Empire Forests for the Future Initiative

The Empire Forests for the Future Initiative


New York's vast forests are some of our state's greatest assets. Publicly and privately-owned forests offer New Yorkers a powerhouse of benefits. They serve as natural filters for pollutants, providing clean air and water. Like sponges, forests absorb and store water, reducing the threat of droughts and floods, and combat climate change by capturing and storing harmful carbon dioxide from the atmosphere.

New York's forests are also lucrative: the forest product industry employs 100,000 New Yorkers and contributes $22 billion to the economy; forest based tourism and recreation contributes $8 billion annually, supporting 32,000 jobs, and wildlife-related recreation adds $4 billion annually.

But, we face a serious challenge: New York's forests are at risk. This threatens to undermine our economy, environment, climate, and communities.

Governor Cuomo's budget proposal makes changes to New York's tax laws that would help protect forests and provide incentives for landowners to manage their forests for maximum public benefit. The Catskill Center is part of a large group of supporters - including the timber industry; conservation, agriculture and business organizations; and a bipartisan group of state lawmakers, who encourage and applaud these reforms.

The Governor's budget proposal establishes the Empire Forest for the Future Initiative. This initiative will help protect our forests. It will improve the tax program for forest owners while also promoting carbon sequestration, wildlife habitat and water quality improvement, and timber production.

The Empire Forests for the Future Initiative provides an important opportunity to leverage our forests as a natural climate change solution. New York has made ambitious commitments to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and increase energy efficiency. Programs are underway to bring renewable energy, clean fuels, and clean cars to our state. The solution New York has not deployed is nature. The Nature Conservancy and several institutions recently completed a study showing that 37 percent of the emission reductions needed by 2030 to keep global temperature increases under 2 degrees Celsius could be achieved through nature-based solutions. This means using the power of nature to tackle climate change.

The proposal also creates new grant programs to assist communities with the creation of community forests for public recreation and local economic benefit, and provide funding to private landowners for forest stewardship. Let's make sure New York's forests are there to provide economic, environmental, and climate benefits to New Yorkers through the Empire Forests for the Future Initiative. 

The Nature Conservancy has created an easy way for you to contact the Governor and your Legislators on this issue, please visit their site and write to your Legislators today and urge them to support it in the NYS state budget!