Will your call, letter, or meeting be the one to make the difference for conservation? It could, but you must act.

For two decades, Pennsylvania has made tangible and lasting investments in land conservation thanks to two taxes dedicated to that purpose: 15% of the Realty Transfer Tax for the Keystone Recreation, Park and Conservation Fund $20.5M of the Cigarette Tax for farmland preservation. With the support of these dedicated tax revenues, Pennsylvania has been protecting and establishing recreational areas, important wildlife habitats and other green spaces that will define PA communities and shape the lives of Pennsylvanians for decades and centuries to come. Likewise, these dedicated tax revenues have been protecting the rich soils needed to ensure the security of Pennsylvania’s food supply and farm economy. There still is much to be done but the past two decades have put Pennsylvania on the right track.

However, we are perilously close to going off the track. Governor Corbett’s 2013 budget savages the Keystone Fund and farmland preservation. We can’t afford to lose these hugely successful and efficient programs; we can’t afford to lose the private and local investments that state conservation investments leverage. The threats to our special open spaces and productive soils won’t take a break if the proposed cuts become law.

The proposed budget:

Permanently redirects Keystone’s recreation, park and conservation funds to general state operations. This includes eliminating the only funding source that directs money specifically to land trust and community park and recreation projects.
Permanently redirects the farmland preservation funding share of the Cigarette Tax to general state operations. For 2012 and 2013, cigarette tax revenue would be “replaced” with bond money that otherwise would have been used for Growing Greener projects (like farmland preservation). Even if one were to find this trade acceptable, it still leaves a gaping problem: After use of two years of bond money, farmland preservation will have no funding. Its connection to the cigarette tax will be gone.

What can you do? Make personal contacts:

Call or write your legislators. RIGHT NOW. Tell them to: (a) keep the Keystone Fund intact so that it can deliver another two decades of conservation excellence and (b) oppose cutting farmland preservation’s connection to the cigarette tax.
Get the word out to your members, colleagues and friends. Lawmakers need to hear from a broad group of people. They need to understand that it’s about far more than helping individual farmers or a few outdoor recreation enthusiasts. It’s about the health of the the environment, the agricultural industry, local jobs, the environments and our communities.

When can you do it?

Don’t wait. Next week, budget discussion will intensify in Harrisburg. Catch legislators in their district offices this week or in Harrisburg at the beginning of next week.