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Fall 2017

Conference on the Environment: Nov. 17-18

by Julie Noble, Conference Coordinator

Registration is now open for the 2017 Conference on the Environment, November 17-18, 2017, in Kingston, NY.  Register today!

Nestled between the Hudson River and the Catskill Mountains, the City of Kingston is just 90 miles north of New York City and 60 miles south of Albany.  Poised uniquely to harness the economic and cultural potential of large metro areas, Kingston is also situated among the greatest environmental assets that the Hudson Valley has to offer.  A small jurisdiction of 24,000 residents, Kingston, dating to the arrival of the Dutch in 1652, is a vibrant city with rich history and architecture, was the state’s first capital, and has a thriving arts community.  Leaders in environmental sustainability, both Kingston and Ulster County are Certified Bronze Climate Smart Communities, the highest level in the state, and both are also Clean Energy Communities.

This year’s theme for the 2017 Conference on the Environment is "Living Local: Linking Local Economies and the Environment." The program promises to be both informational and inspirational. Learn how local environmental commissions can join forces with each other and with nonprofits and government agencies to strengthen their local economies through sound environmental planning and decision making. Share lessons learned and meet new colleagues.

The Conference will be held November 17-18, 2017 at The Chateau, the Hudson Valley’s newest catering venue in Historic Kingston, New York. Inspired by Old World Décor and the convenience of modern technology and design, The Chateau recently completed a multi-million dollar renovation project serving as the perfect setting for the 2017 Conference.

This year’s Conference is being sponsored by the City of Kingston, the County of Ulster, the New York State Association of Environmental Management Councils and NYSACC, with the Climate Smart Kingston Commission and the Ulster County Environmental Management Council.

The conference program includes eight workshop panels that will each host presenters who will discuss new opportunities, best practices and effective tools that will educate and inspire engagement to link local economic development with our environmental work.  Topic areas for the Conference will be:
  • Clean Transportation and Energy
  • Clean Food Economy
  • Conservation Planning for Economic Development
  • Adaptation and Resilience
Register online or download a registration for today from our conference webpage.  Scholarships are available.  Exhibitors and Sponsorships are welcome.  For additional information, please contact Julie Noble at or (845) 481-7339.

We look forward to seeing you in November at The Chateau! 

Conference Scholarships

by Julie Noble, NYSACC Board of Directors


Undergraduate and graduate students may attend the 2017 Conference on the Environment at no cost thanks to a limited number of available scholarships.  To apply, please complete and submit a Student Scholarship Application no later than November 10, 2017.  This scholarship covers the conference registration fee only.

Students and appointed members of a county Environmental Management Council may also apply for a separate scholarship to receive up to $150 each toward their hotel accommodations and conference registration. To apply, please complete and submit a Conference Scholarship Application no later than November 10, 2017.

Nominate Your Project by Nov. 3rd for an Environmental Excellence Award

by Joy Squires, NYSACC President


The Environmental Excellence Awards Program recognizes exceptional projects carried out by municipal, county, and regional governments and non-profit organizations that, through careful planning and execution, stand to have a significant and lasting positive impact on the natural environment.  The program is sponsored by the New York State Association of Conservation Commissions (NYSACC) and the New York State Association of Environmental Management Councils (NYSAEMC) and is designed to showcase and promote projects that can be replicated in communities across New York State and beyond. In addition, NYSACC each year honors an individual who has demonstrated “lifelong environmental concern and service” through the Margery Sachs Award for Environmental Leadership, named in memory of one of NYSACC’s original directors.

If you represent a municipal, county, or regional government or non-profit organization in New York State that has recently completed a project in the areas of Environmental Planning & Design, Natural Resource Protection, Community Action & Engagement, Education, Research, or another related subject area, we invite you to nominate your project for consideration in this year’s Environmental Excellence Awards Program. 

This year, Environmental Excellence Award nominations are due by Friday, November 3rd.  Nominations will be evaluated by a panel of reviewers from NYSACC and NYSAEMC, with winners announced on Friday, November 17, 2017 at the Conference on the Environment awards luncheon.

To complete an awards nomination form online, click here. To download an awards nomination form, click here.

NRDC Takes On Dow To Defend Monarchs

Courtesy of the Natural Resources Defense Council

Struggling monarch butterflies, whose population has dropped 30 percent since last year, now face a new threat.  The Dow Chemical Company's new herbicide, Enlist Duo, has been approved for widespread agricultural use by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).  Enlist Duo kills milkweed, the food monarch caterpillars depend on for survival, and may also pose serious risks to human health.  The Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) has filed suit against the EPA to block the dangerous herbicide.
Enlist Duo is a cocktail of two toxic chemicals: glyphosate, a probable human carcinogen that has also driven the widespread destruction of milkweed; and 2,4-D, an old-school herbicide that has been linked to cancer as well as thyroid disorders and birth defects.  In 2015, after NRDC filed duit, the EPA tried to walk back its initial approval of Enlist Duo.  But in January it reversed course yet again and decided to allow even more expansive use of the herbicide on genetically modified corn, soy and cotton in 34 states.  “The EPA got a second chance on Enlist Duo,” says NRDC Senior Scientist Sylvia Fallon.  “Yet it failed once again to protect public health and the environment.”

Requesting Assistance from the NYSDEC

by Brian Solomon, Chair of the Dewitt Advisory Conservation Commission

Beginning in the 1970s, New York State urged municipal leaders to establish local conservation advisory councils (CACs) pursuant to NYS General Municipal Law, Article 12-F, Section 239-x.  Part 6 of this law entitles CACs the ability to obtain direct assistance from the NYS Department of Environmental Conservation to:
  • Prepare reports outlining objectives, priorities and proposed relationships of the council to the local legislative body;
  • Prepare a description of work to be undertaken, advantageous techniques to be used and suggested roles of council members;
  • Provide research on conservation facts and procedures;
  • Provide, on a consulting basis, technical and research assistance as may be required to assist the council in carrying out its work and to enable the council to offer recommendations to the local legislative body; and,
  • Describe particular areas of natural resources within the city, town or village, as the case may be, which require particular attention by the council.

As chair of the DeWitt Advisory Conservation Commission, I have made numerous FOIL-related requests to the NYSDEC’s Divisions of Lands and Forests, Mineral Resources, and Materials Management, and NYSDEC has been very helpful in providing the requested documents as well as providing other guidance.  However, there have been several instances where additional assistance would likely be helpful. For example, in testing water quality at a wetland adjacent to cement kiln dust stockpiles, or working more closely with our Commission on permit renewal concerns. This statute seems to suggest a more collaborative working relationship with NYSDEC is possible.

If you or your CAC has been successful in obtaining assistance from the NYSDEC, the DeWitt Advisory Conservation Commission would love to hear from you.  Please visit our website and send us a message via the form at the bottom of our homepage.

NOTE: A previous version of this article misrepresented the author’s statements. We regret this error and thank you for your understanding. 

Ending Single-Use Bag Pollution

by Kevin Leous, Town of Tonawanda Commission for Conservation of the Environment

Like many communities across the nation and the globe, concern is growing in Western New York State about the pollution caused by single-use plastic and paper bags, which are environmentally harmful and completely unnecessary.  These bags are used for an average of just 12 minutes, but can impact our environment for generations.

Here are just some of the problems associated with single-use plastic and paper bags:

  • Plastic bags are everywhere: Plastic bags litter our parks, neighborhoods, beaches, roads, and waterways. An estimated 330 million bags are used in Erie County annually.
  • Plastic pollutes our Great Lakes: 5.5 million pounds of plastic enter Lake Erie annually—that’s enough plastic to fill 50 Olympic-sized swimming pools.
  • Bags cause localized flooding: Rain carries plastic bags into storm drains, blocking them and causing infrastructure damage and localized flooding.
  • Paper bags are bad for the environment: Producing paper bags requires approximately 14 million trees annually in the U.S., and requires more energy and water than plastic bags.
  • Single-use bags are anything but free: U.S. retailers spend approximately $4 billion annually to purchase single-use bags, which is being passed on to consumers in the form of higher prices.  At the same time, municipalities are spending millions of dollars disposing of plastic bags.
Every time you shop, bring your own reusable bags.  According to Wegmans, if each of its customers used just one reusable shopping bag for each shopping trip, it would result in the reduction of 330 million single- use bags per year!

Call on elected leaders to take action.  Locally, Citizens Campaign for the Environment (CCE) has worked with localities in New York and Connecticut to educate the public on the importance of reusable bag use and to pass disposable bag legislation.  Beginning with Long Island and Hudson Valley BYOB educational campaigns, CCE has worked with thousands of residents, hundreds of businesses, and dozens of municipalities to reduce disposable bag use and switch permanently to reusable bags as an alternative.

Today, our focus is Erie County, NY.  If you are a resident of Erie County and interested in joining this noble cause, CCE has created a webpage with information and an easy link to contact your Erie County Legislator (click here).  You can also spread the word on social media by snapping a picture the next time you see a bag littered in your community and sharing it with #ErieBYOBag.  Learn more about the bag issue on the Erie County website.

An Inconvenient Sequel – Truth to Power

by Al Gore, former Vice President of the United States

We have come a long way in our fight to tackle the climate crisis since the film, An Inconvenient Truth, came out over ten years ago.

We've witnessed breathtaking advances in our clean energy tech revolution... and a growing movement of citizens around the world spurring action on climate by political leaders and CEOs.

Yet, evidence mounts of climate change's increasing toll on people and the planet.  And we've seen some heartbreaking policy setbacks, like the decision to pull the U.S. out of the Paris Agreement and roll back other efforts to wean our economy off the fossil fuels of the past.  It shows that, unfortunately, a determined minority — with active financial support from a few large carbon polluters — have found ways to take control of the policy-making process.

But the ultimate power still lies with the people! And that's the most important message of the new film, An Inconvenient Sequel: Truth to Power.

I made this new film to keep the momentum going in our fight against climate change and hope it will help to continue empowering people to counter the efforts by those seeking to sow seeds of doubt.  I know we will win in this struggle.  I hope that by seeing the film, An Inconvenient Sequel: Truth to Power, you will help jumpstart the next critical phase of this movement — and make sure it's bigger and stronger than ever.

Film Review: Hometown Habitat: Stories of Bringing Nature Home

by Penny Lewis, Executive Director of the Ecological Landscape Alliance

As we come into fall, we like to look ahead to what plants we will grow in the spring.  Hometown Habitat: Stories of Bringing Nature Home is a 90-minute environmental documentary produced by award-winning filmmaker, Catherine Zimmerman that educates the viewer about the critical role that native plants play in our ecosystems.  Beyond the education, the film shares a series of successful, nation-wide initiatives that inspire us to get involved and make a difference in our own landscapes and client projects.

Well-known author, educator, and entomologist Dr. Douglas Tallamy provides running commentary throughout the film to help us understand that nature must be incorporated into each and every landscape, not set apart from where we live.  Tallamy’s point is an important one, we shouldn’t have to travel beyond our own yards and communities to find nature. With a few changes in attitude and application, we can make nature integral throughout our communities.

The film’s motivating message is that “All of us have the power to support habitat for wildlife and bring natural beauty to our patch of the earth.”  Whereas media coverage often focuses on environmental degradation, Hometown Habitat is breath of fresh air and offers a story of hope.  From replanting mangroves in Florida’s watersheds to cleaning up a Rocky Mountain river or planting trees in New York City, Tallamy highlights diverse examples of successful efforts to make nature integral in communities.  The projects are varied and include both public and private projects, commercial and volunteer efforts, hundred-acre and pocket garden landscapes.  The commonality is the awareness and commitment to making changes in the landscape that bring about healthier environments.
Trailer for Hometown Habitat: Stories of Bringing Nature Home

NYSDEC Technical Assistance Grant Info

by the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation

The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (NYSDEC) is continuously accepting applications for Technical Assistance Grants (TAGs).  TAGs are a citizen participation tool available to eligible community groups to increase public awareness and understanding of remedial activities taking place in their community.  Eligible community groups may apply (see information and application in the right column) to receive grants for up to $50,000 per eligible site.  

There is no matching contribution required on the part of the grant recipient. TAGs, in the form of State Assistance Contracts (SACs), are available to eligible community groups for the purpose of obtaining independent technical assistance in interpreting existing environmental information about an eligible "significant threat" site being remediated in the State Superfund Program or Brownfield Cleanup Program.

Technical assistance is intended to help the grant recipient and the community it represents understand existing environmental data developed about the site, comment on site remedial activities and proposals, and share this information with the public.  Eligible community groups must be non-responsible parties incorporated as not-for-profit corporations under section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code.  An eligible community group must certify that its membership represents the interest of the community affected by the site, and that its members' health, economic well-being or enjoyment of the environment are potentially threatened by the site.

For complete details, please visit the NYSDEC TAG webpage.

President's Message

by Joy Squires, NYSACC President

In lieu of a typical President's Message, I have but two very important pieces of information to convey to our readers.  First, I invite all of you to join us in Kingston, NY on November 17-18, 2017 for the annual Conference on the Environment.  Kingston Mayor Steve Noble is a long-time NYSACC Director and wishes to share with you all that his wonderful and historic city has to offer.  His wife, Julie Noble, is this year's conference coordinator.  She and her committee have put together fabulous workshops and presenters that you are sure to enjoy.  Remember to submit your Award Applications and also Scholarships are available.

Second, I invite you to renew your membership to NYSACC.  Your membership is critical to our continuing to provide exceptional opportunities and information to environmental organizations and citizens throughout the great State of New York.

See you in Kingston next month! 

Joy Squires, NYSACC President
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