A new study from a Manhattan-based environmental advocacy group suggests East End towns need to become more proactive with preservation efforts if natural resources are to survive here, but both North Fork town supervisors say their towns are already taking the necessary steps.
The New York League of Conservation Voters Education Fund released its new “green check list” on Monday, insisting federal efforts to protect the environment are failing and local municipalities will need to pick up the slack.
The study, called “NYLCVEF’s Blueprint for a Greener East End,” focuses on five policy issues: smart growth; sustainable agriculture; water quality and aquifer protection; energy efficiency and renewables; and natural resource protection, such as banning the use of non-organic pesticides and fertilizers in sensitive aquifer recharge areas and near surface waters.
“The federal government can’t seem to get its act together on climate change and clean energy, but that doesn’t mean the East End should wait,” the group’s presiden, Marcia Bystryn, said in a press release. “Our ‘Blueprint for a Greener East End’ creates a framework that will lead to a more sustainable future for the East End, while also protecting its economy and high quality of life.”
In the study’s introduction, Ms. Bystryn writes that East End population growth has often been “poorly managed and not well integrated with transportation options,” and rising costs have made it difficult to preserve farmland and open space. Though Southold Supervisor Scott Russell said reduced real estate prices have actually helped towns purchase more open space in recent years.
The study also recommends local municipalities take measures to ensure farmers have access to protected farmland at affordable prices, and suggests towns and villages should enhance agricultural districts and offer farmers incentives in order for them to continue to use their land for agriculture.
The study also notes that towns and villages should implement a transfer of development rights program in order to move potential development away from environmentally sensitive areas and to redirect high density into downtown areas or commercial corridors.
Under a transfer of development rights program, residents that own farmland or open space could sell their development rights in the form of credits. Developers could then purchase those credits to add additional units to other building projects.
Riverhead Town Supervisor Sean Walter said while the town already has a transfer of development rights program, it hasn’t been utilized much.
“It stalled because of the economy,” he said. “That’s the main driver.”
But over the past decade Mr. Walter said Riverhead has “done its part in land preservation” by purchasing over 2,000 acres of open space.
“We’ve done the hard work,” he said. “When the New York League of Conservation Voters Education Fund was thinking about it, we were we’re actually doing it.”
In addition to protecting the East End through preservation efforts, the study recommends local municipalities secure funding for septic upgrades, replacement of faulty septic systems and alternative septic management initiatives. Mr. Russell and Mr. Walter both said they are working with Suffolk County on those issues.
Both North Fork supervisors said they believe their towns are doing all the right things in regards to the environment.
“Right now, if we stay the course, we’ll achieve what [New York League of Conservation Voters Education Fund] is looking for,” Mr. Russell said.
For more information about the study, visit nylcvef.org.