Is there anything that will unite Democrats and Republicans?
Apparently support for conservation will do just that. Yesterday’s election included overwhelming bi-partisan support of conservation in both Chester and Carbon counties – results that are well worth celebrating.
The residents of Westtown Township voted—by two votes to one—to approve an Open Space Fund referendum, which will increase both Earned Income Tax and Real Estate Tax. The funds generated from the increase will secure bonds to pay for the acquisition and maintenance of Crebilly Farm, one of the largest remaining unprotected properties in the Township and County.
Natural Lands has worked closely with both the owners of Crebilly Farm and Westtown Township over the past year. The Township engaged Natural Lands to help secure funding to purchase the majority of Crebilly Farm for use as a nature preserve.
“The successful passage of the Township’s Open Space Fund is a critical part of the plan to save Crebilly Farm,” said Jack Stefferud, senior director of land protection for Natural Lands. “Had this vote gone the other way, the project would have failed, and Crebilly Farm would almost certainly have been sold to one of a number of developers that had expressed interest.”
Over the coming months, Natural Lands expects to receive positive news from a variety of other funders, including the PA Department of Conservation and Natural Resources, Chester County, and the federal Land and Water Conservation Fund. Natural Lands has submitted grant requests for approximately $16,000,000—about 75% of the cost of the acquisition.
“Westtown Township residents should be applauded for their commitment to preserving this iconic property and, by extension, their quality of life,” said Kirsten Werner, senior director of communications for Natural Lands. “Cleaner air and water, less flooding and traffic, and preservation of a Revolutionary War battlefield… we all benefit from this open space, whether or not we ever visit.”
The Carbon County Water, Farms, and Land referendum
Further north towards the Poconos, an astounding 82% of voters supported the Carbon County Water, Farms, and Land referendum, which will establish a conservation program to preserve open space, clean water, and wildlife habitat. It will allow the county to borrow up to $10 million over 20 years. Nation-wide, 30+ communities had the chance to vote on open space funding on this year’s ballot. Carbon County’s open space referendum appears to have passed by the largest margin in the United States.
“This is a huge bi-partisan success,” said Todd Sampsell, vice president for conservation at Natural Lands. “For any vote to receive support from 82% of voters is extraordinary in these days of divided politics. It just shows how important the protection of clean water, natural areas, and wildlife habitats is to Pennsylvania’s citizens.”
Natural Lands is a partner in the Delaware River Watershed Initiative, a coalition of conservation organizations working in the Upper Lehigh region of Pennsylvania to preserve and care for land as part of a larger effort to protect water quality. The network of rivers and streams that wind from the Catskill Mountains of New York through Pennsylvania, Delaware, and New Jersey are the lifeblood of the region, providing drinking water for 15 million people. Natural Lands and other local partners worked together to bring this question to voters. Partners included Wildlands Conservancy, Audubon Mid-Atlantic, The Nature Conservancy, The Trust for Public Land, and the Carbon County Economic Development Corporation.
Said Natural Lands President Oliver Bass, “To say we are thrilled is something of an understatement. With Tuesday’s vote, the residents of Westtown Township and Carbon County—on both sides of the political aisle—have made their voices heard with a resounding ‘yes!’ for conservation.”
- Read The Philadelphia Inquirer article about Crebilly Farm: Voters approve preservation of Crebilly Farm, one of Chesco’s biggest unprotected properties threatened by development
- Read The Standard-Speaker article on the Carbon County Water, Farms, and Land referendum: Heffley wins reelection to Carbon County seat; voters give overwhelming support to referendum
More than ever, “forever” depends on what we do today.
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