2016 Lobby Day for Land Conservation a Success- Funds Partially Restored
Governor Bevin’s proposed budget included severe cuts in many areas: most notably for public lands protection. This is not the first time these funding cuts have been imposed. During the last budget cycle, $8 million was cut from lands protection. In this cycle, another $10 million is proposed for cuts. This has effectively has put a halt to land conservation programs which rely on state funds.
KCC has been part of a coalition of natural lands interest groups (“Conserve Kentucky” coalition) who has been bringing attention to these funding issues since the previous budget cycle. After a successful lobby day, which included appointments with 30 legislators, and the presentation of a sign-on letter from 40 conservation and advocacy organizations, the House voted to restore half of the funding which had previously been swept. As a result, $2.5 million per year ($5 million total) that was to be swept from the Heritage Land Conservation Fund was restored.
- See statement HERE.
Conserve Kentucky was formed in 2008 with the intent of bringing together organizations in the Commonwealth that are focused on conserving Kentucky’s natural habitats and working lands for future generations. The groups that are part of Conserve Kentucky represent a broad set of interests. Led by a steering committee comprised of The Nature Conservancy, The Kentucky Conservation Committee, Bernheim Arboretum and Research Forest, the Sierra Club, the Kentucky Natural Lands Trust and others, these groups are coming together with a united voice and with the hope of advancing the conservation of our lands and waters.
Conserve Kentucky was formed to increase awareness of the importance of Kentucky’s lands and waters and to help coordinate important legislative and conservation efforts among outdoor recreation, tourism, agriculture and environmental interests. Conserve Kentucky seeks to foster innovative collaborations between the public and private sectors that help sustain the benefits of Kentucky’s lands and waters for nature and people.
Conserve Kentucky Position Paper on
Land Conservation Funding HERE.
The Nature Conservancy’s former Kentucky Director, Terry Cook, wrote about the importance of land conservation in Kentucky. “Kentuckians have a natural love and appreciation for the outdoors. So much of our culture and history has been shaped by our mountains, waterways, and wildlife. Conserve Kentucky was created to help strengthen and magnify the efforts of many who seek to protect and conserve these assets. We also think it makes good business sense. A healthy environment and a healthy economy are both important and equally contribute to maintaining and enhancing our quality of life.”
Conserve Kentucky has been working with committees and leaders in both the House and Senate to promote cost effective investments in Kentucky’s land and waters.
Our partners in the Conserve Kentucky initiative believe that the Kentucky’s lands and water are essential to our well-being. We are committed to improving the quality of life for all Kentuckians by conserving the natural and working lands across Kentucky.
To that end, the purpose of Conserve Kentucky is to foster innovative collaborations between the public and private sector, while pursuing legislative approaches that conserve the benefits that the land and waters of the Commonwealth provide to the people of Kentucky.
- 10 percent of Kentucky’s natural and working lands are protected and sustainability managed
- Conserve 200,000 acres of natural and working lands
- Secure $25 million in annual public funding and $10 million in annual state tax credits
- Promote and advance the economic benefits of healthy lands and waters
Why It’s Important
- Kentucky’s conservation funding pales in comparison to other states.
According to the Trust for Public Land Conservation Almanac—a non-partisan, non-profit group that tracks conservation funding policy in the United States—Kentucky invested approximately $46 million in land conservation during the span of 1998-2008, or $11 per capita. States such as North Carolina, Virginia, South Carolina and Tennessee spent between $123 million and $1.08 billion or between $20 and $120 per capita during the same time period.
- The overwhelming majority of Kentuckians would support state-funded conservation programs.
According to a study conducted by the bipartisan research team of Fairbank, Maslin, Maullin, Metz & Associates (Dem.) and Public Opinion Strategies (Rep.), Kentuckians would support an increase in conservation efforts.
- Eighty-six percent of voters support maintaining and/or increasing state government funding for programs to protect land, water and wildlife.
- Sixty-six percent of voters support dedicating additional public funding for land, water and wildlife conservation in Kentucky.
- Seventy-four percent of voters believe we can have a clean environment and strong economy at the same time without having to choose one over the other.
- If action isn’t taken soon, Kentucky’s landscape will be forever damaged.
The Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources estimated that Kentucky loses 47,000 acres of wildlife habitat per year.[i] That is more than 900 acres per week, or more than 128 acres per day.
Kentucky also has lost approximately 81 percent of its original 1,566,000 forested wetland acreage found in the 1780s.[ii]
Sixty-four percent of Kentucky’s rivers and streams are considered impaired.[iii]
Currently, less than 6 percent (or 1.46 million acres) of Kentucky’s lands are permanently protected by local, state or federal government agencies.[iv]
- Conservation has a positive impact on the economy.
Conservation of Kentucky’s lands and waters not only helps sustain wildlife, but also contributes billions of dollars to the economy in the forms of job, taxes, tourism and other revenue. Preserving critical habitats, creating new state and local parks and trails, and providing access to our rivers, streams and lakes creates recreation opportunities for residents and visitors.
Wildlife watching, sport fishing, hunting and equine activities contribute billions of dollars to the economy in the forms of jobs, taxes, tourism and other revenue. The Commonwealth’s tourism industry generated more than $11.3 billion in sales, $1.2 billion in state and local taxes, and $2.5 billion in wages in 2010 alone.[v]
Conservation: an Investment that Pays
(The Economic Benefits of Land Conservation)
by The Trust for Public Land, 2009
Conservation Finance Feasibility Study for Kentucky
Trust for Public Land Report, Feb. 2011
For more information on what we are doing and how you can help,
contact the Kentucky Conservation Committee, 502-209-9659
[i] Legislative Research Commission. 2008. Report of the Land Stewardship and Conservation Task Force. Research Memorandum No. 502.
[ii] Thomas E. Dahl. 1990. Wetland losses in the United States 1780s to 1980s. U.S. Department of the Interior, First and Wildlife Service.
[iii] Environmental Protection Agency. Kentucky Assessment Date for 2010.
[iv] Greg Abernathy, Kentucky Nature Preserves Commission. Personal Communication, Sept. 22, 2011.
[v] Kentucky Tourism, Arts and Heritage Cabinet. May 2011. Kentucky Trend Tracker.