to manage these situations, not reduce funds. I’m hopeful through negotiations, this can change.

· Creating multiple “state of the art” weather detection systems. The Governor wants to invest $15 million in federal funds to create more than 100 weather stations. New York currently has 27. The theory is more weather stations will assist emergency responders with “extreme weather events.” I’m not sure this is true or that the stations are necessary. While we should be focused on improving our response to emergencies, this sounds excessive and future funding for these stations remains a question.

· Mandating gas stations across the state near “strategic upstate highways” be pre-wired for generators. Following Hurricane Sandy, the state mandated that “downstate” gas stations within 1/2 mile of highways and evacuation routes be pre-wired for generators, to be able to assist the public within 24-48 hours of a declared emergency or power outage. Though federal grant dollars are available, it has been reported that these grants won’t cover the cost of installing the generators. Also, it was pointed out in budget hearings that many more had problems getting to gas stations than the stations had maintaining power.

· Failing to repeal 18-A altogether. While this budget proposes a phase-out of the assessment on utilities, and repeals it immediately for industrial customers, small businesses and consumers will have to wait until 2017 to see it completely disappear.

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