Advocacy pays off for Niskayuna Girl Scout McGraw

Niskayuna grad Caroline McGraw
Niskayuna grad Caroline McGraw

A Niskayuna Girl Scout has played a major role behind a new state law designed to protect the environment.

Caroline McGraw, thanks to help from Assemblyman Phil Steck, D-Colonie, promoted a measure that was signed into law by Gov. Andrew Cuomo on Dec. 7.

Cuomo signed Chapter 399 of the Laws of 2018, an act directing the commissioner of agriculture and markets to develop guidelines for vegetation management plans to be used by people or corporations that make claims that they provide pollinator protection — especially as these claims relate to solar panel fields.

McGraw, who graduated from Niskayuna High School in June, worked with Steck and his staff for more than a year advocating for the pollinator protection bill.

During that time, the teenager discussed the intent of the legislation; requested Steck co-sponsor the measure in the Assembly; and devised a strategy on how to communicate with the Senate and Assembly Agriculture Committee chairs and committee members.

McGraw also conducted meetings at the state Capitol with Assembly Program and Counsel staff and Senate staff, communicated with Cuomo’s staff and organized social media efforts to encourage others to contact Cuomo — urging him to sign the bill into law.

“I wholeheartedly agree that landowners, farmers and other stakeholders should be aware of land management practices that would benefit both wild pollinators and managed bees, as New York State’s agricultural economy depends heavily on pollinators,” Cuomo said in a memorandum filed with the bill.

In addition to advocating for the legislation, McGraw — whose efforts earned her the title 2018 National Gold Award Girl Scout —  McGraw created the first municipal solar pollinator garden in the state at Niskayuna’s Edwin D. Reilly Jr. Town Hall. She also worked with the Senate and Assembly to secure $300,000 for pollinator research in the 2018-19 New York State Budget.

“I am very grateful to everyone who supported, encouraged, and guided me – especially Assemblyman Steck, Governor Cuomo as well as many of my friends and neighbors in Niskayuna who took the time to join me in advocating for the bill to become a law,” said McGraw, currently a freshman majoring in politics at The Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C.

According to the New York State Pollinator Task Force, New York is home to more than 450 pollinator species that are currently under threat from habitat loss and fragmentation, colony collapse disorder, parasites, exposure to toxins, and other stress factors.

In 2016, it was estimated that New York state had lost 50 percent of its managed pollinator colonies and 70 percent of its commercial migratory bees. Wild pollinators have also seen their numbers suffer, with the Department of Environmental Conservation listing seven species of bees and 27 species of butterfly or moths as being Species of Greatest Conservation Need.

Previous: Girl Scout Caroline McGraw wins national award, Oct. 14, 2018

McGraw is one of only 10 Gold Award Girl Scouts to be named a 2018 National Gold Award Girl Scout; she was the only young woman from New York state and the first ever from the Girl Scout Council of NorthEastern New York to achieve the honor.

For her efforts, McGraw was awarded $20,000 in scholarships and a trip to New York City to appear on the Today Show’s International Day of the Girl celebration with former First Lady Michelle Obama. McGraw also gave a presentation about her efforts to protect pollinators at the United Nations.

Categories: Saratoga County

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