2017-09-09 / Viewpoints

Don’t turn back on Pa.

BY ANDREW HEATH

(Andrew Heath is executive director of the Pennsylvania Growing Greener Coalition.)

Dozens of Pennsylvania business and community leaders, elected officials, and organizations have signed onto the Pa. Growing Greener Coalition petition urging Governor Tom Wolf and members of the state legislature to protect special funds for conservation, recreation, and preservation programs critical to the protection of our land, water, and heritage.

We recognize current budget challenges, but we also recognize that the Commonwealth cannot achieve prosperity by cutting crucial investments in the future – investments that bring lasting improvements to our communities and contribute so much to our economic and environmental health.

We are urging each lawmaker to reject proposals that reduce or eliminate dedicated funding to programs that protect our land and water, strengthen our communities, and protect our families.

We want to emphasize and reiterate the importance of keeping intact the Keystone Recreation, Park and Conservation Fund, the Growing Greener Environmental Stewardship Fund, and the Farmland Preservation Program.

Now more than ever, Pennsylvania needs to increase and optimize its investment in local efforts to protect our open space, preserve our family farms, support parks and recreation, and preserve our historic and cultural sites.

The investments made by these successful and time-tested programs in conservation, recreation, and preservation are proven to bolster the economy. For example, a Trust for Public Land study on the Keystone Fund found that for every $1.00 invested in land and water conservation, the Commonwealth saw a $7.00 return on investment in goods and services.

Public polls show strong, consistent, and bipartisan public support for Growing Greener programs. A survey released by Penn State found that more than 90.7 percent of Pennsylvanians surveyed support increasing state funds dedicated to protecting rivers and streams; conserving open space, forests, natural areas and wildlife habitats; providing parks and trails; and preserving farmland.

The survey also found that 82.6 percent of respondents would support increasing state funds to address these threats to our environments, even if it would cost the average household $10 more annually.

Pennsylvanians feel that these conservation, recreation, and preservation programs offer substantial value and must not be diminished. Those priorities clearly represent the will of the people.

We recognize the challenges ahead and look forward to working with lawmakers to ensure that funding for programs that protect our open space, preserve our family farms, support our parks and trails, and safeguard our historic treasures remain intact.

More information on the Growing Greener Coalition is available at 717-745- 9304, or online at pagrowinggreener.org.

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