The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) today released for public comment new proposed eligibility guidelines to improve, expand, and assess the state’s forestry efforts on public and private lands under the historic $4.2 billion Clean Water, Clean Air and Green Jobs Environmental Bond Act of 2022. The guidelines will help support implementation of Governor Kathy Hochul’s initiative to plant 25 million trees by 2033 by building capacity for production of plant materials and investing in a comprehensive data tracking and management system for forestry projects.
“Growing New York’s next generation of forests is vital to ensuring community resiliency and fighting climate change, and the guidelines released today are an important step in advancing Governor Kathy Hochul’s commitment to plant 25 million trees by 2033,” DEC Commissioner Basil Seggos said. “The modernization and expansion of our tree nursery capacity and a new tree planting database will ensure our aggressive tree planting efforts directly benefit communities statewide, and I encourage New Yorkers to provide input on this Bond Act-supported initiative.”
To further achieve New York’s climate goals, Governor Hochul’s 2024 State of the State Address and Executive Budget included $47 million to support a new goal of planting 25 million trees statewide by 2033. This goal will invigorate our state’s tree planting efforts, send an unmistakable market signal to private nurseries, advance efforts to meet the Climate Act’s net-zero goal, and grow the state’s vital forest products industry. Capital investments through the Bond Act and other state sources, and multi-year annual grants to municipalities to plant trees in support of resilient reforestation and urban forests, are key components of this initiative.
The draft eligibility guidelines available for comment enable the public to provide input on the implementation of Bond Act funding for forestry and community health benefits as part of the $400 million directed towards ‘Climate Change Mitigation.’ Once finalized, the criteria will guide funding allocations DEC will use to undertake State-administered forestry projects. Additional eligibility guidelines will be developed to include grant opportunities for locally administered initiatives.
The guidelines support building capacity by repairing and/or updating capacity to produce seedlings and bare-root trees through the upgrade and modernization of seed production facilities such as DEC’s Colonel William F. Fox Memorial Saratoga Tree Nursery. Investments would also support the development and modernization of greenhouses using renewable energy to provide expanded seed processing and storage capabilities, and create a Forest and Ecosystem Health Lab facility to promote ecosystem health, enhance carbon sequestration, and support scientific research.
To assist with tracking the progress made with these upgrades and other ongoing forestry initiatives, the guidelines support investing Bond Act funding to create a database for tracking forest stand asset creation, tree planting, inventory, assessment, management and monitoring, and data dashboards reporting on acreage and type of land conserved. The database will help meet New York State’s 30 x 30 goal to conserve 30 percent of the state’s land and water by 2030 and mandates for modelling forest carbon sequestration and storage that contribute to achieving New York State’s climate goals. The database would also enhance collaboration among DEC programs, stakeholders, and other partners by providing a platform for sharing information and coordinating landscape-wide reforestation efforts, particularly in disadvantaged communities, on both private and public properties.
The full eligibility guidelines are available in today’s Environmental Notice Bulletin. Public comments on the draft guidelines may be submitted in writing to: Division of Lands and Forests, NYS DEC, 625 Broadway, Albany, NY 12223, or by email to [email protected]. Public comments will be accepted through Friday, March 8, 2024.
New York’s Clean Water, Clean Air and Green Jobs Environmental Bond Act of 2022
On Nov. 8, 2022, New Yorkers overwhelmingly approved the $4.2 billion Environmental Bond Act. State agencies, local governments, and partners will be able to access funding to protect water quality, help communities adapt to climate change, improve resiliency, and create green jobs. Bond Act funding will support new and expanded projects across the state to safeguard drinking water sources, reduce pollution, and protect communities and natural resources from climate change.
Since the Bond Act passed, an inter-agency working group comprised of multiple state agencies has been implementing a transparent and collaborative process to identify needs for environmental funding across the state to help develop program logistics. In the last year, the state announced a $200 million funding investment toward the state’s existing Water Infrastructure Improvement and Intermunicipal Grant programs, $100 million available for zero-emission school buses, $100 million available for Clean Green Schools, $200 million investment toward local water infrastructure projects, $2 million investment to protect existing park infrastructure at Cedar Beach on Long Island to protect communities from extreme weather and $13.1 million to support construction of the Adirondack Rail Trail. For more information and to sign up for progress updates, go to the Environmental Bond Act webpage.