DEC partnerships getting stronger, but work still remains

As Albany tightens its belt, the state Department of Environmental Conservation has faced some of the deepest cuts, losing key staff and dollars that funded things like campgrounds and hatcheries.

State officials say partnerships with environmental groups and local governments are helping to ease the crunch.

But as some critics note, those partnerships can't erase the need for more dollars.

Betsy Lowe is director of DEC Region 5, headquartered in Ray Brook. She says the environmental agency is stretched-thin financially, after deep cuts at the hands of former Governor David Paterson and current Governor Andrew Cuomo.

Speaking during a partnership recognition ceremony last month, Lowe said energetic volunteer organizations and savvy municipal leadership have made up for some of those shortfalls.

"These partnerships that we have help us meet our objectives in many different ways, especially with the state economy the way it is and us having to do more and more with very limited resources," she said. "We have to be creative on a daily basis when it comes to accomplishing all that we need to do to take care of what makes our area so special."

Forest Ranger Captain John Streiff points to volunteer search and rescue groups that contribute critical boots on the ground.

"The search and rescue community is so well organized - and the rangers can't do it alone," he said. "They're not being paid and they're using their own mileage, but they're out there for us. They are a good, educated group of people who help us find lost and missing persons so we can rescue them."

Some of the partnerships touted by DEC are still a little awkward. At the ceremony last month, Lowe honored Indian Lake Supervisor Barry Hutchins, who worked with the DEC to reopen roads along the Moose River Plains Wild Forest.

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