Schuylkill County Calls for Renewal of Growing Greener

For Immediate Release: March 29, 2012

Schuylkill County Calls for Renewal of Growing Greener

(HARRISBURG, PA) The Renew Growing Greener Coalition, the largest coalition of conservation, recreation and environmental organizations in the Commonwealth, today announced

that Schuylkill County has passed a resolution calling for the renewal of the Growing Greener Environmental Stewardship Fund.

Schuylkill County is the 37th county to  adopt a resolution in support of Growing Greener (Click of Map). In addition, at least 115 municipalities have also passed resolutions in favor of the program.

“Funding for the Environmental Stewardship Fund is at its lowest point in history,” said Andrew Heath, executive director of the Renew Growing Greener Coalition. “Counties throughout the state realize that without this program they will be hard-pressed to make critical investments in keeping our drinking water clean, protecting our land, and ensuring our children and families have parks and green open spaces where they can play.”

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, improving at least 234 community parks, plugging 2,100 abandoned wells and restoring over 1,600 acres of abandoned mine lands.

However, despite the success of the Growing Greener, the current budget proposal by Governor Corbett reduces funding to its lowest amount in the history of the program.

The proposed budget continues the flawed practice of using the Growing Greener Environmental Stewardship Fund to pay the Growing Greener II bond debt service.  This $37.5 million debt diversion will leave just $23 million available for Growing Greener programs and projects, including farmland preservation.

The residents of Schuylkill County have benefited tremendously from Growing Greener, especially in the area of tourism due, in large part, to the investments made in the county’s natural resources.

Among other accomplishments, Growing Greener has helped Schuylkill County:

  • Reclaim more than 475 acres of abandoned mineland.
  • Invest $1.7 million in abandoned mine drainage projects.
  • Preserve more than 2,500 acres of family farmland.
  • Acquire more than 150 acres of land along Hawk Mountain Road and the Little Schuylkill River to protect important bird habitat.
  • Support the reclamation of Sharp Mountain in Pottsville, which was extensively deep mined through the early 1900s.
  • Support efforts to develop a multi-municipal greenway and trail system for the lower Anthracite Region in Columbia, Northumberland and Schuylkill counties.

In addition to the diversion of Growing Greener funds, Governor Corbett’s proposed budget also diverts $30 million from the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources’ Keystone Recreation, Park and Conservation Fund to the general fund, and permanently eliminates this popular and important conservation and recreation program.  This is the largest cut in conservation funding in state history.

Moreover, the budget proposal also calls for the permanent diversion of the state’s cigarette sales tax from its historical purpose of funding farmland preservation to funding the general fund. This is a permanent diversion that will eventually kill this critical program.

“These diversions will set back the advances the Commonwealth has made in conservation funding by decades,” said Heath. “The Coalition urges the General Assembly to reject these cuts, which undermine any progress made in Act 13.”

About the Renew Growing Greener Coalition The Renew Growing Greener Coalition is the largest coalition of conservation, recreation and environmental organizations in the Commonwealth, representing more than 350 organizations and government entities from across the state. More than 150 government entities, including 37 counties, representing more than eight million Pennsylvanians, have passed resolutions calling for a dedicated source of funding for the Growing Greener Environmental Stewardship Fund. For more information on the Coalition, visit www.RenewGrowingGreener.org.

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