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TRENTON, N.J. – NJ Keep It Green, the state’s largest coalition of conservation, agriculture and historic preservation advocates, today said it was optimistic that an agreement will be reached on long-term funding for open space, park, farmland and historic preservation and voters will be allowed to have their say this year.
“NJ Keep It Green appreciates the bipartisan leadership from Senators Smith and Bateman to advance sustainable funding for Green Acres, Blue Acres, farmland and historic preservation efforts,” said Tom Gilbert, chairman of NJ Keep It Green. “With all funds from the 2009 bond measure fully allocated, there is a real urgency to find an approach to sustainable funding that can move forward in both the Senate and the Assembly this year.”
The Senate Environment and Energy Committee today voted 4-1 to advance newly introduced legislation (SCR84) that would ask voters to approve dedicating 6 percent of Corporate Business Tax revenues for open space, farmland and historic preservation. The proposal would generate approximately $150 million annually for preservation and stewardship programs.
“SCR84 would provide a sustainable source of funding for preservation and stewardship over the next three decades, which is essential in order to meet the pressing preservation needs facing the Garden State,” Gilbert said. “However, the Coalition has concerns about the loss of funding that is currently dedicated to other environmental and park needs.”
Four percent of the Corporate Business Tax revenues are already dedicated for other environmental programs and would be diverted for preservation and stewardship programs under the proposal.
“We are committed to working with legislative leaders to identify additional funds to address these needs, including park capital improvements, watershed management and underground storage tank removal,” Gilbert stressed.
It is also the Coalition’s position that funds from Natural Resources Damages settlements should continue to be reinvested in the same areas where the environmental damages occurred. These funds are not an appropriate way to pay for statewide preservation needs and would not generate enough reliable funding to address these needs.
A draft report by the state Department of Environmental Protection entitled the State Comprehensive Outdoor Recreation Plan indicates at least 650,000 acres still need to be preserved to protect water quality, provide parks and other recreational opportunities, and support the economy. In addition, at least 400,000 acres of farmland must be protected to maintain a viable agriculture industry.
The report also highlights the importance of recreation and parks to the quality of life in New Jersey and to redevelopment initiatives, especially in urban areas. Green Acres has more than 1,100 park development projects in every county of the state.
The report acknowledges that a long-term, stable funding source will be required to meet New Jersey’s current and future conservation and recreation needs, especially as New Jersey’s population continues to grow and the public demands for parks and open space increase.
“As this process moves forward, NJ Keep It Green is optimistic an agreement will be reached that will allow voters to have their say this year,” said Kelly Mooij, coordinator of NJ Keep It Green. “We will continue to work with Senate and Assembly leaders to secure sustainable funding for vital land, water and historic preservation efforts, while also ensuring funding to address other important environmental and park needs, including stewardship of lands and parks that are already protected.”
About NJ Keep It Green NJ Keep It Green is a coalition of more than 185 park and conservation advocates working to create a long-term, dedicated source of funding for the preservation and stewardship of New Jersey’s natural areas, waterways, parks, farmland and historic sites. NJ Keep It Green led successful campaigns to pass statewide ballot measures in 2006, 2007, and 2009 generating $600 million for state open space, farmland and historic preservation programs. For more information or to sign the NJ Keep It Green Statement of Support, visit www.njkeepitgreen.org.
Tom Gilbert (267) 261-7325
Kelly Mooij (732) 539-1693
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