Conservation Organizations Highlighted the Economic Benefits of State Funding to the Triad Region
RALEIGH –Land for Tomorrow recently gathered members of the NC General Assembly for a legislative forum to highlight the economic benefits of state conservation funding for the Triad region. The region’s major economic assets – agriculture, tourism, hunting, fishing, and outdoor recreation offered by the Mountains-to-Sea Trail – all depend on land and water conservation.
North Carolina’s conservation trust funds – the Clean Water Management Trust Fund (CWMTF), Parks and Recreation Trust Fund (PARTF), and Agricultural Development and Farmland Preservation Trust Fund (ADFPTF) – have invested $122.5 million in Alamance, Chatham, Guilford, Orange, and Randolph County projects that support economic development and preserve the region’s unique natural features.
Senator Valerie Foushee, Representative Dennis Riddell, and Representative Stephen Ross attended the event. Members and supporters of Piedmont Land Conservancy, Triangle Land Conservancy, Alamance Parks, and Friends of the Mountains-to-Sea Trail, presented projects that enhance the local quality of life of constituents. Lawmakers heard from local conservation organizations, volunteers, and family farmers whose projects and businesses benefit from state conservation funding.
The Cane Creek Mountains Natural Area, a project awarded $715,550 in PARTF grants, will become a 600-1,000-acre park within the Alamance Parks system. Brumley Forest, awarded funds from the CWMTF, recently opened 15 miles of hiking and biking trails to the public in Orange County. With $469,000 of ADFPTF grants, the seven-generation Isley Farm conserves more than 400 acres of pastureland and forest along 1.5 miles of the Haw River and hosts the popular Vegetable Barn where visitors can purchase produce from nearly two-dozen local farmers.
“Parks, trails, and scenic areas including the Cane Creek Mountains Natural Area and Mountains-to-Sea Trail help boost the state’s $20 billion tourism economy to enhance North Carolina’s quality of life and ability to attract new families and businesses to the triad and other regions across our state,” said Michelle Wells, Executive Director at NC Recreation & Park Association. “The goal of these round tables is to educate legislators on the importance of these funds and how conservation projects benefit communities, the local economy, and their citizens.”
Land for Tomorrow appreciates the support these legislators have shown for conservation projects, but the demand for great projects exceeds available resources. Some of the challenges highlighted at the round table included:
- More than 70 percent of North Carolinians broadly support restoring state funding for the conservation trust funds to $100 million to protect water quality, conserve working farms, and acquire parkland and preserve historic sites.
- 135 local governments, conservation organizations, and state agencies requested nearly $68 million from CWMTF in 2017, with only about $20 million available.
- Sixty-four local governments requested $19 million from PARTF in 2017, with only $6.3 available.
Land for Tomorrow will continue to work with legislative and community leaders across the state to protect and restore water quality, to preserve family farms that produce local and fresh food, and to support the $28 billion outdoor recreation industry in NC.
Land for Tomorrow Urges Increased Conservation Funding Following Release of SB 257, Appropriations Act of 2017
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 Releases 2017 Conservation Yearbook
In conjunction with its annual Lobby Day, Land for Tomorrow released its 2017 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 and reinstating the NC Conservation Tax Credit.
Here are a few other publications addressing the work that we do.