Open space has economic benefits, too.
Sure, open space is good for recreational activities and also carries environmental benefits. But land preservation also comes with economic benefits that are often overlooked, the state comptroller pointed out in a recent report.
“For example, benefits provided by open space, such as water preservation and storm water control, are often significant. In many instances it is less expensive for a community to maintain open space that naturally maintains water quality, reduces runoff, or controls flooding than to use tax dollars for costly engineered infrastructure projects such as water filtration plants and storm sewers,” according to a report issued this month by state comptroller Thomas DiNapoli.
Allowing municipalities to establish community preservation funds
Evaluating the adequacy of protections for lands providing benefits for municipalities
Improving state-level planning for open space to address long-term funding needs
Improving the administration of funds for open space programs
Encouraging private land conservation
Scenic Hudson, a Poughkeepsie-based environmental group, welcomed DiNapoli’s report.
“This report is timely because it will enhance awareness that even in economically challenging times, investing in land pays big dividends. The comptroller’s research powerfully conveys the deep and broad benefit that open space provides through the state’s tourism and agriculture industries. These job-creating, tax-paying industries are greatly underappreciated for their economic power. In the 10-county Hudson River Valley region, tourism spending is $4.7 billion annually and is responsible for 80,000 jobs. This tourism spending contributes $298 million in taxes that valley residents don’t have to pay. Farms too provide a great tax benefit because they pay much more in taxes than they consume in tax-paid services. Cows and crops don’t go to school, drive on publicly maintained roads or use other social programs,” Scenic Hudson president Ned Sullivan said.
The photo by TJN photographer Tania Savayan shows Michael Barnhart, president of the Somers Land Trust and co-chairman of the Somers Open Space Committee, in the Angle Fly Preserve last year. In May 2006, the Westchester Land Trust helped broker a deal that saw Somers, Westchester County, the New York City Department of Environmental Protection and the state Department of Environmental Conservation put up $20.6 million to buy the 654 acres, which were slated for development.