Protect NY’s Most Imperiled Wetlands
For the past 20 years, New York has been entangled in a federal legal debate over what constitutes a wetland and who has the authority to protect these critical natural areas. The Trump Administration’s rollback of Obama-era clean water rules has only intensified the need for New York to clarify how we as a state regulate freshwater wetlands – one of our most valuable and misunderstood resources.
New Yorkers rely on swamps, fens, bogs, and wet meadows to filter pollutants from our waterways, recharge our aquifers, and absorb catastrophic floods. Yet there often appears to be little public awareness that we are filling, dredging and draining wetlands at an alarming rate – at least until we find our neighborhoods underwater or our public water supplies contaminated.
Right now, we have a rare opportunity to pass historic reforms to NY’s freshwater wetlands program, in a way that prioritizes protections for habitats that are most important to clean water and flood control, without relying upon significant new staffing resources. Reach out to state lawmakers and tell them to protect wetlands in this year’s legislative session!
Currently, for a wetland to be subject to regulation under NY state law, it must be delineated on existing freshwater wetlands maps prepared by DEC after lengthy public comment. But most of these maps have not been updated in over 20 years, making them woefully incomplete, and the amendment process can be time consuming and overly burdensome in administrative costs. There are hundreds of thousands of acres of wetlands in high development areas of New York that are not on official maps but desperately require protection.
Case example: The Sierra Club is fighting the development of the Graniteville wetland on Staten Island, a crucial fresh water marsh that saved lives from super storm Sandy’s catastrophic flooding. But because the wetland was never properly delineated on official DEC maps – NY State has had little leverage to fully protect it, and now a BJ’s Wholesale Club and acres of parking lots are slated to fill in this critical habitat. (Please sign our petition to stop this project from moving forward).
Right now, the legislature is weighing legislation (S.5116) that will remove the jurisdictional barriers that these maps have created, and allow DEC to immediately protect and regulate wetlands if they meet the basic scientific definition of these critical habitat areas, to avoid conflicts like Graniteville in the future. DEC Commissioner Seggos estimated that if this reform was enshrined in law it will be the equivalent of adding 1 million acres of wetland under the state’s protection. This new legislation will also enhance how the DEC can identify and protect smaller wetlands that are effective for community flood water control, provide habitat for rare plant or animal species, or are important to maintaining clean drinking water.
Take action today and urge your Senator and Assembly member to prioritize theprotection of wetlands this legislative session by passing S.5116!
Below is a sample letter to Assemblyman John Salka.. Feel free to use something similar to send to the assemblyman.
Letter to Salka and May:
As a lifelong Cazenovia resident I have witnessed the loss of local wetlands, buffer zones along streams, forests and fields lost to ditching, intermittent streams destroyed, poorly planned development, overuse of road salt in winter — and more. In my neighborhood, Cazenovia Lake, Erieville Resevoir, DeRuyter Resevoir, Oneida Lake – and many more – are imperiled. Chittenango Creek, Limestone Creek, Butternut Creek, Tioghnioga River, Chenango River and their many tributaries are imperiled. Sadly, we now must add to these problems the growing climate change “issues” that we can expect into the future. Wetlands, wild lands and open spaces – big and small – gift us with protecting our surface and ground waters, and that protection is critical to the environment we, and all living things, depend on to sustain us.
The previous federal administration proved that we New Yorkers can’t rely on federal programs to protect our vital natural resources. We need to do the right thing through NY State legislation — legislation based on good science and backed by an overwhelming majority of New Yorkers. Please — support S.5116.
Thank you for your consideration.