To All Members of the Kentucky General Assembly:
As you work to craft a budget that addresses immediate needs and charts a path toward a bright future for all in this Commonwealth, we ask that you consider the importance of conserving Kentucky’s natural, cultural, historic, and working lands and waters.
These lands and waters define what is uniquely Kentucky, drive our tourism economy and underpin our quality of life. The traditions and opportunities we value – hunting, fishing, forestry, outdoor recreation, wildlife observation, scenic vistas and history – are deeply rooted in the health of our land. Strategic investments by the state are necessary to ensure that our land is not just a link to our past, but is also a path to a more vibrant future, where wildlife habitat, clean rivers, historic sites and healthy farms and forests are an integral part of a modern, growing Commonwealth and its citizenry.
The proposed 2018-2020 biennium budget (HB 200) continues cuts to the state’s only program for investing in land conservation. These proposed cuts compound the existing adverse impact on conservation initiatives, as well as affecting citizens of the Commonwealth who depend on these important lands for clean air, clean water, quality of life and economic opportunity.In FY 2017, the last state budget swept $2.5 million each year for two years from KHLCF into the state General Fund, creating a balance DEFICIT of nearly $47,000 for FY 2017. This does not include the millions of dollars of grant opportunities lost in matching funds. These cuts over the past several years have brought Kentucky’s 20-year conservation initiative to a halt Based on these factors, we ask that at a minimum you eliminate the $5 million in additional proposed cuts to the Heritage Land Conservation Fund in the 2018-2020 biennium budget and restore these funds for their intended use.
Healthy land and clean water is fundamental for attracting high-quality businesses and supporting a healthy economy. They provide robust recreation opportunities and a bright sustainable future for Kentucky.
We look forward to working with the General Assembly to secure your thoughtful approval of these critical investments in land conservation. Thank you for your consideration.