State looks to slash environmental funds, cap land purchases

SARANAC LAKE - As New Yorkers weigh the repercussions of Gov. David Paterson's 2010-2011 Executive Budget, environmental officials are fuming over the massive proposed cuts to environmental and conservation programs.

The governor's preliminary budget calls for a two-year moratorium on new land acquisitions in the Adirondacks, as well as further cuts to the state's Environmental Protection Fund.

Brian Houseal, executive director of the environmental advocacy group the Adirondack Council, said the cuts Paterson is proposing are - quote - "way out of proportion with cuts being made to other areas of the state budget."

"This budget plan will cause instant and irreversible harm to the environment in general, and to the Adirondacks in particular," Houseal said.

Adirondack Council Spokesman John Sheehan agreed.

"This is a terrible budget for the environment," he said. "The dedicated money set up for the environment is essentially being diverted to non-environmental purposes in a way we think is not consistent with state law."

Houseal said that Paterson should stop lumping issues like clean water, clean air and healthy food in with "special interests."

As for the cap on state land purchases, Adirondack Council Legislative Director Scott Lorey said he was "disappointed with the proposed moratorium."

"We're hopeful that working with the state Legislature we can convince them that future land acquisition purchases are important, not only to the ecology of the state but to the economic well-being of the state and the Adirondacks," Lorey said. "So we're confident that as this budget process moves forward, things will change with the Governor's proposed budget."

Lorey said the council will testify before the Legislature during a budget hearing next week. He hopes to lay out before lawmakers the full impact of Paterson's plan to cut $69 million from the Environmental Protection Fund.

"Last year it was at $212 million and he's proposed even less than that," Lorey added. "We were hoping for closer to $300 million, that's where we thought we'd be a couple of years ago and we're now at less than half of that. And it's not just about land acquisitions; it's about recycling, it's about solid waste facilities, it's about parks. There's a lot of different programs out there that will be hurt by the governor's proposed cuts."

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