Growing Greener & Keystone Funds face devastating cuts
This week, the Pennsylvania legislature is tasked with the difficult job of finishing the state budget through the remainder of the fiscal year. One idea that has been proposed is to divert revenues from several Special Funds, including the Environmental Stewardship (“Growing Greener”) and Keystone Funds. Pennsylvania faces financial challenges, but diverting revenues from these Funds will threaten projects that provide flood control and prevention; water treatment; access to parks, trails, and open spaces; and the jobs of those who do this work. In a time when the outdoors has been one of the few respites for Pennsylvanians during the COVID-19 pandemic, this proposal is particularly problematic.
Since March, Natural Lands has experienced firsthand the significant (more than four-fold in some areas) increase in trail use. We are not alone in our experience. Across the state, our colleagues in conservation and public lands have also seen record numbers of visitors looking to nature for solace and wellbeing. This has been a powerful indication of the essential role that public spaces play in the lives of all Pennsylvanians and further validation of the value of the Commonwealth’s investment in them.
The good news is that, across Pennsylvania, open space and trails provide an outlet for people during the pandemic, while also benefiting businesses and service providers who are part of our $29 billion recreational economy. The bad news is that these resources were already under considerable strain in terms of capacity and upkeep, and will be even more vulnerable without ongoing support.
Diverting revenues is counterproductive on several fronts. Pennsylvania’s recreational economy supports hundreds of thousands of jobs across the state and generates vital revenues for communities. Every state dollar has been shown to leverage more than its equal in private investment. Jobs supported by the Keystone and Environmental Stewardship Funds support a range of professions and businesses—from bike shops and fishing outfitters, to engineers and landscape architects, to contractors and equipment operators. The projects supported by these funds aren’t superfluous, and diverting revenues will only result in economic opportunities lost at a time when they’re needed most.
Our open spaces and trails are assets that will be in place and available for citizens and communities for generations to come. They are an investment that pay dividends every day and benefit all Pennsylvanians.
We are asking you to raise your voice in support of this continued investment. The best way to make your voice heard is to make two simple phone calls—one to your state senator and one to your state representative—to express your support of the Keystone Fund and Environmental Stewardship Fund and to ask them to oppose any budget proposal that seeks to undermine these critical programs.