The state Department of Environmental Conservation recently awarded more than $1 million in Conservation Partnership Program during the DEC's weeklong Earth Day celebration. The recipients were 57 nonprofit land trusts across the state, including one in Chautauqua County.
The Chautauqua Watershed Conservancy received $15,000 for a conservation lands management program. The grant will support efforts to bring its lands management program into compliance with standards of practices by surveying 11 properties and developing an updated management plans for six properties.
"These grants will go a long way in the conservation of private lands and will result in significant environmental and economic benefits for communities throughout New York," Joe Martens, DEC commissioner, said. "By increasing open space funding by $12 million in this year's budget, Governor Cuomo has placed a priority on preserving and conserving New York's natural resources. This dedicated source of funding will continue to cover critical environmental and land conservation programs."
The grants are through the Conservation Partnership Program which helps local land trust sustain and expand community and landowner outreach, land conservation, stewardship and educational programs. The grants advance regional economic development goals, create land trust jobs and strengthen partnerships with local and state governments while advancing locally supported efforts to preserve farmland, municipal watersheds and green infrastructure around the state. Land trusts will also apply grant funds to prepare for national accreditation, supporting New York land trust commitments to rigorous standards for organizational excellence.
"I commend Governor Cuomo, Commissioner Martens, and the New York State Legislature for supporting this initiative. At a time when states are watching their budgets carefully, the EPF and the Conservation Partnership Program are proven, cost-effective investments that pay vital dividends for public health and New York's economy," Rand Wentworth, president of the Land Trust Alliance, said.
The Conservation Partnership Program was created in 2002 as a public-private partnership between DEC and the Land Trust Alliance. Grants are funded through the Environmental Protection Fund annually. The program has funded more than $8 million in grants for 509 projects across the state since 2002. The funds have helped create employment and advancement opportunities in the conservation field and helped local communities permanently conserve more than 18,000 acres of farmland, wildlife habitat, recreation areas and urban open space.
"The Conservation Partnership Program is unique in the nation," Martens said. "The State's investment in building land trust capacity multiplies several times in benefits to local communities, improving both the local economy and environment."
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. A 2011 study by the Trust for Public Land found that every dollar of investment from the state's EPF generates $7 in total economic benefits from tourism, reduced government costs and public health. 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. For a complete list of grants awarded, visit www.dec.ny.gov/lands/48901.html.