Article 12-F, Section 239-x of the New York State General Municipal Law enables the local legislative body of any city, town, or village to establish a Conservation Advisory Commission (CAC) to advise in the development, management and protection of its natural resources. CACs are strictly advisory bodies.
A local legislative body—common council, town council, village board of trustees—may create a CAC in one of the following ways:
- A resolution can be drafted pursuant to Section 239-x to establish a CAC;
- A council can be created by ordinance; or
- A council can be created by local law (the process of creating municipal law requires a public hearing, thus providing an opportunity to explain the purpose and usefulness of a CAC in an official public forum).
CACs are sanctioned to perform the following activities:
- Land research including open space, wetlands and natural resource inventories and maps;
- Advising, cooperating, and working with other official and unofficial municipal agencies involved in similar activities;
- Publishing informational and educational literature;
- Preparing an annual open space assessment; and,
- Administering special projects designed to promote the intelligent use of local resources through education and action.
Section 239–x states that CACs shall consist of not less than three nor more than nine members who shall be appointed by the local legislative body and serve at the pleasure of such body for a term not exceeding two years, with subsequent reappointment at the pleasure of the legislative body. Up to two additional members may also be appointed who are between the ages of sixteen and twenty-one.
It is important for members to realize that the CAC is an advisory body. The key to an effective CAC is establishing good working relationships with the approval authorities. It is advisable to have a council with a wide range of varying backgrounds and viewpoints with geographic diversity in the town who are willing to cooperate and work as a unified body. The legislative body appoints the chairperson. Members must be willing to meet once or twice a month on set dates.
Conservation Advisory Councils and Boards: A Guide to the Organization and Operation of Local Environmental Advisory Councils
by the Westchester County Environmental Management Council
Primer for Local Officials and Citizens: Local Land Use Law and Practice in New York
by John R. Nolon, Well Grounded Practice Series of Pace University School of Law