Clean air to breathe. Clean water to drink. Lakes and streams, parks and playgrounds for everyone to enjoy. A cleaner and greener New York is everyone's job.
DEC encourages you to get involved especially when environmental decisions are being made that will impact you, your family and community. Your opinion matters and you can be part of the process. In fact, in some cases, it's actually the law that you be notified about environmental projects that directly impact you.
Public Meetings and Hearings
The DEC holds many public meetings and hearings throughout the year that allow for public input on various environmental topics. Below is a list of DEC meeting formats that explain the differences for each and how you may participate.
- Public Meetings - Public meetings are typically scheduled when DEC programs have information to describe a plan of action in a location such as a wildlife management plan, proposed updates to unit management plans, brownfields or other site remediation projects, or other Department initiative. These meetings can serve to update the public on the current status of a local project or program and to get public input on proposals so that the Department can choose an appropriate remedy or action that meets local needs. A presentation will often be followed by a question-and-answer session. These meetings are held virtually or in person.
- Availability Sessions - Availability sessions are held when DEC programs plan to discuss several topic areas of interest related to a project at one time. These sessions are often held in partnership with other NYS agencies or local governments. Multiple stations are set up in an auditorium or large meeting room with DEC program staff available at each station representing specific areas of interest. The advantage of this type of public session is that it allows for a one-on-one interaction, with staff discussing a particular topic relating to the project, such as water or air quality, with individual members of the public. These sessions are held in person. Learn more about availability sessions by watching our YouTube video.
- Legislative (Public Comment) and Rule Making Hearings - Legislative (public comment) and rulemaking hearings are designed to take unsworn oral statements from the public regarding projects or proposals before the DEC. These include, for example, rulemakings proposing amendments to the DEC's regulations, permit applications under DEC review, and various actions under the State Environmental Quality Review Act (SEQRA), such as scoping sessions and public comment on draft environmental impact statements. Legislative hearings may also be scheduled to address policy issues relating to energy, environmental justice, and climate change. These hearings, which are held virtually or in person, are often facilitated by an administrative law judge.
- Adjudicatory Hearings - Adjudicatory hearings are formal, trial-like proceedings that are presided over by an administrative law judge. The two main types are administrative enforcement hearings and permit hearings. Participants in adjudicatory hearings include Department staff and witnesses, respondents (in enforcement hearings) or permit applicants, and their attorneys, consultants, and witnesses. The hearings may be held virtually or in person.
For Legislative (Public Comment), Rule Making Hearings, and Adjudicatory (Permit) Hearings, notices of the hearings are published in the Environmental Notice Bulletin (ENB), DEC public calendar and in local newspapers. Sometimes the notice will also be published in a foreign language. The notice contains relevant information on the project or subject, directions on the date, time and how to participate in the hearing, as well as deadline dates for written comments and contact information for submitting written comments.
For a list of public meetings and hearings across New York State, please see our meetings and hearings calendar.
How to Participate in a Virtual Public Meeting
Due to COVID-19, DEC has been hosting virtual meetings on Cisco Webex, a virtual meeting platform, which is similar to Zoom. Some meetings may require you to register beforehand, after which you will receive the log in information by email. If no registration is required, the information on how to join the meeting should be provided within the meeting announcement.
Foreign Language and Sign Language Interpretation
Foreign language and sign language interpretation can be provided at no charge with 14 days advance notice to the meeting host or via email. If you need help in a foreign language to register, please see our language assistance web page.
Get Involved in DEC's Winter Outreach Initiatives
Want more ways to get involved? DEC offers a wide array of different programs for the public to participate in - check out the list of current initiatives below. This list is updated regularly.
Join us virtually for an ‘Overview of NY’s Freshwater Wetland Regulatory Changes’ on Thursday, February 1 at 1 PM. This webinar will provide an overview of DEC's current freshwater wetlands regulations and how they are enforced. It will explain the need for the regulatory revisions and outline the forthcoming regulatory changes and their effective dates. To register, please sign up here.
- The Colonel William F. Fox Memorial Saratoga Tree Nursery officially kicked off the annual spring seedling sale, which is now open to the public and runs until May 10. Each year, the nursery offers low-cost, New York-grown tree and shrub species for sale to encourage plantings that help conserve New York’s natural resources and foster the next generation of forests. For more information on ordering and available species, visit our Spring Seedling Sale webpage.
- Join the Hudson River Estuary Program and the Hudson River National Estuarine Research Reserve’s “Women in Science” webinar series on February 7, 3:30 - 4:30 PM and February 21, 3:30 PM - 4:30 PM. Meet and learn from scientists, community leaders, and environmental educators who work at the intersection of research, education, and environmental and social justice. Engage in discussions about monitoring and research, field-based learning, and creating pathways and overcoming barriers and challenges in the field of science and education. Register on Zoom here.
- Free Fishing Day is February 17-18 (President’s Day Weekend)! This is the perfect opportunity to try out ice fishing for the first time, to get back into the sport, or to take a friend or the whole family along to fish! Even though a license is not needed, all other fishing regulations apply.
- Heading out hiking this winter? Check out our list of Great Winter Hikes. Before you hit the trails, study up on our tips to hike safely in the winter!
- Participate in the 2024 Catskill Fire Tower Challenge! Visit all six Catskill Fire Towers between January 1, 2024 and December 31, 2024.Entries must be postmarked by January 6, 2025. For information on how to participate, visit the Catskill Fire Tower Challenge webpage.
- Planning a home improvement project? NYS has a program where you can drop off unused paint for reuse and recycling. See a list of drop-off locations near you.
- Are you looking for foam free container and packaging alternatives? Are you a covered foodservice provider, facility, store, or manufacturer affected by NY State's Expanded Polystyrene (EPS) Foam Container and Polystyrene Loose Fill Packaging Ban? Details about foam-free container and packaging alternatives, including information about specific material types and guidance on common packaging terminology, are available in DEC's updated EPS Alternatives Reference Guide. To view the guide in English or Spanish and find more information about NY's foam ban visit DEC's Go Foam Free webpage. Additionally, the New York State Center for Sustainable Materials Management (CSMM) has created a resource on EPS alternatives for food service providers and stores. To view CSMM's guide visit the Recycle Right website and click on "resources." #FoamFreeNY
Looking for information on who to contact at DEC? Check out DEC's Contact Us page to find points of contact for our various programs, such as sporting license sales, camping reservations, etc.
Please note that due to COVID-19, there may be reduced in-office staffing and we may not get to your call right away. We appreciate your understanding.