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Conservation Assistance Awarded to Hudson River Valley Towns
New York Ag Connection - 01/25/2023

New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) Commissioner Basil Seggos Tuesday announced the selection of three municipalities to receive conservation technical assistance from DEC's Hudson River Estuary Program. Through a competitive application process, the Dutchess County towns of Clinton and Washington and village of Millbrook were selected to work collaboratively with conservation professionals to create natural resources inventories for their communities. A natural resources inventory (NRI) compiles maps and descriptions of natural areas and provides a reference for planning in a community.

"I applaud these municipalities and volunteers for working together and committing to learn about the significant lands and waters in their communities," said Seggos. "DEC is proud to build the planning capacity of local government partners to address global and community priorities, including biodiversity conservation, climate adaptation, and a healthy environment for residents."

For more than two decades, DEC's Hudson River Estuary Program and Cornell University Department of Natural Resources and the Environment have implemented a joint initiative to encourage scientifically sound planning and reach conservation outcomes that benefit people, the watershed, and the estuary. Since the release of the program's Creating a Natural Resources Inventory: A Guide for Communities in the Hudson River Estuary Watershed (PDF) in 2014, DEC's Estuary Program and partners have helped 34 towns, cities, and villages and three counties develop NRIs, and almost 40 percent are using the inventories to create local conservation plans and policies. Examples include the city of Kingston's open space plan, the town of Gardiner's community preservation plan, and two critical environmental areas in the town of New Lebanon.

To prepare NRIs, the municipalities will receive assistance from the Estuary Program's Conservation and Land Use team and the program's partner, Cornell Cooperative Extension of Dutchess County. Municipal applicants for the Estuary Program's technical assistance opportunity needed to demonstrate the NRIs would aid in the development of new or updated local plans or policy for their communities. NRIs typically include information about topography, geology, soils, water resources, habitats, wildlife, farmland, and climate, and often include cultural resources such as scenic areas, recreation sites, and historic properties. By knowing the locations of resources like forests, streams, wildlife habitats, and aquifers, municipalities are better able to identify conservation priorities and create land use plans and policies to protect what they care about.

Town of Clinton Supervisor Michael Whitton said, "The town of Clinton has a dedicated group of volunteers that have stepped up to make the town a more environmentally friendly place to live and work. We are grateful to the Hudson River Estuary Program and the DEC for their technical assistance in developing a natural resources inventory. This will assist the town in making important zoning decisions regarding land use, conservation priorities, and sustainable management of our natural resources. I am excited to see this project come to fruition,"

Mayor of the village of Millbrook Tim Collopy said, "This Natural Resource Inventory will be an excellent opportunity for residents to learn about the many flora, fauna, and habitats that coexist with us in Millbrook and the surrounding area, and how we can preserve these resources for future generations."

Town of Washington Supervisor Gary Cifferi said, "The town of Washington is thrilled to have been selected by the State Department of Environmental Conservation, along with the village of Millbrook and town of Clinton for technical support in creating a Joint Natural Resources Inventory. This important opportunity will allow Washington to properly identify its natural resources - a critical step for us to make more informed planning and zoning decisions for both our town and our neighboring municipalities."

Funding for the technical assistance opportunity is provided by New York's Environmental Protection Fund (EPF) and is administered by DEC's Hudson River Estuary Program in partnership with Cornell's Department of Natural Resources and the Environment. Among the many environmental victories in the 2022-23 State Budget, Governor Hochul succeeded in enacting an increase in the EPF from $300 million to $400 million, the highest-ever level of funding in the program's history. The EPF supports climate change mitigation and adaptation efforts, improves agricultural resources to promote sustainable agriculture, protects our water sources, advances conservation efforts, and provides recreational opportunities for New Yorkers.

More information on conservation planning in the Hudson River estuary watershed is available at Cornell University's website at https://bit.ly/3R4gp5C.


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