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DEC Commissioner remains hopeful on environmental funding amid fiscal challenges

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  • Staff Report 

Despite looming budgetary concerns for New York, Commissioner Basil Seggos of the State Department of Environmental Conservation expressed optimism on Monday that the state would maintain financial commitment to environmental causes and counteraction of invasive species. The state is projected to face a $36 billion deficit in the coming three years, prompting questions about sustained support for environmental initiatives. The commissioner stated his confidence in both the Governor and the Legislature to prioritize environmental needs amidst the fiscal challenges, stressing the urgency due to the unprecedented disruptions witnessed this summer due to climate change.

The State Department of Environmental Conservation, along with the Department of Agriculture and Markets, conducted the Invasive Species Statewide Expo at Saratoga Spa State Park on Monday, emphasizing the growing concern over invasive species in New York, exacerbated by climate changes. New York is currently home to about 500 invasive species, with expectations of more in the warming climate, impacting agriculture and ecology across regions. Public involvement and awareness were underscored as critical in the early identification and mitigation of these species, with experts pointing out that by the time public awareness is raised, it’s usually too late.

Applications for a $3 million grant program dedicated to projects targeting these invasive species are underway, part of an $18.55 million allocation from the $400 million Environmental Protection Fund. Officials, despite the uncertain economic environment, are keen to collaborate with the legislature and academic experts to strategize responses and keep the public informed and involved. The looming financial strain, fueled by the expiry of federal pandemic aid and a projected $9.1 billion shortfall next year, positions environmental spending and initiatives in a precarious situation, but the resolve to prioritize ecological balance and public education remains steadfast amongst officials.