Protect Our Economy by Protecting Our Environment

For Immediate Release: August 17, 2011

Renew Growing Greener Coalition to Pennsylvania Lawmakers:
“Protect Our Economy by Protecting Our Environment”

(HARRISBURG, PA)  The Renew Growing Greener Coalition today called upon Pennsylvania lawmakers to protect the state’s economy by protecting its environment and restoring funding for the state Growing Greener program.

“Growing Greener has done more than preserve Pennsylvania’s land, water and air,” said Andrew Heath, executive director of the Renew Growing Greener Coalition. “It has contributed billions of dollars to the Pennsylvania economy by helping to boost tourism, create jobs and generate revenue.”

Heath made his remarks as the House Democratic Policy Committee held a hearing in Harrisburg on Marcellus Shale led by Chairman Rep. Mike Sturla (D-Lancaster).

The Coalition is urging lawmakers to allocate a portion of any severance tax or impact fee on natural gas drilling to help fund the bipartisan Growing Greener program, which was established in 1999 under Governor Tom Ridge and later expanded by Governors Schweiker and Rendell.

Since its establishment, Growing Greener has created a legacy of success, preserving more than 33,700 acres of Pennsylvania’s family farmland, conserving more than 42,300 acres of threatened open space, adding 26,000 acres to state parks and forests, and restoring over 16,000 acres of abandoned mine lands.

Yet despite the program’s accomplishments, funding for Growing Greener projects and grants fell from an average of approximately $150 million per year for the last six years to $27.3 million in the Governor’s proposed budget. This is an 82 percent cut.

“Now is the time we should be investing in our environment and our communities, not taking money away,” said Heath.  “Not only are our natural resources at risk, our economy is at risk.”

As Governor Corbett noted during his kayak trip through Northeastern Pennsylvania last week, Pennsylvania’s state parks alone generate more than $928 million in local spending and support more than 12,000 local jobs.

What the Governor did not mention is that many of these state parks – including Frances Slocum State Park where the Governor visited – have received Growing Greener funding.

In addition, Growing Greener has been a powerful funding source for Pennsylvania’s Heritage Areas. Spending by visitors to these areas generates more than $400 million in sales and contributes at least 6,000 jobs to the Pennsylvania economy.

Other examples of how Growing Greener benefits the economy include:

  • Supporting Agriculture – By funding farmland preservation projects, Growing Greener helps sustain Pennsylvania’s agriculture industry. Agriculture produces more than $45 billion annually and provides about one in seven jobs in the state, making it Pennsylvania’s leading industry.
  • Increasing Property Values – In Southeastern Pennsylvania alone, preserved open space, which is often supported with Growing Greener funds, increases homeowners’ property values by an average of $10,000 per household.
  • Reducing Costs – Growing Greener has funded the clean up of more than 16,000 acres of abandoned mines and in doing so has reduced water treatment costs locally and in downstream communities. Studies show that open space saves local governments and utilities millions of dollars in costs associated with drinking water filtration, air pollution removal and flood control.
  • Supporting Forest Products Industry – Growing Greener funds support forest conservation, which in turn helps sustain the resources on which the forest industry depends. This industry has sales in excess of $16 billion annually, a total impact of $27 billion and employs more than 80,000 people.
  • Bolstering Tourism Industry – Growing Greener funds have preserved 42,300 acres of natural areas and open spaces, many of which provide recreational opportunities for residents and visitors alike. Outdoor enthusiasts spend more than $5.4 billion in the Commonwealth annually.

“When you look at the economic benefits of Growing Greener, renewing funding should be a no-brainer,” Heath said. “Our lawmakers need to protect our economy by protecting our environment.”

To date, more than 225 organizations and groups have announced their support for renewing Growing Greener.  In addition, at least 85 Pennsylvania municipalities including 22 counties, representing more than 5 million Pennsylvanians, have passed resolutions urging the Governor and Legislature to renew Growing Greener funding.

About the Renew Growing Greener Coalition

The Renew Growing Greener Coalition is the Commonwealth’s largest coalition of conservation, recreation and environmental organizations representing over 300 organizations and government entities.  For more information on the Coalition, visit www.RenewGrowingGreener.org.

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