Adirondack Land Trust staffers Olivia Dwyer and Connie Prickett traded microspikes for dress shoes on Valentine’s Day, the better to trek up and down the stairwells of the Legislative Office Building in Albany during Environmental Protection Fund Lobby Day. The outing featured meetings with New York legislators to advocate for $400 million in funding for the Environmental Protection Fund (EPF) in the state’s 2023 budget.

The EPF was established in 1993 to fund environmental protection and community-based projects. The majority of EPF dollars come from real estate transfer taxes. The goal was that as New York land is sold and developed, these transactions support shared resources including public lands, clean water infrastructure, and farmland conservation.

In the Adirondacks, the fund’s impact was immediate and lasting: in 1994, through a cooperative effort with multiple land trusts, the state used EPF funds to purchase 1,829 acres miles north of Westport for addition to the Split Rock Mountain Wild Forest. What was once slated for vacation home development is now accessible to hikers who may spot a bald eagle from the South Rocks Overlook Trail.

EPF funding has been essential to more than a dozen land transactions facilitated by the Adirondack Land Trust to expand the Adirondack Park’s Forest Preserve and protect farmland over the past 30 years. Most recently, EPF backing provided resources to take on preserve responsibilities in our merger with the Lake Placid Land Conservancy, as well as host events to share information about conservation easements with Champlain Valley farmers to help them plan for the future of their farmland. Our current and future efforts to forever conserve Adirondack lands and water, increase quality of life in our region, and buffer against climate change rely on continued support from the EPF.

Staff from land trusts meeting with Assemblyman Billy Jones to talk about the importance of the Environmental Protection Fund.

That was the message our staff and others in the Clean Water & Jobs coalition delivered in Albany. The Adirondack Land Trust and our peers were also able to draw attention to Governor Kathy Hochul’s proposal to draw from the EPF to cover state agency staffing costs, a move our coalition opposes as it would shift funding for environmental projects to operational budgets. A stronger Environmental Protection Fund is a worthy reason to spend a day hiking stairwells—and now we’re headed back to snowy trails crisscrossed with deer and turkey tracks.

Photo of farm and forest scenery in the Champlain Valley by John DiGiacomo.
Photo of Assemblyman Billy Jones and advocates for the Environmental Protection Fund by Kevin Chlad.