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NYSACC News

Fall 2014

Conference on the Environment: October 2-4

BY ADAM FLINT, CONFERENCE COORDINATOR


Registration is now open for the 2014 Conference on the Environment, October 2-4, 2014 in Binghamton, NY.  This year's conference theme is, Walking the Walk, Best Practices for Climate Mitigation, Adaptation and Resilience in New York State and is intended for community leaders and environmental professionals from throughout the northeastern United States.  Your $95 registration fee encompasses three days of exceptional learning and networking opportunities that will expand your professional networks, broaden your sustainability vision, and sharpen your green skills.
 
This year’s conference will take place at the Hilton Doubletree Hotel in downtown Binghamton and is co-hosted by the Binghamton Regional Sustainability Coalition and the Broome County Environmental Management Council.  Since 2008, the Binghamton Regional Sustainability Coalition has been a leader in building resilience and prosperity in the Southern Tier of New York.  Current projects include the development of the Many Hands Food Coop, Be Local Broome, a local business network, and Southern Tier Solar Works, a solar energy and energy efficiency education and marketing program.
 
Hurricane Sandy was the latest of a series of major weather-related disasters that have finally created a sense of urgency to take action on climate change in New York State.  How have New Yorkers been addressing the climate challenge, and how has this created new opportunities to build more resilient and prosperous local living economies?  This conference will address these questions with a focus on three key areas: local food systems, clean energy, and climate change, adaptation and natural resource management.
 
The conference opens Thursday, October 2nd with a reception and exhibitors, followed by The Horseflies in Concert, with a special guest.  Throughout the conference networking time is built in so that you can continue the conversations and take action beyond the conference.
 
Friday, October 5th features a keynote luncheon presentation by John Rhodes, the new President and CEO of the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA).  Attendees will learn how the New York States energy system is in the process of a revolutionary transformation from centralized generation and remote consumption to a ‘smart’ and sustainable system centered on energy efficiency and conservation, distributed clean generation (e.g., solar and wind), energy literacy and citizen participation in production.  Throughout the day, panels featuring best practices and cutting edge challenges will showcase on-the ground initiatives in urban agriculture, community clean energy deployment, and climate smart communities leading the way in building resilience, to name a few.
 
Friday evening is First Friday Art Walk in downtown Binghamton, and opportunity to sample the best of area restaurants, breweries, and night spots, many of which can be reached on foot in 1-15 minutes.  Since 2004, the First Friday Art Walk, has been highlighting the area’s growing arts community.  First Friday patrons enjoy gallery hopping, art openings, music and theater shows, fine dining, cafes, entertainment and merchant’s special events.  Most events run from 6-9 PM, and feature rotating venues ranging from 30 to 40 locations downtown and throughout the city’s neighborhoods.

On Saturday join us for a tour of the Binghamton Urban Farm, downtown community gardens and green home by VINES, Volunteers Improving Neighborhoods.  The bus will first stop at the Downtown farm, where you can sample the fall harvest, learn about their history, educational programs, farm share.  From there we’ll visit local green homes as part of the 19th National Solar Tour, also including geothermal, straw bale, and passive construction examples.

To register, obtain exhibitor and sponsorship information, and to purchase concert tickets, please visit our conference website or contact Adam Flint, Conference Coordinator, at adam@nycoe.org.
 

The Erie Canalway Trail

BY JOY SQUIRES AND PARKS & TRAILS NEW YORK


The Erie Canalway Trail (ECT) spans 277 of the 360 mile length of the original Erie Canal (click here for map).  ETC plays a significant role in Upstate New York communities, many of which rely on the involvement of municipal Conservation and Environmental Commissions, Councils, and Boards to support the completion of the unfinished portions of the ECT system.  Most of the trail is 10 feet wide with a stone dust surface but some sections are paved. The ECT is an important part of the New York State Canal System and offers picnic areas and opportunities to eat, stay, shop, and visit attractions in the beautiful historic towns and villages along its length.
 
While its original use is long outmoded, still today the Erie Canal contributes significantly to the New York State economy and our way of life; it serves as a commercial and recreational waterway and national heritage corridor.  Construction of the 524-mile New York Canal System began in the mid-1820s, with the Erie Canal connecting hundreds of miles of lakes and rivers across the Empire State – linking the Great Lakes with the Hudson River and with five waterways in Canada.  With a price tag of $7 million, the Canal factored heavily in our nation’s westward expansion, and paid for itself in just 12 years.  Over the years, the Canal underwent upgrades and improvements to accommodate an evolution of commercial transportation until railroad networks became the dominant choice.  Today, however, the New York State Canal System remains in operation as a local economic and recreational asset.
 
Parks & Trails New York (PTNY) commissioned a study to provide reliable estimates of the number of persons who are using the ECT, as part of the New York State Canal System, to help measure ECT's total impact on the New York State economy.  According to the study, the ECT can neither realize its full potential as an internationally known tourism destination nor offer maximum economic and quality of life benefits to more than 200 communities along its length until it is finished from Buffalo to Albany as a continuous off-road trail.
 
Since PTNY and the Canalway Trails Association New York launched their Closing the Gaps Campaign in 2010, interest in completing ETC among citizens, community leaders, and government officials at the local, state, and federal levels has reached an all-time high, leading to a number of recent successes:
  • Seven miles of trail were constructed: six miles between Newark and Lyons in Wayne County and one mile in the City of Little Falls.
  • Construction will begin on 14 miles of trail in 2014.  The most significant project will be the eight-mile gap between Amherst and Lockport, which, when finished, will result in more than 134 miles of continuous off-road trail in Western New York.
  • The Syracuse Metropolitan Transportation Council completed part one of ECT's Syracuse Connector Route Project on behalf of the City of Syracuse.  A preferred route with suggested on-road bike treatments and pedestrian options was prepared based on extensive public input and examination of existing routes.
NYSACC members can work on bridging the gaps as indicated in the articles.  For example, the Elbridge Environmental Commission maintained a portion of the ECT from Port Byron to Lock 51 in Jordan, until responsibility was transferred to Onondaga County.
 
If you are at all interested in ECT, its economic impact, and the current status of the trail, please check out PTNY's Economic Impact of the Erie Canalway Trail Report.  You may also be interested in Closing the Gap, a report addressing the incomplete portions of the trail.  For more information on PTNY, please visit their website and access their recent e-newsletter.

New York State Legislative Update

BY STEVE OTIS, STATE ASSEMBLYMAN (91ST DISTRICT, WESTCHESTER COUNTY) AND MEMBER OF NYSACC BORARD OF DIRECTORS


The 2014 legislative session ended with passage in both the State Senate and Assembly of a number of environmental bills and increased funding in the Environmental Protection Fund.  In addition, the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation and the New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation have been engaged in important initiatives and partnerships around the state.

The following actions took place during the last session:
  • The Climate Risk and Resiliency Act passed the state legislature and is currently awaiting the Governor’s signature.  The Climate Risk and Resiliency Act will require planning initiatives to take the effects of climate change (including extreme weather events) into consideration in the planning and zoning processes for new construction where state funding or permits are involved. (A6558-B/S6617-B) 
  • New York State Law now includes a ban on the sale and distribution of illegal ivory.  The legislation was signed into law by the governor in August and will help to prevent elephant poaching, which is often connected to terrorism and organized crime. (A10143/S7890)
  • Both houses of the legislature also passed legislation to expand the in-store recycling requirements for plastic bags.  The legislation requires stores to recycle “plastic film,” including newspaper bags, dry cleaning bags, and shrink wrap as of March 1, 2015.  This legislation is awaiting consideration by the Governor. (A191-B/S5817-A)
  • New legislation has also passed to prohibit the use of TRIS (TDCPP), a chemical flame retardant, in children’s products starting December 2015.  Studies have demonstrated the chemical’s adverse health effects, which are especially dangerous for babies and small children.  This bill also awaits review by Governor Cuomo. (A4741/S3703-B)
  • Another measure passed by both houses and being reviewed by the Governor will improve rules related to managing invasive species.  The bill aims to prevent their growth before their damage become difficult to control. (A9619-B/S7851-B)
  • The State Assembly again passed a 3-year moratorium on hydrofracking based upon receipt of health studies.  The measure did not come to a vote in the Senate. The current moratorium based upon executive branch authority is still in place as the DEC and Department of Health continue to review the issue. (A5424-B/S4236-B)
  • The state budget included $162 million in appropriations for the Environmental Protection Fund (EPF), a $9 million increase over last year’s state budget.  While larger increases are needed to support programs around the state, an increase where most state agencies are working with flat budgets is helpful.
The end of 2014 will bring the retirement of Assembly Committee on Environmental Conservation Chair Robert Sweeney, who is not running for reelection.  Assemblyman Sweeney has chaired the Committee for eight years and has been an outstanding advocate and leader for environmental causes around the state.  He was the lead sponsor on most of the bills noted in this article.  His articulate and effective leadership will be missed.
 
You can follow the status of any piece of state legislation through the New York State Assembly website.

Climate Smart Communities

BY DAVID BERG, CAMERON ENGINEERING & ASSOCIATES, LLP


Climate Smart Communities (CSC) is a multi-agency initiative to help municipalities reduce greenhouse gas emissions and prepare for climate change.  The program is led by the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA) and New York State Department of Environmental Conservation.  The program makes planning and engineering consultants (CSC coordinators) available to villages, towns, cities, and counties to help them draft climate action plans and implement local climate actions.  There are currently four CSC coordinators in the state, for the Capital District, Central New York, Long Island, and Mid-Hudson regions.  

The CSC coordinator program, in its third year, is funded by the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, the first market-based regulatory program in the United States to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.  The nine-state program sells nearly all emission allowances through auctions and invests the proceeds in energy efficiency, renewable energy, and other consumer benefit programs, including the CSC program. 

Climate action plans are local documents.  Long Island’s CSC coordinators established a climate action plan template that includes three basic components: municipal facilities and operations, community-wide policies and initiatives, and climate change adaptation.  Climate action plans generally include some or all of the initiatives listed below:
 
Municipal Facilities and Operations & Community-Wide Policies/Initiatives Climate Change Planning
and Adaptation
  • Buildings & Building Systems
  • Renewables
  • Exterior Lighting
  • Fleets & Transportation
  • Solid Waste & Wastewater
  • Operations
  • Education & Training
  • Land Management
  • Observed & Projected Climate Change
  • Community Self-Assessment & Planning
  • Adaptation Strategies
    • Community Planning & Capacity Building
    • Health & Social Services
    • Housing
    • Infrastructure
    • Natural & Cultural Resources
 
Communities that take the CSC pledge and then prepare a climate action plan realize a number of important benefits.  Many of the initiatives not only save energy, but also save taxpayer dollars.  Improving building efficiency and changing operating procedures reduces costs in municipal facilities as well as in the community at large.  Communities that save energy are less vulnerable to changes in energy pricing and keep more of their energy dollars in the local or regional economy.  Municipalities that take action in their own facilities and operations become a model for their residents and businesses and demonstrate leadership.  Climate Smart Communities are forward-thinking municipalities that are active in climate protection.

A climate action plan can help stimulate economic growth, particularly in the ‘green’ technology sector.  Providers of energy efficiency and renewable energy products and services and their employees benefit as communities become more efficient and install clean technologies.  Communities that reduce waste realize real savings.  Those that adopt land-use policies that encourage smart growth and transit-oriented development reduce vehicle miles traveled and attract new residents, businesses, and tax revenue.

Climate Smart Communities prepare for climate change by understanding the risks to their community, inventorying assets, and determining vulnerabilities.  Adaptation strategies are crafted with this information to prepare CSCs for rising seas, more intense rainfall events, droughts, and higher temperatures.  Flooding from sea level rise is a real concern to downstate CSCs like Suffolk County as well as to upstate CSCs like the City of Kingston

Projects derived from adaptation strategies may include new approaches to land use and building codes.  They can involve hardening of facilities that cannot be moved or moving of facilities to more protected locations.  Vulnerable populations are protected and provisions made to strengthen emergency services and prepare citizens for storm events.  Climate action plans are most effective when they are incorporated into a community’s comprehensive plan.  The Town of Bedford was the first in the state to do so.  A CSC certification program is now available that recognizes the efforts of local governments’ climate action accomplishments with a rating system leading to four award levels. 

To become a CSC, a municipality or county must:
  1. Pledge to be a Climate Smart Community.
  2. Set goals, inventory emissions, plan for climate action.
  3. Decrease community energy use.
  4. Increase community use of renewable energy.
  5. Realize benefits of recycling and other climate-smart solid waste management practices.
  6. Reduce greenhouse gas emissions through use of climate-smart land-use tools.
  7. Enhance community resilience and prepare for the effects of climate change.
  8. Support development of a green innovation economy.
  9. Inform and inspire the public.
  10. Commit to an evolving process of climate action.
Cameron Engineering & Associates, LLP and the Sustainability Institute of Molloy College are the Climate Smart Communities coordinators for Long Island.  For more information, please contact David Berg at (516) 224-5206 or dberg@cameronengineering.com.

Book Review: Bringing Nature Home by Douglas W. Tallamy

BY JOY SQUIRES, NYSACC PRESIDENT


Invasive species are becoming a hot topic for environmental organizations across New York State, especially local governments.  An invasive species is a plant or animal that is not native to a particular ecosystem and which has great potential to cause harm to that ecosystem.  Efforts are being made to limit native species’ decline and loss due to invasive, non-native species incursion.
 
The Town of Huntington has formed an Invasive Plant Committee as a subcommittee of their Conservation Board.  The committee is headed by a passionate environmentalist who is willing to spend a great deal of her time pulling, digging and removing such plants.  The Town of LaGrange has been fighting a war with Mile-a-Minute Vine for several years now (see their 2007 NYSACC Environmental Action Award Nomination).
 
There are many books, lists, pamphlets, web resources listing invasive species in specific regions of New York.  One book, Bringing Nature Home: How Native Plants Sustain Wildlife in Our Gardens, is a little different.
 
As this book eloquently explains, there is an unbreakable link between native plant species and native wildlife.  Indeed, most native insects cannot, or will not, eat alien plants.  When native plant species disappear or are replaced by alien exotics, the insects disappear, thus impoverishing the food source for birds and other animals.  In many parts of the world, habitat destruction has been so extensive that local wildlife populations are in crisis and may well be headed toward extinction.
 
By favoring native plants, gardeners can provide a welcoming environment for wildlife of all kinds.  This doesn’t necessarily entail a drastic overhaul of existing gardens.  The process can be gradual and can reflect both the gardener’s preferences and local sensitivities.  To help concerned gardeners, this clearly reasoned account includes helpful lists of native plants for different regional habitats.
 
Tallamy fills his book with beautiful photographs of plants, insects and birds.  He gives answers to tough questions.  He lists the native plants with wildlife value and desirable landscaping attributes by region.  Among the charts he lists host plants of butterflies and showy moths and experimental evidence.
 
This book is an informative visual delight.  All gardeners and environmentalists will love it.

For additional information on invasive species in New York, check out Cornell University's New York Invasive Species Clearinghouse.

President's message

BY JOY SQUIRES, NYSACC PRESIDENT

 
As you may already know, the New York State Association of Conservation Commissions (NYSACC) serves to promote the intelligent use of New York State’s natural resources through education and action and to provide a forum in which members may share experiences.

So, why should you join NYSACC?  This question was asked of me by a town supervisor who is also the chair of his town's Conservation Advisory Council.  The municipal Conservation and Environmental Commissions, Councils, and Boards that are already members know the benefits.  Let me try to convince the rest of you.
 
Community: Many people belong to the National Audubon Society, Natural Resources Defense Council, Sierra Club, Nature Conservancy, Parks & Trails New York, and other environmental organizations.  Their members believe in their respective missions and support their work.  A sense of community is built – a community of environmentalists.  NYSACC is a like-minded organization supporting the ideas and goals of municipal government conservation and environmental organizations throughout New York State.
 
Communication: Through our newsletter, NYSACC News, our annual Conference on the Environment, and numerous other avenues, NYSACC exists to address the needs and concerns of our member communities.  Will we offer our support if your organization is not a member?  Of course!  But Our all-volunteer team of environmental experts could not carry out NYSACC's mission without our dues-paying members (dues are a nominal $75 annually).
 
Consultation: NYSACC is a reservoir of information and support available to our member communities.  Representatives from our Board of Directors are always available by phone and email, and can even attend an upcoming meeting of your organization to provide insight on issues critical to your region and offer guidance on carrying out a particular project or initiative.

Members communicate and consult all over the state.  Recently, I received a call from the chair of the Town of Elbridge Environmental Commission to discuss an invasive plant initiative underway in their community.  It just so happens that in my hometown of Huntington, our Conservation Board is also working toward eliminating invasive species.  Here, we have a small upstate town and a large downstate town, both faced with the same challenges and afforded the opportunity to share information.
 
Collegiality: We join together once a year at the annual Conference on the Environment.  Besides excellent and practical workshops and guest presentations, the conference provides an opportunity for us to informally discuss our common problems and goals, and offer valuable advice and guidance.

Thank you to those who have responded to our recent membership drive!  We would like to welcome the following organizations into the NYSACC family:
We would also like to welcome back the Village and Town of Mount Kisco Conservation Advisory Council and Town of Kent Conservation Advisory Committee!

I hope to see you at Binghamton for the Conference on the Environment this October 2, 3 and 4.

Joy Squires
NYSACC President

P.S. - Each year at the Conference on the Environment, 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 NYSACC and the New York State Association of Environmental Management Councils and is designed to showcase and promote projects that can be replicated in communities across New York State and beyond.  To nominate your project, download a nomination form (click here) and return it to me by email (joyssq@aol.com).  Nominations are due Friday, September 26, 2014.

P.P.S. - If you're not already a NYSACC News subscriber, please click here to add your email address to our distribution list (you may unsubscribe at any time).

Upcoming events

CONFERENCES AND ACTIVITIES


2014 New York State Conference on the Environment
Walking the Walk: Regional Best Practices for Climate Mitigation and Adaptation
October 2-4, 2014
Binghamton, NY
Visit nyscoe.org for complete details and to register online.
Copyright © 2014 New York State Association of Conservation Commissions, All rights reserved.

The New York State Association of Conservation Commissions (NYSACC) serves to promote the intelligent use of New York State’s natural resources through education and action and to provide a forum in which members may share experiences.

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