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Science and Management Forums: A regional resource

In an effort to infuse regional environmental decision making with current science, the Cary Institute has been offering a Science and Management Forum series. Held in conjunction with Cornell Cooperative Extension of Dutchess County, forums are designed to provide municipal officials and concerned citizens with the information needed to make informed environmental choices.

The collaboration is an effective one. As one of the nation’s leading ecological research organizations, the Cary Institute is well-suited to provide and curate the science that underpins environmental topics. Cornell Cooperative Extension is part of a state-wide effort that is attuned to both the needs of municipal audiences and the resources that exist within Dutchess County and beyond.

To date, forums have been held on the environmental and health impacts of road salt application, land-use planning and collaborative ecological stewardship, and regional freshwater issues with a focus on stormwater management and green infrastructure. In October, the fourth installment will tackle municipal responses to climate change.

Half-day sessions allow for a comprehensive overview of the featured topic. In addition to speakers from the Cary Institute and Cornell Cooperative Extension, experts are invited from government agencies, universities, not-for-profit organizations, and the medical field.

Real success has emerged from the forums. The Town of East Fishkill adopted strategies outlined in the road salt forum and has realized economic and environmental savings. The $140,000 that was invested in retrofitting trucks with more effective salt spreading equipment was recouped within a year. The town reduced its salt use by more than 3,000 tons and saved more than $100,000.

In addition to the municipal savings accrued by adopting computerized salt spreaders, reduced salt application is a boon for the environment. In the words of Town Supervisor John Hickman, “Less salt buildup means less pollution of surface soils and groundwater.” This is good news for the region’s creeks and streams, many of which are degraded by excessive road salt runoff.

The Science and Management Forum series has been well received by its target audience. Planning board members, municipal officials, watershed groups, conservation advisory committees, and concerned citizens have taken advantage of the offerings—with an RSVP list that reads like a who’s who of the local community. Attendees can receive three credit-hours of New York State municipal training.

The fall forum will provide a primer on climate change science for municipal officials. This includes impacts to freshwater, agriculture, forests, health, and economy. In addition to scientists and resource managers, the speakers will include a medical doctor and a green jobs expert.

To keep abreast of offerings in our Science and Management Forum series, or to suggest a topic, please e-mail Communications Director Lori M. Quillen at Forums are free and open to the public, but registration is required.