Open space provides economic benefits that need to be identified and considered in land use decisions, according to a report released today by State Comptroller Thomas P. DiNapoli.
“Open space can provide a variety of public benefits, including storm water drainage and water management,” DiNapoli said. “Open spaces also provide a more direct economic benefit through tourism, agriculture and the forestry industry. All these benefits should be a factor in land use decisions from Montauk to Massena.”
Agriculture is among New York’s largest and most vital industries, encompassing 25 percent of the state’s land and generating more than $4.5 billion for the state’s economy each year. In 2007, the income generated directly by farms, combined with income generated by agricultural support industries and by industries that process agricultural products, totaled $31.2 billion.
The study noted that open space contributes to the state’s economy by providing opportunities for outdoor recreational activities. DiNapoli also noted that open space often requires fewer municipal services than lands in other use and tend to generate more in municipal tax revenue.
Open space helps control storm water runoff, preserves surface water quality and stream flows, and aids in the infiltration of surface water to replenish aquifers. When lands are converted to other uses, the natural benefits provided by open space often must be replaced through the construction of water treatment facilities and infrastructure to control storm water, all paid for through local tax revenue. A series of studies have found the preservation of open space to be a more economical way to address storm water requirements.
DiNapoli’s report recommends that New York State consider:
•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
New York State has a history of being at the forefront of open space conservation efforts. In 1833 New York created the first state park in the nation at Niagara Falls. The state also led in the preservation of wilderness with the creation of the New York State Forest Preserve in the Adirondack and Catskill parks in 1885.
Click HERE for a copy of the Economic Benefits of Open Space report.