For Immediate Release: October 7, 2011
Renew Growing Greener Coalition Applauds Allegheny County for Enacting Resolution Calling for Renewal of State Funding to Protect Environment
(HARRISBURG, PA) The Renew Growing Greener Coalition today applauded Allegheny County for enacting legislation calling for the renewal of Growing Greener, the state’s primary source of funding to help local communities protect water quality, preserve open space and farmland, and enhance parks, trails and other recreational opportunities.
“County elected leaders across the Commonwealth rightly recognize the critical impact Growing Greener has on the quality of life in their communities,” said Andrew Heath, executive director of the Renew Growing Greener Coalition. “Now it is time for our legislators to heed the public and restore funding for this award winning program so that future generations have access to clean drinking water, fresh air, locally produced food and green open spaces.”
Growing Greener is a bipartisan program 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.
Moreover, Growing Greener has contributed and leveraged billions of dollars to the Pennsylvania economy by helping to boost tourism, create jobs and generate revenue.
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 current state budget. This is more than an 80 percent reduction.
“Growing Greener has made a tremendous difference throughout Allegheny County,” said County Executive Dan Onorato. “Now more than ever, we need our legislators to fight for this program and fight to protect the rivers, parks, trails and open spaces that are part of the very fabric of Pennsylvania and its economy.”
“This program has delivered real health and economic benefits for Allegheny County residents by enhancing their quality of life, raising property values and ultimately making the County a more attractive place to grow businesses,” noted County Council Member Michael Finnerty, who was the Primary Sponsor of the Resolution.
Among other accomplishments, Growing Greener funds have helped Allegheny County to:
- Further develop the system of hiking and biking trails in the Great Allegheny Passage, which has increased revenues for businesses along the trail. In 2008, the trail network generated an additional $40.7 million in revenue to local businesses, and those businesses distributed an additional $7.50 million in wages to their employees.
- Implement more than 60 watershed protection and restoration projects across the county, including projects to clean up acid mine pollution.
- Support a variety of alternative energy projects throughout the county.
- Plug more than 60 abandoned oil and gas wells.
- Promote the Rivers of Steel National Heritage Area. Pennsylvania Heritage Areas are economic engines. In 2008, spending by an estimated 17 million visitors to heritage areas had a total annual economic impact of $417 million in sales, contributing 6,000 jobs to the Pennsylvania economy.
To date, more than 230 organizations and groups have announced their support for renewing Growing Greener. In addition, 102 Pennsylvania municipalities including 24 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.