Catskill Awareness Day Brings 49 Supporters to Albany

Posted by on Mar 17, 2014 in News | 0 comments

Forty-nine stalwart members of the Catskill Park Coalition journeyed to Albany on February 25 to meet with key assembly members and senators, Department of Environmental Conservation staff, and Governor Cuomo’s environmental secretary to advocate for additional State funding for the Catskill Park. In this first Catskill Park Awareness Day for the Coalition, 28 member groups pressed a Legislative Agenda that included greater DEC funding for Forest Rangers and the Assistant Forest Ranger Program, funding to acquire six priority land parcels, support for a $200 million Environmental Protection Fund (an increase of $50 million), and additional monies for the Catskill Interpretive Center and tourism promotion (For a copy of the Legislative Agenda, click here.)  In all, Coalition member groups conducted 44 meetings.

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“Our Coalition is here to speak in a unified, positive way about getting greater support for the Catskills,” said Ramsay Adams, executive director of Catskill Mountainkeeper. Officials, including Basil Segos, Governor Cuomo’s Deputy Secretary for the Environment, responded positively to this message of unity and focus. They were receptive, too, to the argument of the need to counter increased usage with greater stewardship resources. “If we increase user visits by 10 to 15 percent, then we’re going to need more rangers. It’s a matter of environmental protection and public safety,” Alan White, executive director of the Catskill Center, explained. The nodding of heads and the fast note taking seemed to signal this message was heard.

DEC Executive Deputy Commissioner Marc Gerstman encouraged the Coalition to think big in developing a Recreational Plan for the Catskills and to involve not just the DEC, one of the major land owners in the Catskills, but also the other one, New York City’s Department of Environmental Protection, as well as local municipalities and environmental groups in a multi-stakeholder planning process.

We recognize that this Awareness Day is only a first step. The Coalition intends to mount an ongoing advocacy campaign that will include follow-up with the officials we met with, outreach to others who were out of town, and a long-term commitment to build on what we have started.

An example of this commitment is a Letter to Governor Cuomo, signed by 27 of the Coalition’s member groups, announcing the Coalition’s formation and asking the Governor for his support for “enhancing and enriching one of the State’s greatest natural and historic resources – the Catskill Park.”  Invoking the names and the historic leadership of Theodore and Franklin Roosevelt in building and protecting the Park and its “forever wild” lands, the letter asks Governor Cuomo to follow suit and make the Park his legacy as well.  With the introduction having been made, the Governor’s office will be a primary focus for the Coalition’s advocacy efforts going forward.  To see a copy of the letter to the Governor, click here.

 

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