Monday, November 16, 2020

Growing Greener Coalition Urges General Assembly, Governor To Reject Any Budget Proposal That Undermines Dedicated Funding For Community-Driven Conservation Projects

On November 16, the
Growing Green Coalition published an open letter to the Senate, House and the Governor opposing any efforts to take money dedicated to supporting community-driven recreation and conservation projects and using it to deal with the state budget deficit.

The Coalition points out--

-- Community conservation projects like these support local small businesses and create jobs, now when Pennsylvania needs economic stimulus more than ever;

-- The COVID pandemic caused huge numbers of Pennsylvanians to take advantage of outdoor recreation facilities and public lands-- taking funding away from these areas now as the pandemic continues would be the worst possible timing.

-- The need for funding these local projects has far outstriped available funding, and this year was no exception.

-- This dedicated funding was established with extraordinary bipartisan support in the General Assembly as well as in public referenda.

This decades-long bipartisan consensus on the need to maintain dedicated funding for local conservation projects so that they may consistently deliver economic, health and environmental benefits today and for future generations should continue to stand.

The Growing Greener Coalition asks the members of the General Assembly and the Governor to reject any proposal that would undermine Keystone Recreation, Park and Conservation Fund or  Environmental Stewardship Fund.

The text of the letter follows--

Contrary to some assertions in the Pennsylvania House, money cannot be taken from the Keystone Recreation, Park and Conservation Fund (Keystone) and the Environmental Stewardship Fund (ESF) without jeopardizing existing projects and impeding much-needed investments in new projects in communities across Pennsylvania.

The ill-considered notion misses fundamental issues:

--  Keystone and ESF projects support small businesses and create jobs. They are proven programs for stimulating local economies across the state at a time we need stimulus more than ever.

--  Keystone and ESF are starving for funds. Demands for project investments and the needs driving the demands already far outstrip available funding.

--  The pandemic has caused larger numbers of Pennsylvanians than ever before to take to the outdoors. Investments in maintaining our public lands, protecting wildlife habitat, protecting water quality, and supporting other green infrastructure are needed more than ever as visitors at parks, trails, and preserves double, triple, quadruple, and more

-- The Keystone and ESF monies in state accounts are committed to projects.  Capital projects by their nature can take a couple years to complete. If the General Assembly were to redirect any of these committed monies elsewhere, the state would in fact be decommitting from the projects. 

Under future budgets, the General Assembly could recommit funds to those projects, but, in the meantime, communities would be placed in the impossible position of making major expenditures with no guarantees that the state will come through with money in the end. 

(And if the state cannot keep to its present commitments today, why should anyone have confidence that it will do so at a later date?)

-- Keystone and ESF were established to fund projects that make lasting improvements; repurposing their funds would seriously damage the ability of these workhorses for achieving community and environmental improvements across the Commonwealth.

Helping Communities Help Themselves; Leveraging Private and Local Resources

The Keystone Recreation, Park and Conservation Fund and Environmental Stewardship Fund owe their success and longevity to their direct support of community-driven projects. The dedicated funds empower local people and the private sector to address problems at their source, not from afar in Harrisburg.

Every dollar in state grants typically leverages $1 or more in additional investments and usually the multiplier is much larger. The Keystone Fund alone has leveraged more than $1 billion in public/private partnerships to complete 5,000 projects.

Unmet Demand

Keystone and ESF come nowhere near to meeting present demand. Half of all project investment proposals must be turned away. These rejections only represent a portion of unmet demand, because grant applicants greatly self-limit their submissions knowing that competition for scarce dollars is fierce. Even when projects are funded, DCNR is only able to fund 85 percent on average of each request (which are already limited to 50 percent of total project costs).

The Need

The Keystone Fund delivers $7 in flood control and prevention, water treatment, and other natural services for every dollar invested. (See Pennsylvania’s Return on Investment in the Keystone Recreation, Park and Conservation Fund and other studies in the Economic Benefits section.) 

Now is the time to strengthen Pennsylvania’s dedicated environmental funds, so that they can deliver more, not less, in project investments.

Pennsylvania’s environmental funding needs are huge. Pressing water issues—

from water quality investments needed in all of Pennsylvania’s water basins to municipal stormwater management and flood reduction measures—hundreds of  millions if not billions of dollars are needed in the coming years. 

A budget diversion would worsen the needs as it would effectively take money away from communities as they work to address stormwater, flooding, water treatment, and other environmental issues.

Looking beyond water issues, our parks, trails, and other outdoor recreational spaces all have pressing needs. There is a billion dollars in deferred maintenance in our state parks and forests. (See this reference.)

Workhorses for Lasting Improvements

The Keystone Recreation, Park and Conservation Fund and Environmental Stewardship Fund are the state’s workhorses for investing in projects that bring lasting benefits to communities across the Commonwealth. 

They have effectively and efficiently improved water quality, conserved lands important to local communities, and created outdoor recreation opportunities for visitors and tourists alike. Their exemplary track records and the needs they address are described at length at and


A portion of the realty transfer tax was dedicated to the Keystone Recreation, Park and Conservation Fund in 1993 and landfill tipping fees were enacted to fund the Environmental Stewardship Fund in 1999 (and expanded in 2002) in order to reinvest in our communities, redress the environmental damage of the past, and conserve wildlife, parks, and preserves for generations yet to come.

Both funds were established with extraordinary bipartisan support in the General Assembly as well as in public referenda.

The decades-long bipartisan consensus on the need to maintain the dedication of the Keystone Fund and ESF—so that they may consistently invest in projects that deliver today and will continue delivering for future generations—should continue to stand.

The Growing Greener Coalition asks the members of the General Assembly and the Governor to reject any proposal that would undermine Keystone or ESF.

For more information, please don’t hesitate to reach out to the people and organizations of the Coalition including:

Chesapeake Bay Foundation

Conservation Voters of PA

Ducks Unlimited

Foundation for Pennsylvania Watersheds

Lancaster Farmland Trust

Natural Lands

PennFuture (Citizens for Pennsylvania’s Future)

Pennsylvania Environmental Council

Pennsylvania Recreation and Park Society

Sierra Club PA Chapter

Rails-to-Trails Conservancy

The Conservation Fund

The Nature Conservancy, PA Chapter

The Trust for Public Land

Trout Unlimited


Western Pennsylvania Conservancy

Click Here for a copy of the letter.

For more information, visit the Growing Green Coalition website.

Contact Your Legislator

Click Here to find your House and Senate member and let them know how you feel.


How To Survive COVID Winter?  Parks Are Open Year-Round.  Get Out And Enjoy Nature

Related Articles This Week:

-- Growing Greener Coalition: 93% Of Pennsylvanians Say We Have A Moral Obligation To Care For Our Environment - Don’t Cut Dedicated Funding

-- PA Environmental Council: Protect Investment In Outdoor Recreation And Public Lands

-- CBF: Raiding Dedicated Conservation Funds To Plug The State's Budget Gap Would Further Damage PA's Environment

-- WeConservePA: State Conservation Funding Commitments Deliver Economic Benefits

-- PA Parks & Forests Foundation Opposes Any Effort To Cut Dedicated Funds To Support State Park, Forest, Recreation Projects

-- PA Federation Of Sportsmen & Conservationists: Protect Dedicated State Funds Critical To Improve Habitat, Protect Wildlife In PA

-- Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership: 3 Reasons PA Officials Should Not Drain Conservation Funds To Balance The Budget - Act Now

Related Articles - Budget:

-- New Poll Shows 90% Of PA Voters Want Senate, House Members To Address Environmental, Conservation Priorities, Provide More Funding For Critical Programs

-- PA Farm Bureau, 45 Other Hunting, Angler, Business, Environmental, Watershed Groups Urge Senate, House To Pass On-Farm Conservation Funding Bill This Year

-- PA Conservation Districts Ask Lawmakers To Keep Same Funding For Their Vital Services As They Finalize FY 2020-21 State Budget

-- State Parks Continue To Break Visitor Records In September: 4.7 Million Visitors, Up 31 percent Over Last Year

-- State, Regional, Local Outdoor Recreation ‘Through The Roof’ Across Pennsylvania

-- Op-Ed: Now Is The Time To Invest In Parks, Not Cut Them

-- Analysis: 2020 Is A Make Or Break Year For Environmental Funding

-- House Speaker Cutler: Republicans Will First Raid Dedicated Funds To Balance Budget In November

-- House Republicans Pass Bill To Freeze Funding For County Conservation Districts, Local Parks, Farm Conservation, Watershed Restoration Projects; Will Hurt Local Economies

-- House Republicans Moving Bill To Reallocate Keystone Fund, Damage Vitality Of PA’s Outdoor Economy

-- Analysis: Why Republican Freeze On Funding For Local Parks, Trails, Farm Conservation, Mine Reclamation, Recycling Is Bad For The Economy, Communities, The Environment

-- Senate Environmental Committee Puts Spotlight On Funding Needed To Implement PA Clean Water Plan At Chesapeake Bay Briefing

[Posted: November 16, 2020]  PA Environment Digest

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