Conservation can be a pricy endeavor, so there’s good news for the Washington County towns of Argyle, Fort Edward and Kingsbury.
Governor Andrew Cuomo signed the Washington County Grasslands Bill into law last week, requiring New York State to pay property taxes on state-owned land that is now designated part of a critical and protected habitat for endangered, threatened and at-risk bird species.
“This legislation ensures the cost of conserving New York’s endangered and threatened grassland birds is not borne solely by economically depressed rural communities,” Laurie LaFond, Founder and Executive Director of Friends of the Washington County Grasslands IBA (FIBA) said in a news release.
“The agricultural lands of Washington County have been identified as a critical component of the State’s efforts to conserve open space and protect wildlife habitats,” Assemblymember Carrie Woerner — one of the bill’s sponsors — said in a news release. “While I strongly support environmental conservation, we must also take into account the effect that these purchases have on the tax base of our small rural towns.”
The Friends of the Washington County Grasslands, along with local and state officials, have been pursuing land set-asides and purchases in order to protect birds like the Short-eared owls, threatened Northern harriers and Upland sandpipers, Eastern meadowlarks, Bobolinks and Sedge wrens.
The organization says that even with the protection of these grasslands, these species continue to decline despite current conservation efforts. The new bill ramps up the ability of local taxing districts in Washington County towns to be able to meet conservation needs while not suffering from lost tax revenue that comes with this effort.
More than 13,000 acres in upstate New York have been designated conserved land, with 2,000 acres in Washington County deemed critical to protecting bird populations.