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‘Restore Mother Nature’ and other highlights from the State of the State address

Riverkeeper reacts to Governor Cuomo’s State of the State

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State of the StateThe 2020 State of the State address held in Albany included bold new proposals from Governor Andrew Cuomo that, if realized, will ensure clean water, unique lands and iconic animals are protected for our children and grandchildren. One highlight we were thrilled to see proposed is a $3 billion Restore Mother Nature Bond Act to ensure that clean water, pollution prevention and wildlife programs in New York State receive the funding they deserve. This initiative is an important part of the governor’s long-term plan to make New York more prepared for the effects of climate change. 

 We were also delighted that Governor Cuomo emphasized marsh restoration, removing obsolete dams that block the natural flow of streams and wildlife, and natural solutions as important tools to protect our shorelines, which is an argument that Riverkeeper has used to counter the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ proposal for giant in-water storm surge barriers in New York Harbor. The announcement also included proposals to ban Styrofoam takeout containers, purchase over 4,000 acres of new parkland including the creation of a new park in Ulster County and a new clean energy jobs training program.

Restore Mother Nature Bond Act. By restoring marshes, land around rivers and streams, and shellfish such as the pollution filtering oyster, Restore Mother Nature will give New York’s wildlife, which have been stressed by the climate crisis and years of exploitation, a fighting chance to recover and thrive. Nearly all the Hudson River’s iconic fish are in serious long-term decline including the ecologically and economically important striped bass, river herring, and shad. As a bond act, the legislature will have to approve the measure before it heads to the backside of your ballot in November for voter approval of the referendum. The last time there was an environmental bond act was all the way back in 1996! 

Bringing down obsolete dams, restoring marshes and streams, and preserving shorelines will benefit these struggling animals while reducing pollution and ensuring that communities have clean drinking water. The initiative seeks to restore 10,000 acres of freshwater marshes, 10,000 miles of stream replanting and connectivity projects, and create a brand new Conservation Corridors Program. These projects are not only good for our iconic wildlife but also help ensure that communities are ready for the impacts of drought, increased flooding and storm events caused by climate change. The initiative will also include funding to address harmful algal blooms that have proliferated in waters across the state and in the Hudson River Estuary, particularly in the Wallkill River. 

Styrofoam takeout container in foodservice and foam packing peanut ban. Styrofoam packaging is one of the most common items Riverkeeper finds along the shores of the Hudson River. New York City and other communities in the state have already phased out the environmentally harmful packaging, which is derived from fossil fuels. The EPA considers styrene a likely human carcinogen and when released into the environment Styrofoam takes decades or longer to breakdown. If approved the ban on single-use takeout containers and packing peanuts will go into effect January 1, 2022. We are thrilled to see this proposal included in the State of the State and look forward to its passage this legislative session.

Land Acquisition in Mid-Hudson Valley. Expanding parkland in the Mid-Hudson Valley not only increases recreational opportunities for New Yorkers but also ensures the natural filters that forests provide will benefit Hudson River tributaries. Additionally, our partners at Scenic Hudson were instrumental in a plan to create a new 508-acre state park in the City of Kingston along the Hudson. We are pleased to see proposed acquisitions that will protect water quality along the Hudson River and in the Moodna Creek, Pocantico River, Rondout Creek and other watersheds.

None of this will be easy to accomplish without your help. Members of the legislature, your friends, family and neighbors all need to hear how important these programs are to New Yorkers. If approved by legislators and the public, these proposals will mark a turning point for protecting clean drinking water and bringing our state’s iconic wildlife such as the sturgeon and shad back from the brink. The legislative session runs from now until June 3rd and we want to make sure you stay informed and can take action. Make sure you sign up for our emails and action alerts.

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