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New York – February 17, 2010 – Today, the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) released a home-made video to inspire New Yorkers to send a message to Albany to reject Governor Paterson’s proposal to cut by nearly 50 percent the funding for New York State’s 80 zoos, botanical gardens, and aquariums.

“This proposed 50 percent cut to our state’s zoo, botanical gardens and aquariums comes right when New York communities and families need these parks the most,” said John Calvelli, WCS Executive Vice President of Public Affairs. Our communities rely on these parks to bring business to local merchants and to vendors; and our families rely on these institutions for jobs and as inexpensive respites during bad times.”

“We hope thousands of New Yorkers join us in this effort to petition Albany and to also thank the lawmakers who are championing our cause: Assembly Member Robert K. Sweeney, Chair, Committee on Environmental Conservation; Senator Jose Serrano, Chair, Cultural Affairs, Tourism, Parks and Recreation; Senator Antoine Thompson, Chair, Environmental Conservation; and Assembly Member Steven Englebright, Chair, Committee on Tourism, Parks, Arts and Sports.”

“Together, our 80 living institutions throughout New York State are fighting for this vital funding because we know when we keep our zoos, botanical gardens and aquariums strong we are also helping to keep our local communities strong, said Lois Carswell, Chairman of Coalition of Living Museums.  “We are thankful to all the New Yorkers joining this cause because we will not be successful without their voices. We also thank our champions in the Assembly and Senate for understanding the importance of living institutions to all New Yorkers.”

The video released today, “Parrots Make Bad Secretaries: Save New York Jobs,” directly addresses the economic repercussions if the Governor’s proposed cut of almost 50 percent becomes reality. While the video is humorous, the results of cutting these living institutions further during these difficult economic times will be serious. The video shows a zoo having to hire its animals to do office work because the state funding cuts have forced the lay offs of the human staff.

View the full video at: www.wcs.org

“The video is intended to inspire New Yorkers to contact Albany to help save these institutions,” said Calvelli. “All of the 80 institutions which make up our state’s Coalition of Living Museums are in communities where families rely on them for jobs and where merchants rely on them to drive tourism and business. We faced a similar situation last year and because New Yorkers spoke up, our legislative champions responded and restored our Fiscal Year 2010 budget. Now, we have a whole new fight on our hands with cuts to the Fiscal Year 2011 budget being threatened by the governor.”

The release of the video comes as WCS and the Coalition of Living Museums (CLM) continue to generate support from the community through a petition drive and letter-writing campaign to fully restore funding the Zoos, Botanical Gardens and Aquariums (ZBGA) state budget line.

The campaign is aimed to garner messages from thousands of New Yorkers demanding Albany to reject a proposed $4 million cut to the $9 million ZBGA budget line.
“When you cut zoos, botanical gardens and aquariums – important economic drivers in communities across our state – you are hurting New Yorkers and New York, especially during a time of high unemployment in our state,” added Calvelli.

WCS zoos and its aquarium alone pump more than $400 million into the state’s economy annually. In addition, these institutions, the WCS Bronx Zoo and New York Aquarium, provide a much needed educational resource for children.

As Albany lawmakers and the governor negotiate the state budget proposal, the Coalition asks New Yorkers to go to www.wcs.org to sign a petition telling Albany to fully restore ZBGA. Petition signatures are also being taken on-site at WCS’s Bronx Zoo and New York Aquarium.  
For more than 30 years, ZBGA has proven its economic benefits to the entire state. Living museums generate millions of dollars each year for the state in tourism and economic development. Businesses depend on the money spent by ZBGA funded institutions and they depend on the income generated by tourists patronizing them. Money spent supporting the 80 living museums across New York State is money spent building and stabilizing the economy through jobs, education, and support for industries that depend on their existence.

ZBGA institutions are an integral part of the Environmental Protection Fund (EPF) and are critical to the goals of the EPF. During the last seven years, more than $500 million of dedicated environmental funding has been transferred from the EPF and spent on other non-environmental programs.

Today New York State is struggling to honor its existing obligations based on the nearly half billion dollars that has been transferred from the EPF for general budget relief. Without properly addressing repayment of previously diverted EPF funds, the State runs the risk of exhausting future appropriations on previous commitments, risking progress on new projects.  

Calvelli said: “Slashing funds to these institutions is shortsighted. It will have a snowball effect on employment, commerce, and education in communities across the entire state.”

Max Pulsinelli – 718-220-5182; mpulsinelli@wcs.org
Steve Fairchild – 718-220-5189; sfairchild@wcs.org
Mary Dixon – 347-840-1242 mdixon@wcs.org

The Wildlife Conservation Society
saves wildlife and wild places worldwide. We do so through science, global conservation, education and the management of the world's largest system of urban wildlife parks, led by the flagship Bronx Zoo. Together these activities change attitudes towards nature and help people imagine wildlife and humans living in harmony. WCS is committed to this mission because it is essential to the integrity of life on Earth.