Department of Environmental Conservation

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Public Participation

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.

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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.

Public Meetings and Hearings

The DEC holds many public meetings and hearings throughout the year that allow for public input on various environmental topics. Below is a list of DEC meeting formats that explain the differences for each and how you may participate.

  • Public Meetings - Public meetings are typically scheduled when DEC programs have information to describe a plan of action in a location such as a wildlife management plan, proposed updates to unit management plans, brownfields or other site remediation projects, or other Department initiative. These meetings can serve to update the public on the current status of a local project or program and to get public input on proposals so that the Department can choose an appropriate remedy or action that meets local needs. A presentation will often be followed by a question-and-answer session. These meetings are held virtually or in person.
  • Availability Sessions - Availability sessions are held when DEC programs plan to discuss several topic areas of interest related to a project at one time. These sessions are often held in partnership with other NYS agencies or local governments. Multiple stations are set up in an auditorium or large meeting room with DEC program staff available at each station representing specific areas of interest. The advantage of this type of public session is that it allows for a one-on-one interaction, with staff discussing a particular topic relating to the project, such as water or air quality, with individual members of the public. These sessions are held in person. Learn more about availability sessions by watching our YouTube video (leaves DEC website).
  • Legislative (Public Comment) and Rule Making Hearings - Legislative (public comment) and rulemaking hearings are designed to take unsworn oral statements from the public regarding projects or proposals before the DEC. These include, for example, rulemakings proposing amendments to the DEC's regulations, permit applications under DEC review, and various actions under the State Environmental Quality Review Act (SEQRA), such as scoping sessions and public comment on draft environmental impact statements. Legislative hearings may also be scheduled to address policy issues relating to energy, environmental justice, and climate change. These hearings, which are held virtually or in person, are often facilitated by an administrative law judge.
  • Adjudicatory Hearings - Adjudicatory hearings are formal, trial-like proceedings that are presided over by an administrative law judge. The two main types are administrative enforcement hearings and permit hearings. Participants in adjudicatory hearings include Department staff and witnesses, respondents (in enforcement hearings) or permit applicants, and their attorneys, consultants, and witnesses. The hearings may be held virtually or in person.

For Legislative (Public Comment), Rule Making Hearings, and Adjudicatory (Permit) Hearings, notices of the hearings are published in the Environmental Notice Bulletin (ENB), DEC public calendar and in local newspapers. Sometimes the notice will also be published in a foreign language. The notice contains relevant information on the project or subject, directions on the date, time and how to participate in the hearing, as well as deadline dates for written comments and contact information for submitting written comments.

For a list of public meetings and hearings across New York State, please see our meetings and hearings calendar.

How to Participate in a Virtual Public Meeting

Due to COVID-19, DEC has been hosting virtual meetings on Cisco Webex, a virtual meeting platform, which is similar to Zoom. Some meetings may require you to register beforehand, after which you will receive the log in information by email. If no registration is required, the information on how to join the meeting should be provided within the meeting announcement.

For detailed instructions, please view the 'How to Join a Webex' instructions (PDF).

Foreign Language and Sign Language Interpretation

Foreign language and sign language interpretation can be provided at no charge with 14 days advance notice to the meeting host or via email. If you need help in a foreign language to register, please see our language assistance web page.

Get Involved in DEC's Spring Outreach Initiatives

audience listening to a speaker at a podium

Want more ways to get involved? DEC offers a wide array of different programs for the public to participate in - check out the list of current initiatives below. This list is updated regularly.

  • Join us for the 12th Annual I Love My Park Day on Saturday, May 6, 2023. Parks & Trails New York, in partnership with DEC and New York State Parks hosts I Love My Park Day, held the first Saturday in May, and attracts thousands of volunteers from across the state to participate in cleanup, improvement, and beautification events at New York State parks, historic sites and public lands. Join us to celebrate New York's park system and prepare our public lands for spring by cleaning up park lands and beaches, planting trees and gardens, restoring trail and wildlife habitat, removing invasive species, and working on various site improvement projects. For more information, please visit the Love My Park webpage.

  • Celebrate New York State Compost Awareness Week May 7 - 13! This year's theme "For Healthier Soil, Healthier Food...Compost!", focuses on how compost can have a role to help feed the world, by making soil healthier which produces healthier food. For more information on how to participate, please visit the Composting webpage.

  • Provide input on Visitor Use Management Project in Adirondack High Peaks and Catskills! DEC announced that Otak, Inc., is facilitating the first round of public meetings in the Adirondack High Peaks and Catskills for the Visitor Use Management (VUM) project. Public and stakeholder input will play a key role in helping DEC and Otak develop appropriate sustainable management strategies for the High Peaks and Kaaterskill Clove areas. For more information, view the latest press release. Meetings will be held at the following locations:

    • High Peaks Project Area in the Adirondacks: May 9, 2023, 5:30 - 8:30 p.m. at the Harrietstown Town Hall Auditorium, 39 Main Street, Saranac Lake 12983

    • Kaaterskill Clove Project Area in the Catskills: May 10, 2023, 5:30 - 8:30 p.m. at Coppertree Restaurant, Hunter Mountain Base Lodge, 64 Klein Avenue, Hunter 12442

  • We want your opinion of our State Land kiosks! Take our survey and win prizes such as sporting goods store gift card and a free subscription to the Conservationist magazine. For more information, please visit our Kiosk Survey webpage.

  • Curious about air quality in your city? Get involved and join us for a virtual forum on community air quality monitoring in Brooklyn, Queens, Syracuse, Hempstead/New Cassel/Roosevelt/Uniondale/Westbury, Rochester, and Mount Vernon/Yonkers/New Rochelle. Staff from DEC's Division of Air Resources and the Office of Environmental Justice will be available to answer questions. Collecting air quality data helps DEC target strategies to reduce air pollution in these communities, including the greenhouse gas emissions that contribute to climate change. For more information on meetings, check out the latest press release.

  • Check out the 'Extreme Heat, Health, and Policy: Strategies Across New York's Many Landscapes' webinar on May 18 at 2 PM. This webinar explores the impacts of extreme heat across New York's diverse geographies and communities, including urban heat islands, rural and suburban communities, and workers. The webinar will also describe the intersection of extreme heat and the housing, energy, and agricultural sectors. Speakers will showcase potential solutions. Register on Webex here (leaves DEC website).

  • Attend the Bond Act Listening Tour in Buffalo on May 30 at 1 PM! The tour will provide an opportunity for the public and potential funding applicants to learn more about the Bond Act, and for the community to weigh in on the draft criteria developed to identify potential projects. The first in-person session will be held at the University at Buffalo Center for Tomorrow - North Campus, 125 Service Center Road, Buffalo. To register, visit the Bond Act website (leaves DEC website). Additional meetings will be announced soon for Central New York, the Adirondacks, Upper and Lower Hudson Valley, Bronx, Brooklyn, and Long Island. Two virtual sessions will also be held.

  • Participate in the 2023 Catskill Fire Tower Challenge! We encourage experienced hikers to visit the region's remaining five historic fire towers, as well as a sixth fire tower that was opened at the Catskills Visitor Center. For information on how to participate, visit the Catskill Fire Tower Challenge webpage.

  • The 2023 I BIRD NY Challenge is back! Use your observation skills and join the annual Challenge by identifying any 10 bird species of your choosing in New York State. After successfully completing this fun challenge, you will be awarded a commemorative patch, given a completion certificate, and entered into a drawing for great birding prizes. For more information, please visit the I BIRD NY webpage.

  • Planning a home improvement project? NYS has a program where you can drop off unused paint for reuse and recycling. See a list of drop-off locations near you.

  • Are you looking for foam free container and packaging alternatives? Are you a covered foodservice provider, facility, store, or manufacturer affected by NY State's Expanded Polystyrene (EPS) Foam Container and Polystyrene Loose Fill Packaging Ban? Details about foam-free container and packaging alternatives, including information about specific material types and guidance on common packaging terminology, are available in DEC's updated EPS Alternatives Reference Guide. To view the guide in English or Spanish and find more information about NY's foam ban visit DEC's Go Foam Free webpage. Additionally, the New York State Center for Sustainable Materials Management (CSMM) has created a resource on EPS alternatives for food service providers and stores. To view CSMM's guide visit the Recycle Right website (leaves DEC website) and click on "resources." #FoamFreeNY

Contact Information

Looking for information on who to contact at DEC? Check out DEC's Contact Us page to find points of contact for our various programs, such as sporting license sales, camping reservations, etc.

Please note that due to COVID-19, there may be reduced in-office staffing and we may not get to your call right away. We appreciate your understanding.

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