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Environmentalists pleased with Cuomo's fiscal plan

This week's release of Gov. Andrew Cuomo's 2011-12 executive budget ruffled a lot of feathers throughout the state.

Education lobbyists and health care officials cringed at sweeping cuts to school aid and Medicaid, while public employee unions said they would fight Cuomo on a potential plan to layoff 9,800 state workers.

But leaders in the environmental community were relatively pleased with Cuomo's fiscal plan.

For starters, Cuomo neither increased nor decreased the Environmental Protection Fund - it remains flat at $134 million. That figure includes $17.5 million for land acquisition, $3.8 million for invasive species mitigation, $2.9 million for water quality, and $16.2 million for state land stewardship.

The fund also provides monies for major purchases that would otherwise require borrowing.

Adirondack Council spokesman John Sheehan says Cuomo's budget, as it relates to the environment, stands in stark contrast to recent plans offered up by former Gov. David Paterson.

Last year, Paterson caused a firestorm when he repeatedly tried to cut environmental and parks spending.

Sheehan says Cuomo's budget could be considered a major victory for the environmental community.

"We are pleased to see this," he said. "It shows that this governor is not only interested in protecting the governor, but also he has a better sense of where the budget can be cut without destroying the very things that are most important to the people who live in this state."

Sheehan says Paterson declared war on the environment last year. This year, he says Cuomo has left the door open for negotiation - and he hopes lawmakers will provide additional funding for the EPF as they begin parsing through Cuomo's budget.

Mike Carr is executive director of the Adirondack Chapter of the Nature Conservancy.

"We're very excited and hopeful that we'll have a chance to work with Gov. Cuomo and his team to move some very exciting projects forward across the state - that includes some open space projects and clean drinking water projects as well," he said. "This is a real turning point, I think, for the environment as it pertains to the state budget. We're very grateful to the governor and his team."

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