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DEC Commissioner Joe Martens. Photo: Matt Ryan for Innovation Trail
DEC Commissioner Joe Martens. Photo: Matt Ryan for Innovation Trail

Critics see red over Cuomo's green budget

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Governor Cuomo was joined on the stage yesterday by state Conservation commissioner Joe Martens. But the spending plan for green projects that Martens outlined in the high profile presentation is already facing sharp criticism from across the political spectrum.

In part, that's because it slashes nearly five percent from the DEC's operating budget at a time when Conservation workers are being asked to do far more in the Adirondack North Country.

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Reported by

Brian Mann
Adirondack Bureau Chief

Martens argued that this spending plan reflects a commitment to environmental progress, including more than $150 million for the Environmental Protection Fund, which is used for clean water projects and land conservation.

But this budget also includes a cut of more than $43 million to the DEC’s operating budget, a hit of nearly five percent, caused in part by the loss of Federal funding.

This comes on the heels of years of downsizing and belt-tightening. Willie Janeway, a former top DEC official who took over as head of the Adirondack Council last year argues, "The ability of state agencies has been stretched beyond the breaking point and further cuts mean that things will not get done."

That view was shared by state Senator Betty Little, who says big land purchases like the Finch Pruyn deal require more dollars for stewardship and trail building. "We need to have more people, more DEC people in the field," she said.  "We're hoping to be able to correct that."

Some details of this environmental spending plan did please North Country officials. It calls for refurbishment of fish hatcheries and includes money to upgrade the boat launch at Meacham Lake in Franklin County. That won praise from Assemblywoman Janet Duprey who said, "It's going to enhance that area and it's something that sportsmen have been talking to me about for three years or more."

The concern is that even with capital improvements, the state won’t have the boots on the ground to operate and maintain facilities like Meacham Lake across the region.

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