“There is no better way to celebrate Earth Day than by saving the programs that protect our land, air and water right here in Pennsylvania,” said Andrew Heath, executive director of the Renew Growing Greener Coalition. “The legislature should reject the Governor’s proposed cuts to these programs and make long-term, meaningful investments in our parks, farms and open space that ensure they will be around for many more Earth Days to come.”
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.
[Over the last 10 years over $1.8 billion have been cut or diverted from environmental programs to balance the state budget or fund programs which could not get funding on their own.]
Together, the Keystone, Growing Greener and Farmland Preservation programs have supported thousands of park and trail projects throughout the Commonwealth, preserved thousands 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 the Pennsylvania economy by helping to boost tourism, create jobs and generate revenue.
“Keystone Fund grants to communities protect our most important open spaces. As land continues to be developed, the parks, greenways, trails and wildlife habitats protected by Keystone become all the more essential to our quality of life,” said Andy Loza, executive director of the Pennsylvania Land Trust Association. “Keystone creates lasting public assets. We cannot afford to lose it.”
Pennsylvania’s land, air and water is facing significant challenges that must be addressed, including:
-- A $400 million list of major maintenance projects at state parks and forests;
-- More than 2,000 family farms waiting to be preserved; and
-- More than 16,000 miles of polluted streams that are unfit for swimming or fishing.
“Without funding to preserve our family farms, we risk losing locally produced food and the dollars it generates for our economy,” said Karen Martynick, executive director of Lancaster Farmland Trust. “These losses will have long-term consequences for communities across the Commonwealth.”
Sign The Petition
Earlier this month, the Renew Growing Greener Coalition announced the launch of a petition drive to urge the General Assembly to reject Governor Corbett’s proposed cuts to, and elimination of, essential conservation and recreation programs in the Commonwealth. The petition generated more than 5,000 signatures on the first day of its launch.
“Our Legislature needs to rescue these programs from the chopping block,” said Kim Woodward, executive director of the Pennsylvania Recreation and Park Society. “As we celebrate Earth Day, we encourage Pennsylvanians to tell our lawmakers to save our parks so our children and grandchildren have places to play.”
The “Stop the Cuts” petition is available online.
The Renew Growing Greener Coalition is the largest coalition of conservation, recreation and historic preservation 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.