DEC Announces $80,000 Grant To Chautauqua Watershed Conservancy

The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) has announced that the Chautauqua Watershed Conservancy of Jamestown has been awarded an $80,000 New York State Conservation Partnership Program grant for its conservation lands management program. This professional development grant will enable this 26-year-old land trust (with 747 acres in fee ownership and 16 acres under conservation easement) to hire its first full-time conservation lands manager to manage the conservancy’s portfolio of conserved lands, accelerate completion of new conservation projects and help the land trust prepare for accreditation in the next three years. A Land Trust Standards and Practices Assessment will also be funded. This grant is one of $1.8 million in Conservation Partnership Program grants for 55 nonprofit land trusts across the state. Representatives of the DEC and the Land Trust Alliance unveiled the grantees at an event recently in Skaneateles, in Onondaga County, in recognition of Earth Week, a week-long celebration of New York’s commitment and accomplishments to protecting the environment, conserving open space and increasing access to the state’s vast natural resources.

“Land trusts continue to make a difference in local communities, maximizing public and private dollars to protect and preserve our state’s natural resources for generations to come,” said Basil Seggos, acting commissioner. “Through partnerships like these, the Environmental Protection Fund provides critical support for many environmental and open space programs, generating revenue, creating jobs and ensuring a cleaner and healthier New York.”

The grants, funded through the Environmental Protection Fund (EPF), will leverage an additional $2.25 million in private and local funding to support projects that will protect farmland, wildlife habitat and water quality, enhance public access for outdoor recreational opportunities, and conserve priority open space areas important for community health, tourism and regional economic development. The Land Trust Alliance administers the Conservation Partnership Program in coordination with the DEC.

“We are delighted to receive this grant,” said John Jablonski III, executive director of the Chautauqua Watershed Conservancy. “This will help CWC responsibly manage its growing Chautauqua Watershed Preserves system of wetlands, shore lands, stream corridor and forest lands that collect, filter, store and deliver clean waters to our streams, lakes and ground waters and protect important fish and wildlife habitats, which are so important to the quality of life and economy of our region.”

“DEC’s work with land trusts is essential in our efforts to conserve and protect New York’s valuable natural resources and this program is a clear example of the partnerships that have made a difference in preserving open space,” Seggos said. “Gov. Cuomo’s historic $300 million budget for the Environmental Protection fund will help support the work of the state’s land trusts to be effective stewards of important habitats in the state for generations to come.”

The 13th round of Conservation Partnership Program grants, administered by DEC, will help local land trusts sustain and expand community and landowner outreach initiatives and develop an array of land conservation, stewardship and education programs.

The grants will further regional economic development goals by strengthening partnerships with local and state governments and advancing locally supported efforts to protect working farms, enhance public access and recreation opportunities, and conserve private lands prioritized in New York state’s Open Space Conservation Plan and state Wildlife Action Plan. Land trusts will also apply grant funds to prepare for national accreditation, supporting New York land trust commitments to rigorous national standards for nonprofit governance and organizational excellence.

“This pioneering initiative enables land trusts, local communities and private landowners to better protect New York’s most important water resources, farmland, wildlife habitat and urban green space such as community gardens,” said Andrew Bowman, president of the Land Trust Alliance. “We also applaud New York’s tremendous progress in strengthening the Environmental Protection Fund in this year’s state budget. Individually and together, these are smart investments promoting healthy communities, strategic land conservation and environmental stewardship. On behalf of the Land Trust Alliance and its supporters, I thank Gov. Cuomo, Acting Commissioner Seggos and the New York State Legislature.”

Grant awards ranged from $2,750 to $80,000. Among the 55 different land trusts awarded grants were several local organizations based in central and Western New York. In all, 16 grants totaling $398,700 were awarded to organizations in central and Western New York including Chautauqua Watershed Conservancy, Central New York Land Trust, Finger Lakes Land Trust, Great Swamp Conservancy and Western New York Land Conservancy.

The EPF-funded grants will also support green infrastructure, urban trails and community garden programs administered by Grassroots Gardens of Buffalo, Green Guerrillas and Brooklyn-Queens Land Trust in New York City, Kingston Land Trust and Capital Roots (formerly Capital District Community Gardens) in Albany/Troy.

The $1.8 million was awarded by region as follows:

Western New York /Finger Lakes/Southern Tier: 10 awards totaling $310,500

Central New York/Mohawk Valley: six awards totaling $88,200

North Country: nine awards totaling $194,350

Capital District: 20 awards totaling $553,400

Mid-Hudson: 21 awards totaling $480,550

New York City: three awards totaling $98,000

Long Island: three awards totaling $75,000.

Since the program’s inception in 2002, the Conservation Partnership Program has awarded over 700 grants totaling $13.1 million in EPF funds to 86 different land trust organizations across the state. The state’s investment has leveraged over $15 million in additional funding from local communities and private donors.

The 2016-17 state budget includes appropriations of $300 million for the EPF, the highest level of funding in the program’s history and an increase of $123 million from fiscal year 2015-16. The increase will provide record funding for stewardship, agriculture programs, invasive species prevention and eradication, water quality improvement, municipal recycling and an aggressive environmental justice agenda. Further, this funding level will establish new programs to help communities adapt to climate change through resiliency planning and capital projects, and to reduce greenhouse gas emissions outside of the power sector.

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 New York’s Environmental Protection Fund generates $7 in total economic benefits from tourism, reduced government costs and public health.

The EPF grants will support local efforts that contribute substantially to the state’s agricultural sector and tourism economy by helping to preserve the state’s most productive agricultural lands and expanding public access to trails and other popular recreation areas. 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.