Harrisburg: growing Greener Advocates Rally for Increased Funding

May 9, 2017

Watch a recap of the Rally Here

(HARRISBURG, PA) Advocates for Pennsylvania’s Growing Greener program today rallied on the steps of the state Capitol to call for increased funding to protect water, preserve open space and family farms, and ensure current and future generations continue to have access to community parks, trails and other recreational opportunities.

“Funding for the Growing Greener program is at an all-time low,” said Andrew Heath, executive director of the Pennsylvania Growing Greener Coalition, which organized the rally. “We are urging the Governor and General Assembly to act now to identify a bipartisan, sustainable funding source for Growing Greener so the state can continue to make critical investments to protect our natural resources and keep our economy and communities healthy.

“Further, while we recognize the current fiscal challenges facing the state, the budget cannot be balanced at the expense of the environment, including our parks and forests,” Heath continued.

The Coalition, the largest coalition of conservation, recreation and preservation organizations in the state, has identified more than $315 million in annual needs to ensure Pennsylvanians continue to have access to clean water, locally grown food, and parks, trails and other recreational opportunities.

However, funding for the program has decreased from an estimated average of $200 million in the mid-2000s to $57 million this year. This represents a 75 percent reduction.

“Now more than ever, we need to be doing more to protect our natural resources, not less,” said Jacqui Bonomo, executive vice president and COO of PennFuture. “Our state constitution guarantees Pennsylvanians an enforceable right to ensure their government acts in a manner that protects our right to a healthy environment, and it imposes an obligation on the government to manage our public resources in a manner that conserves them for current and future generations.”

Established in 1999, the Growing Greener program has funded hundreds of local parks and trail projects, conserved more than 80,000 acres of threatened open space, and restored hundreds of miles of streams and waterways.

The program has also protected more than 78,000 acres of farmland, restored more than 1,600 acres of abandoned mine land, and helped reduce flooding and water pollution through 400 watershed protection projects and more than 100 drinking and wastewater treatment improvements.

Numerous studies have shown that Pennsylvania’s parks, farms, waterways, and open space generate significant economic and health benefits locally and statewide, and are critical to the strength of two of Pennsylvania’s leading industries – tourism and agriculture.

“The Growing Greener program has a proven track record of success,” said Sen. Tom Killion (R-Delaware). “I am committed to working with the administration and my colleagues in the legislature to ensure the program’s vitality long into the future and to keep Pennsylvania Growing Greener.”

Killion is planning to introduce Senate Bill 705 with Senators Richard Alloway (R-York) and Chuck McIlhinney (R-Bucks) that would establish a framework for renewed and increased investment in Growing Greener.

Since its inception, the state’s Growing Greener program has enjoyed widespread, bipartisan support. A 2015 Penn State poll found that 90.7 percent of Pennsylvanians surveyed would support increasing state funds to conserve and protect open space, clean water, natural areas, wildlife habitats, parks, forests, and farms.

“Pennsylvania families place great value on clean water, locally grown food and protecting our natural resources,” said Sen. John Yudichak (D-Luzerne/Carbon).  “Funding Growing Greener programs means sound investment in a better quality of life and a stronger economy that supports tens of thousands of jobs in tourism and agriculture.”

Despite the success of the Growing Greener program, there is much more work that needs to be done.

  • Nineteen thousand miles of streams and rivers are impaired: not safe for drinking or recreational use and/or cannot support aquatic life and cannot support agriculture and other industries.
  • Abandoned mines scar nearly 200,000 acres in 43 counties, causing of 5,500 miles of dead streams and rivers.
  • More than 1,800 family farms remain on the waiting list to be protected and preserved.
  • The majority of the state’s 6,000 local parks and more than 11,000 miles of trails need significant upgrades.

Also joining in the rally to Keep Pennsylvania Growing Greener were Sen. Richard Alloway (R-York); Rep. Alex Charlton (R-Delaware), Rep. Mike Carroll (D-Luzerne/Lackawanna) and Rep. Robert Freeman (D-Northampton) as well as John Arway, Executive Director, Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission, David Kinney, Mid-Atlantic Policy Director, Trout Unlimited, and George Matysik, Executive Director, Philadelphia Parks Alliance.

About the Pennsylvania Growing Greener Coalition

The Pennsylvania Growing Greener Coalition is the largest coalition of conservation, recreation, and preservation organizations in the Commonwealth. The Coalition’s mission is to enhance the health and economic well-being of communities across the Commonwealth by advocating for funding to conserve, protect and restore land, water and wildlife; to preserve farms and historic places, and to provide well-managed parks and recreational areas throughout the state. Established in 2008, the Coalition comprises local, regional and statewide conservation, recreation and preservation groups.  For more information, visit www.PaGrowingGreener.org.