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Banjoe 11-18-2019 08:57 PM

Write to the Governor
Does anyone remember letters? Or a time when you thought writing one might make a difference? Well if you still think so, the governor should get one from you before his next budget is announced.

Someone posted a sample letter to a local ski club I belong to suggesting that money from forest product sales go directly to supporting the forests they come from rather than into the Special Revenue Account. The governor is making quite a bit of noise when it comes to problems in our state forests, particularly in the high peaks, and this might be a good way to remind him that money already exists to address some of the issues. The state forest many in our area depend on for the best skiing around, with the most reliable snow, has trails that are heavily maintained by volunteer efforts, and in the past few years, also heavily impacted by timber sales.

A paragraph from the sample letter posted to the ski club:
In the meantime, forest product sales from our state forests continue. Over the past three years, these sales have generated $8,903,662 (April 2016-March 2017) $9,459,842 (April 2017-March 2018) and $7,707,887 (April 2018-March 2019) All of these funds have been swept into the state’s Special Revenue Account, and none have been returned for repairs and maintenance within the forests from which the funds were generated.

One response to the sample letter pointed out that state forests and WMA have different ways of accessing the revenues from sales so "none" might not be entirely accurate, but there's little doubt that not enough of it gets back to the local DEC offices or put into the forests where it was generated.

More information pertaining to this topic:
A bill (S.4416B/A.5035B) to create New York’s first multi-use trails plan has been sent to Governor Cuomo for his approval. This is your chance to let the Governor know how important trails are to you. All you have to do is contact the Governor and urge him to sign the bill so that New York can have the best multi-use trails network in the nation.

Here is a link to use if submitting electronically:

DSettahr 11-19-2019 08:57 AM

I'm not necessarily opposed to the idea but there's a few potential complications that I think any proposal along these lines should seek to address:

1. If the DEC's budget is in part tied directly to revenues from extraction of natural resources, what protections would be put in place to ensure that the temptation to increase resource extraction purely for short-term budgetary gains are avoided? Is it even appropriate for a government agency who's main mission is resource protection to have a budget that is in part tied to profits from resource extraction, no matter how sustainable said extraction may be? (Is there any potential for a "slippery slope" in which NY State feels compelled to further increase the DEC's budget through the sale of other natural resources- i.e., natural gas?)

2. The significant majority of these revenues are generated outside of the Adirondack and Catskill Parks, as Forest Preserve protections prohibit harvesting of timber on most (but not all) state owned lands within those parks. State Forest lands (apart from the Forest Preserve) on which timber harvest does occur are themselves not without significant issues concerning adequate funding for the protection of those lands, and it's easy (and I think obvious) to suggest that at least some of these revenues should at least remain within the DEC regions in which they are generated- and that to divert all of these revenues to the Forest Preserve would be inappropriate. Where do you draw that line, though? I'm sure there's a reasonable balance somewhere in the middle- but figuring out exactly what that balance is isn't going to be easy. (I would also question whether just how much the Forest Preserve actually gets after you make that distinction would amount to anything more than a drop in the bucket.)

FWIW, this isn't without precedent- the PA Game Commission in part is self-funded through sales of standing timber.

Banjoe 11-19-2019 07:55 PM

Agreed, in fact I've abandoned two attempts to write so far because I find myself questioning whether this is the right way to go. What has me wanting to weigh in though, is that the governor encourages everyone to get out and enjoy those areas and help the local economies, but doesn't direct revenues where they are so clearly needed. Be that state forests where timber harvests are being done, or in the Adirondacks and Catskills.

Between 2016 and March of 2019, over 40% of the state's revenue from timber sales came from Region 7 (where I live), where there's one forester for roughly 35,000 acres. Meanwhile, a state forest that has seen significant logging has been deemed a high priority by the DEC for trail repairs, the type not done by volunteer crews with hand tools, never sees funds in the budget to get the work done.

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