Land for Tomorrow thanks the General Assembly for continuing to fund the Clean Water Management Trust Fund, Parks & Recreation Trust Fund, and Agricultural Development & Farmland Preservation Trust Fund in the Appropriations Act of 2017.
However, Land for Tomorrow is concerned that in a year of budget surplus, the General Assembly is appropriating fewer dollars for conservation, which more than 70 percent of North Carolinians broadly support.
The Clean Water Management Trust Fund (CWMTF) and Parks & Recreation Trust Fund (PARTF) are both appropriated fewer dollars in 2017 than in 2016. While the budget does increase funding for the Agricultural Development & Farmland Preservation Trust Fund, the funding levels are inadequate to match US Department of Defense funds to protect our military bases from encroachment and to match US Department of Agriculture funds to protect and restore farmland in Western North Carolina and the Piedmont, where development pressures are the greatest.
- The General Assembly appropriated $22.4 million to CWMTF in 2016-17 and is appropriating $18.3 million in 2017-18 (a 18% decrease).
- The General Assembly appropriated $22.7 million to PARTF in 2016-17 and $19.7 million in 2017-18 (a 13% decrease).
Land for Tomorrow will continue to work with legislative leaders to protect and restore water quality, preserve family farms that produce local and fresh food, to maintain the training mission of our military bases, and to support the $28 billion outdoor recreation industry in NC.
135 local governments, conservation organizations, and state agencies requested nearly $68 million from CWMTF in 2017. Those organizations would provide almost $165 million in matching funds, more than doubling the state’s investment. Sixty-four local governments requested $19 million from PARTF in 2017 and provided $51 million in matching funds, matched nearly three times.
Earlier this year, the US Department of Defense awarded NC a nearly $10 million Readiness and Environmental Protection Integration (REPI) Challenge Grant. The State has to match these funds dollar for dollar or they cannot be used in North Carolina.
Also earlier this year the US Department of Agriculture awarded Blue Ridge Forever, a coalition of the 10 land trusts in Western North Carolina, $8 million to protect and restore farmland in Western North Carolina. These funds must also be matched by state and private funds.
Land for Tomorrow will continue to work with legislators in the 2018 Short Session to improve funding levels for the trust funds to adequately meet the demand of conservation projects that benefit North Carolina communities and citizens.
North Carolinians Overwhelmingly Support Land and Water Conservation
In early March, Land for Tomorrow conducted a statewide poll to determine how voters feel about public funding for land and water conservation. * Here are the key findings:
- 73% of registered voters support restoring public funding to $100 million for the state’s three conservation trust funds to conserve forests, working farms, parks and historic sites, as well as preventing polluted runoff from contaminating rivers, lakes, creeks and groundwater.
- 95% of registered voters say protecting sources of drinking water is important
- 79% of registered voters say preserving working farms is important
- 78% of registered voters say protecting fish and wildlife is important
- 77% of registered voters say protecting forests is important
- 73% of registered voters say conserving beaches and coastal areas are important.
- 71% of registered voters say providing more opportunities for children to explore and learn about nature is important.
- 70% of registered voters say protecting wetlands that help weaken hurricanes before they reach land is important.
- 68% of registered voters say conserving natural areas next to military bases is important.
*Bipartisan polling team of Public Opinion Strategies (Republican) and FM3 (Democrat) conducted the phone poll March 3 – 5. The poll has a margin of error of 4%
Land for Tomorrow Praises Final 2016-2017 Budget Bill
Annual spending plan would significantly increase funding for conservation
Land for Tomorrow, a statewide coalition supporting public funding and tax incentives for land and water conservation, is praising legislative leaders for significantly increasing the state’s investment in land and water conservation. The final budget bill, which was released on Monday evening, contains significant funding increases for a number of conservation programs.
The final budget bill includes:
- $8.6 million increase for the Clean Water Management Trust Fund. Combined with the $13.8 million the program was scheduled to get, the total appropriation for FY16-17 is $22.4 million.
- $1 million increase for the Agricultural Development and Farmland Preservation Trust Fund. Combined with the $2.6 million the program was scheduled to get, the total appropriation for FY16-17 is $3.6 million.
- $314,726 (recurring) increase for the Natural Heritage Program. This fully restores a $300,000 cut to the program from the 2015 budget. The revised net appropriation for the program is $764,726.
- Maintains funding for the Parks and Recreation Trust Fund. The 2015 budget contained a $10.4 million increase for PARTF for FY16-17, and this year’s budget retains that increase. The total appropriation for FY16-17 is $22.7 million.
Conservation advocates praised House and Senate budget writers for the additional appropriations. “This budget demonstrates a level of support for conservation programs that we haven’t seen for a number of years,” said Will Morgan of The Nature Conservancy. “We appreciate the support of the House and Senate appropriation chairs, especially Representatives Chuck McGrady and Nelson Dollar, as well as Senators Harry Brown and Brent Jackson. These additional funds will allow nonprofit conservation groups to work hand-in-hand with state agencies to continue to protect streams, farms, forests, and parks across North Carolina.”
Land for Tomorrow is a coalition of conservation, agriculture, wildlife, hunting and fishing groups along with businesses, local governments and concerned citizens. Its goal is to increase public funding and tax incentives to boost land and water conservation. Funding for the trust funds is controlled by the North Carolina General Assembly.
Land for Tomorrow Releases 2016 Conservation Yearbook
In conjunction with its annual Lobby Day on May, 24 2016, Land for Tomorrow released its 2016 Conservation Yearbook, which tells the stories of some of our state’s “faces of conservation” and provides a county-by-county listing of successful conservation projects made possible by the state’s three conservation trust funds.
Conservation supporters from across North Carolina came to Raleigh to educate state legislators about how important land and water conservation are to our state’s health, economy, and quality of life. Participants pushed for increased funding of the state’s three successful conservation trust funds. It’s an investment in the future!
Here are a few other publications addressing the work that we do.