More than 5,000 people signed the petition on the first day of its launch, urging the General Assembly to reject Gov. Corbett’s proposed cuts to, and elimination of, essential conservation and recreation programs in the Commonwealth.
“Pennsylvanians are sending a message to Harrisburg that they want their legislators to protect the Commonwealth’s land, water, communities and future,” said Andrew Heath, executive director of the Renew Growing Greener Coalition. “Our state is facing significant challenges that must be addressed. We have a $400 million backlog of major maintenance projects at our state parks, more than 2,000 family farms waiting to be preserved and more than 16,000 miles of polluted streams that are unfit form swimming or fishing. Because of these and many additional threats, the Commonwealth should be increasing, not decreasing funding.”
Under the current state budget proposal, the Corbett administration has recommended:
-- Transferring $30 million from the Keystone Recreation, Park and Conservation Fund to the general fund, and permanently eliminating this popular and important conservation and recreation program. This is the largest cut in conservation funding in state history.
-- Diverting the state’s cigarette sales tax from its historical purpose of funding farmland preservation to funding the general fund. This is a permanent diversion that will eventually kill this critical program.
-- Continuing the flawed practice of using the Environmental Stewardship Fund to pay the Growing Greener II bond debt service, leaving just $23 million available for Growing Greener programs and projects, the lowest amount of funding in recent decades.
“If the Keystone Fund is eliminated, it will be the biggest cut in conservation-recreation funding in Pennsylvania history,” said Kim Woodward, executive director of the Pennsylvania Recreation and Park Society. “We need to let our legislators know that this is a mistake and that Pennsylvanians value their parks, trails and open space.”
Andy Loza, executive director of the Pennsylvania Land Trust Association, said: “The Keystone Fund creates real and lasting assets. A hundred years from now, our great grandchildren will still be enjoying the parks, greenways, trails and other open spaces created and protected byKeystone.”
Together, the Keystone, Growing Greener and Farmland Preservation programs have supported thousands of park and trail projects throughout the Commonwealth, preservedthousands of acres of family farmland, conserved thousands of acres of threatened open space and protected hundreds of miles of streams and waterways. In addition, they have contributed and leveraged billions of dollars to thePennsylvania economy by helping to boost tourism, create jobs and generate revenue.
“One in seven jobs in Pennsylvania are related to agriculture,” said Karen Martynick, executive director of Lancaster Farmland Trust. “At a time when we need to do all we can to help our economy, cutting funding to help preserve the state’s leading industry is counterproductive.”
The “Stop the Cuts” petition may be viewed and signed online.
The Renew Growing Greener Coalition is the largest coalition of conservation, recreation and environmental organizations in the Commonwealth, representing more than 350 organizations and government entities from across the state. More than 150 government entities, including 37 counties, representing more than eight million Pennsylvanians, have passed resolutions calling for a dedicated source of funding for the Growing Greener Environmental Stewardship Fund.