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Citizen Participation

Get Involved!

A family of 5 enjoying the outdoors

Clean air to breathe. Clean water to drink. Lakes and streams, parks and playgrounds for everyone to enjoy. A cleaner and greener New York is everyone's job.

DEC encourages you to get involved especially when environmental decisions are being made that will impact you, your family and community. Your opinion matters and you can be part of the process. In fact, in some cases, it's actually the law that you be notified about environmental projects that directly impact you.

Most environmental cleanup projects follow a very specific step-by-step process. Before any actual cleanup work begins, people who live close by or are interested need to be told what the situation actually is, how you can be involved and what the plan is to fix the situation.

Being part of the process is especially important if your area has endured more than its fair share of environmental problems. Your input will help better protect the environment, and help DEC work more effectively on your behalf.

A Citizen Participation Handbook (PDF) provides a basic guide for what you can expect, how to get involved and how to stay informed during the project. If you want to find out more about current DEC projects or be on a project's contact list, sign up for one or more of our contaminated sites email lists. Email the Bureau of Public Outreach for more information about current DEC projects, meetings and events in your area and how you can get more involved.

Check our DEC calendar for upcoming events and meetings in your area.

Knowledge is Power

At an availability session people reading the material

The key to getting involved and having your voice heard is to learn more:

  • about a project;
  • how decisions are made;
  • how to get your ideas to the right people and at the right time.

Each DEC regional office across the state has a Citizen Participation Specialist whose job includes answering your questions or getting you to the person who can answer your questions. Citizen Participation Specialists are experts in listening to citizen's concerns, facilitating public involvement, and knowing when public comments need to be submitted. We are here to help.

View proposed regulations that are open for comment.

How to Get Involved

Citizen making a comment at public meeting

The State Environmental Quality Review (SEQR) approval process is used for most important environmental projects. Clean up projects usually follow a process described in the Citizen Participation Handbook. The person at DEC in charge of the cleanup is responsible for making sure people affected by the project are notified early on in the process so they can find out what is going on, get and say what they think about the project during this review process. Sometimes, a public meeting will be held to give more detailed information on the project and give you the opportunity to ask questions or make comments.

If you want to stay updated on the status of a project, you should contact your local DEC office or call 518-402-8044. This is the best way to make sure you are receiving the most current and accurate information.

The Environmental Notice Bulletin contains notices required by environmental law such as public hearings including those related to SEQR actions, Environmental Impact Statements (draft to final), DEC rule making, and specialized notices required by environmental law. It is published each Wednesday.

Community Involvement

There are several types of local councils established under state law that can be organized or that may already be active in your community. Conservation Advisory Councils, Conservation Boards, and Environmental Management Councils are three of these groups.

What is a Conservation Advisory Council?

Conservation Advisory Councils (CACs) and Conservation Boards (CBs) are found in cities, towns, and villages across New York State. They advise local governing boards, planning boards, and zoning boards of appeals on matters related to the environment. CACs and CBs develop town-wide inventories of natural resources and open space, conduct research, review development proposals, conduct site visits, deliver education programs, implement stewardship projects, and gather and distribute information to other town agencies, land use applicants, and the general public. By providing science-based input to land use proposals, ordinances and town plans, CACs and CBs can help communities address environmental issues in municipal planning. For more information on CACs and CBs or to find a local council, check out the New York State Association of Conservation Commissions (This link leaves the DEC website).

What is an Environmental Management Council?

Environmental Management Councils (EMCs) are voluntary advisory boards appointed by their county governments throughout New York.

EMCs were established under Article 47 of the New York State Environmental Conservation Law passed in 1970. EMCs are essentially volunteer boards, made up of 9 or more volunteers appointed by the county executive or legislature, that advise the county on land use planning, environmental infrastructure planning (landfill placement, recycling programs, use of road salt and alternatives, etc.) and local environmental issues (hazardous waste sites, deer management, logging, etc.). They also provide a liaison between the community and their county government.

Members may include business and professional people, farmers, skilled and unskilled workers, students, teachers, and senior citizens. In counties where there are EMCs, any CAC within the county automatically has a seat on the EMC board.

For more information on EMCs or to find a local EMC, please call DEC at 518-402-8044.

DEC Programs That Help Communities

Trees for Tribs

tree seedlings in the nursery

The Trees for Tribs program engages volunteers in restoring streamside buffers through tree planting using native trees and shrubs from the Saratoga State Tree Nursery. The program provides land owners and local governments with low-cost or no-cost native planting materials and free technical assistance.

For more information about the Trees for Tribs program, contact the Tree Nursery at (518) 581-1439.

Hudson River Estuary Program

The Hudson River Estuary Program protects and improves the natural and scenic Hudson River watershed for all its residents, from the federal dam at Troy to upper New York harbor. The Estuary Program achieves real progress through extensive outreach, coordination with state and federal agencies, and public-private partnerships. This collaborative approach includes:

  • Grants and restoration projects
  • Education, research and training
  • Natural resource conservation and protection
  • Community planning assistance

Marine Resources Volunteering Opportunities

Several marine fishery programs are looking for volunteers to provide marine biologists with data. Based on the data collected, the biologists are able to make informed decisions in conserving marine species.

  • Horseshoe Crab Monitoring Program (May-early July)
  • Striped Bass Cooperative Anglers Program (spring-fall)
  • Artificial Reef Fishing and Diving (Year-round)
  • Atlantic Sturgeon Salvage Program (Year-round, but mortalities common during the spring and fall)
  • Blue Crab Tagging Program (Year-round)
  • Blue Crab Recreational Survey (June-October)

More about Citizen Participation:

  • Community Air Screen Program - If you are concerned about what is in the air in your neighborhood, check out the Community Air Screen Program.
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