Environmental Protection Fund Threatened
Announced on December 16, Governor Patterson’s proposed budget reduces the Environmental Protection Fund (EPF) from $255 million to $205 million, a cut of $50 million (20%). As part of the EPF cuts, Patterson delivers a severe slashing to “living museums ” — zoos, aquariums, botanical gardens and nature centers – cutting an annual budget (“ZBGA Funding”) of $9 million to $4 million (44%) for this fiscal year (April 08 thru March 09), and eliminating the support altogether next year. If the State Legislature passes this proposal, Teatown will lose $23,000 this year and $50,000 next year.
Created in 1993, the New York State Environmental Protection Fund established the state’s first dedicated funding for critical work of the Department of Environmental Conservation, the Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation, and provides grants to local governments and non-profit organizations. EPF funding, for example, enables a variety of programs to protect public health and nature – by ensuring that our communities have clean water and air, by preserving and caring for natural places and public parks, and by providing environmental education. The EPF is financed primarily through the New York State Real Estate Transfer Tax (RETT), but also receives revenue from income derived from the sale of surplus state lands, the leasing of underwater state-owned lands, and New York’s “open space’ license plate.
While, of course, we must all make sacrifices during these economic hard times, let’s prioritize investments like the EPF that promote long-term health and prosperity. Conserving nature and ecosystems today is necessary for our children’s economic security, health, and prosperity tomorrow. Environmental protection is not an optional activity – it is a core responsibility of society. EPF’s funding of environmental education at zoos, aquariums, botanical gardens, and nature centers provides the public understanding that ultimately creates the foundation for all environmental protection. Draconian cuts of 44% and elimination seem excessive even for this difficult times.
If you agree, please let Governor Patterson and your legislators know that you value environmental education and think that protecting nature is a key to our future. Ask them to restore “ZBGA funding” and more carefully prioritize the EPF budget.