Since I left in 1997, the number of FTEs has dwindled from 4,000 to about 2,900 under democratic administrations. During that same period the number of laws and regulations the agency is expected to administer has increased. That means that fewer people are expected to provide the same level of environmental protection while being asked to take on ever increasing responsibility. Simply put, that math doesn’t work. The only way, without increasing DEC’s budget, to make it work would be to roll back the present environmental laws and regulations. Is that what you want to see happen?
There are fewer DEC staffers available to process the permits necessary for business either to expand or start or for people to build a home or install a dock. How can we expect to attract new business when we can’t service the business we have? Those opposed to “manufacturing” in the area offer tourism as an alternative. Who’s watching the “tourism store”?
Part of upstate’s tourism is based upon its quality fishing and hunting opportunities. In order to maintain or improve those opportunities we must rely upon the DEC wildlife and fisheries biologists to maintain quality wildlife habitat for all wildlife, both hunted and non-hunted, and to keep our fish hatcheries operating at full capacity. That simply isn’t happening and will continue to decline if the proposed budget is agreed upon.
This leads me to the question “Where have all the marchers gone?” We march on Albany to protest things we oppose, e.g. fracking or the ban on assault weapons. But where are we when the very core of what we hold dear is threatened?
Without a viable DEC to stand tall for our environment on our behalf, we all stand to lose. In other words, if you want a viable tourism industry we need a strong DEC. If you want the best safeguards if fracking is allowed, we need a strong DEC. If you enjoy birding, hunting or fishing, we need a strong DEC. If you want to expand or start a business, we need a strong DEC.