Plan Details Need for Protecting Pennsylvania’s Water, Land & Other Natural Resources
(HARRISBURG, PA) The Pennsylvania Growing Greener Coalition, the largest coalition of conservation, recreation, and preservation organizations in the Commonwealth, today unveiled its blueprint for a statewide Growing Greener III program. The proposed plan details the need for $315 million in annual investments to ensure Pennsylvanians continue to have access to clean water, parks and trails, green open spaces, and locally grown food. “Funding for the state’s Growing Greener program is at an all-time low,” said Andrew Heath, executive director of the Coalition. “This plan establishes a framework for the Governor and the Legislature to renew the state’s investment and provide the funding necessary to keep our water clean, conserve our land, ensure access to public recreation and preserve our family farms.” Funding for the state’s Growing Greener program, established in 1999, has decreased from an estimated average of $200 million in the mid-2000s to $57 million this year – a 75 percent cut. The program is currently funded through tipping fees on waste disposal, as well as contributions from the Marcellus Legacy Fund and the Oil and Gas Lease Fund. “Pennsylvania has more miles of streams and rivers than any state other than Alaska,” said John Dawes, executive director of the Foundation for Pennsylvania Watersheds. “Our goal is to protect the best and restore the rest so there will be clean water for future generations.” More than 26,000 miles of Pennsylvania’s waterways are classified as impaired, according to the state Department of Environmental Protection. This means the state’s rivers and streams are so polluted they cannot sustain aquatic life; are not safe for drinking or recreational use; and cannot support agriculture and other industries. Failure to meet water quality standards could result in greater federal oversight and penalities. “The viability of Pennsylvania’s two largest industries – agriculture and tourism – depends on clean water and the availability of open space, parks, trails, farmland, and wildlife habitat,” said Molly Morrison, president of Natural Lands Trust. “Our natural treasures support our economy, create healthy communities, and provide recreational opportunities for families.” Pennsylvania’s Constitution mandates that the Commonwealth conserve and maintain its natural resources. As article 1, section 27 of the Pennsylvania Constitution reads: “The people have a right to clean air, pure water, and to the preservation of the natural, scenic, historic, and esthetic values of the environment. Pennsylvania’s public natural resources are the common property of all of the people, including generations yet to come. As trustee of these resources, the Commonwealth shall conserve and maintain them for the benefit of all the people.” The Coalition’s blueprint for a Growing Greener III program was developed with input from a wide range of stakeholders. Since its inception, the state’s Growing Greener program has enjoyed widespread, bipartisan support. The program has funded hundreds of local parks and trail projects, conserved more than 50,000 acres of threatened open space, and restored hundreds of miles of streams and waterways. A 2015 Penn State poll found that 90.7 percent of Pennsylvanians surveyed would support increasing state funds to conserve and protect open space, clean water, natural areas, wildlife habitats, parks, historic sites, forests, and farms. Further, the Growing Greener program leverages tremendous private, local, and federal matching dollars. For each program dollar spent, more than double is generated from matching funds. In addition, the program also leverages significant volunteer in-kind investments that help to alleviate compliance and restoration costs for farmers, communities, and businesses. “There is little question that Pennsylvanians value the opportunities and benefits associated with the state’s natural resources,” said Heath. “Growing Greener’s value to the residents of Pennsylvania – through tangible improvements to our communities, natural resources, and quality of life – is extraordinary. The Coalition is looking forward to working with the Governor and the General Assembly to advance a Growing Greener III program that makes meaningful investments in the health and future of our water, land and local communities.” A full copy of the Coalition’s proposed Growing Greener III plan can be downloaded at www.GrowingGreener3.org. About the Pennsylvania Growing Greener Coalition: "The mission of the Pennsylvania Growing Greener Coalition is to enhance the health and economic wellbeing of communities across the Commonwealth by advocating for funding to conserve, protect and restore land, water and wildlife; to preserve farms and historic places, and to provide well-managed parks and recreational areas throughout the state." Established in 2008, the Coalition comprises local, regional and statewide conservation, recreation and preservation groups. For more information, visit www.PaGrowingGreener.org.