Thursday, March 18, 2010

Governor Paterson declares war on ENCON...

Starting with Governor Paterson forcing the Department of Environmental Conservation (aka. DEC or ENCON) to illegally scrap the float plane ban on Low's Lake, followed by Paterson leaving The Nature Conservancy with 81,000 acres of land the state agreed to buy and incorporate into the forest preserve, and now Paterson outright decimating the DEC's budget to the point it compromises the ability to carry out it's duties is absolutely shameful.

New York has been graced by many governors whom have taken great pride in preserving and enhancing New York's environment, park system, and forest preserve. RecentlyMario Coumo, George Pataki, and Elliot Spitzer (primarily as attorney general) have been praised highly for their work. On the other hand, David Paterson appears to have the opposite goal, to leave a legacy as New York's least environmentally friendly governor.

A lot of people are unaware how much the DEC does within the state. While the Forest Rangers and ECOs (environmental conservation officers) are a big part of the DEC, it is far more than that.

The DECs mission:

"To conserve, improve and protect New York's natural resources and environment and to prevent, abate and control water, land and air pollution, in order to enhance the health, safety and welfare of the people of the state and their overall economic and social well-being."

DEC is responsible for administration and enforcement of the Environmental Conservation Law. The Department's major responsibilities as assigned in Environmental Conservation Law are:

  • Regulate the disposal, transport and treatment of hazardous and toxic wastes in an environmentally sound manner;
  • Manage the state program for oil and chemical spills;
  • Provide for the abatement of water, land and air pollution, including pesticides;
  • Monitor environmental conditions and test for contaminants;
  • Encourage recycling, recovery and reuse of all solid waste to conserve resources and reduce waste;
  • Administer fish and wildlife laws, carry out sound fish and wildlife management practices, and conduct fish and wildlife research;
  • Manage New York's marine and coastal resources;
  • Conduct sound forestry management practices on state lands, provide assistance to private forest landowners and manage fire prevention and control efforts;
  • Manage the Adirondack and Catskill forest preserves and recreational facilities, including campsites and the Belleayre Mountain ski center;
  • Protect tidal and freshwater wetlands and flood plains;
  • Promote the wise use of water resources;
  • Administer the wild, scenic and recreational rivers program;
  • Regulate mining, including reclamation of mined lands, extraction of oil and gas, and underground storage of natural gas and liquefied petroleum gas;
  • Inform the public about environmental conservation principles and encourage their participation in environmental affairs.
Worst of all, of the $1 billion dollars Paterson is slashing from the state agency budget over50% of it comes from the DEC. How is this equitable? And does it put everyone at risk? Remember the DEC doesn't just steward your state wild lands, it is also the protector of your backyard environment, the water your drink and the air your breathe.

Governor Paterson hasn't stopped there, he is proposing to wipe out New York's state park system. The oldest park system in the US, and a system that didn't even close a single park during the Great Depression, in fact a great deal of New York's state park system was created during the Great Depression.

Ironically, in a time of economic crisis New York State parks reached record attendance last year, and like the Forest Preserve are a major tourist attraction for New Yorker's and those from other states and regions.

"State lawmakers said they would fight to restore funding for parks, which reached record attendance levels last year at nearly 56 million visitors, up by 1.9 million from 2008. The parks represent a major tourism draw across the state, said Assembly Tourism and Parks Committee Chairman Steve Englebright, D-Suffolk County."
--Politics On The Hudson

It could be fairly argued that the Forest Preserve and park system are two of the least economically prejudiced outlets for entertainment, exercise and recreation the state offers it's residents. Park fees while increasing are generally modest, and the forest preserve is free (well fee free, we all pay for it in our taxes) to the people of New York. That is to say, all New Yorker's regardless of income, education, sex, or race can enjoy recreating in the park and forest system without undue restrictions. Where else can a family of 5 spend a week during the summer camping and recreating for a few hundred dollars including transportation, camping and food cost?

Ironically, Governor Paterson is also proposing a soda tax to reduce obesity in the state. If I understand this correctly he is closing places for people to recreate (aka. exercise and become fit), , while at the same time penalizing them for being (possibly) unhealthy. Honestly the only thing left to tax after this is the air we breathe, which unfortunately might not be worth much when Paterson is done hacking the Department of Environmental Conservation budget.

Sadly, New York has no ability to recall a governor, and although it's possible Paterson will eventually have to resign or be impeached for the mounting list of improprieties he appears to be so fond of, it is evident we are more then likely stuck with the pinnacle of incompetence at the helm for the duration of his term.

The state legislature, while equally spineless, incompetent and corrupt, is our last resort. However, unlike Paterson, they do actually have to answer to the people at some point if they want to continue in politics. The only thing we can do is contact our state representatives and tell them to take a stand against Paterson. Those elected officials certainly don't want to be associated with anything that is the spawn of Paterson's incompetence.

From the Adirondack Councils website:

How Would Your Office Operate With A 70% Budget Cut?

This is the crisis the Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) is facing. In FY 2009-2010, DEC received a 30% cut to their nonpersonal service (NPS) budget. The Governor’s 2010-2011 budget proposal recommends and additional 40% reduction, putting a severe strain on out of office meetings, field visits and other travel and related expenses for DEC staff.

Severe Cuts To The DEC Budget

DEC is being disproportionately cut. Out of the $1 billion in agency cuts proposed by Governor Paterson, over $500 million comes from DEC, which is already hamstrung by staff reductions. Over 135 DEC employees recently accepted the early retirement package, representing over 13% of all workers who took the buyout and whose positions have now been eliminated.

The popular and successful Assistant Ranger program at DEC is in jeopardy due to the proposed
nonpersonal service cuts. Despite a sufficient level of staff for this program, it may end without sufficient funding to provide uniforms and other necessary supplies and travel expenses.

What You Can Do

Restore the cuts to DEC and ensure that all New Yorkers will enjoy a healthy environment that is properly managed. You must adequately fund DEC’s staffing and NPS budgets.

The Adirondack Council is a member based not-for-profit organization dedicated to preserving the ecological integrity and wild character of the Adirondack Park. The Adirondack Council does not take government funding or make endorsements.

Information on Governor Paterson's planned park closures can be found HERE.

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