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Urban Growth Boundaries, Farming, and Rewilding

By S. Schultz


I was watching old interviews. [In one] Ted Turner discussed his efforts to repopulate his land with bison. Robert Redford in another interview discussed his efforts to connect wilderness areas to prevent species extinction. There are other articles and interviews about “rewilding” (replanting forests and native plants and introducing species that no longer inhabit the area). Great efforts have been made in mitigating disease in the American Elm and the American Chestnut.

Creating an urban growth boundary in a rust belt city desperate for gentrification and jobs will not be accepted by the general public. However, there are roughly 17 counties in the Western New York Region. It would be interesting to start an environmental group comprised of representatives from each of the 17 counties.

Usually it’s Albany dictating what each county in each region will do especially if it involves state monies but it’s rare for each of the counties in Western NY to speak and coordinate on issues ranging from the environment, transportation, canals, railroads, politics, etc.

For example our rust belt cities struggle while our population continues to sprawl further and further away from largest municipal areas. Wilderness gives way to roads and farms. Farms give way to more roads and suburban/exurban subdivisions and corporate parks while poverty grows and our cities atrophy.

Does it have to be this way?

Does each of the 17 counties of western New York need to follow whatever priorities Albany tells us? Or can the 17 counties of western New York meet to expand our wilderness, rewild our nature areas, preserve our farms… and redirect our subsidies? [Currently there is an emphasis on] building new roads, water mains, gas lines, sewers, street lights, etc (which the taxpayer subsidizes), while existing urban/suburban infrastructure (which the taxpayer also subsidizes) gets minimum maintenance.

Imagine if we could redirect that ponzi scheme of taxpayer subsidized sprawl to job creation, expanding tourism, facilitating construction of new office buildings, housing, etc.

In summation, it would be interesting if the 17 counties of western New York could set the priorities for their region and lobby Albany as a region. We would certainly have more influence in Albany as 17 counties. Right now managing each county and municipal areas is perfect for Albany because it keeps the power in Albany and downstate, while western New York remains divided and insignificant.  

Perhaps the question to be asked is whether there is anything the 17 counties of western New York have in common? If not, perhaps it’s time we give some thought to what we have in common. Western New York and Upstate New York certainly have more in common than downstate, NYC and Long Island.

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