Could Outdoor Stewardship Be Our Competitive Advantage?
Submitted by the Georgia Outdoor Stewardship Coalition
Last week, the state of Georgia joined 237 other regions and cities from across the nation in submitting a bid to become home to Amazon.com’s second headquarters. If successful, this could bring 50,000 new, quality jobs to the metro Atlanta area over the next 10 to 15 years. It is easy to see why Governor Deal referred to this opportunity as an “Olympic moment for economic development.”
The competition will be tough. Millions of dollars in incentives are on the table as are likely offers of land, buildings and the other infrastructure the company will need for its second home. In its proposal, however, Amazon asked for much more. The company touts the fact that its current headquarters in Seattle is part of a walkable community and includes public spaces such as a dog park and playing fields. And it specifically cited a desire for the new location to be in a community where people want to live, have access to recreational opportunities, and enjoy a high quality of life. Fortunately for Georgia, our leaders have consistently been willing to invest in the land and natural resources necessary to make that happen.
Just the week before the Amazon bid was due, Governor Deal received well-deserved recognition from The Georgia Conservancy for his dedication to land and water conservation. Under his leadership, the state has invested nearly $50 million in key conservation projects since 2011 and implemented numerous measures to provide both greater protections and improved access to state parks as well as lands for hunting and fishing. With an eye to preserving quality growth, Mayor Kasim Reed recently released the Atlanta City Design—a plan for the future that includes the protection and expansion of watersheds, forest, and habitat as one of its five core values—and announced the dedication of $15 million to the new Westside Park at Bellwood Quarry.
These are just a few examples of the actions taken at the state and local level to protect our quality of life. That said, as our region and state continue to grow, we will need to make even greater investments to ensure growth is not at the cost of parks, trails or the other outdoor spaces we all enjoy and that companies like Amazon desire.
Georgia has the opportunity to send a strong and lasting signal that we are serious about our quality of life and outdoor recreation by passing the Georgia Outdoor Stewardship Act (GOSA).
GOSA, which will be up for consideration by the General Assembly in January, would generate as much as $40 million annually for land conservation without creating any new taxes or fees. The funding would come from a portion of the existing sales tax on outdoor recreation equipment and be used for the acquisition of lands critical to the protection of clean water supplies, wildlife, or outdoor recreation. It would also be used to acquire and maintain parks in urban areas and maintain access to already protected lands throughout the state.
Land and water are finite resources that will always play an inextricable role in our quality of life and that, if not properly protected, could too easily be lost for future generations. Creating a dedicated source of funding would allow the state to address more of its land conservation needs both directly and by leveraging additional private and philanthropic investment. A portion of the funds would also be used to help local city and county governments with the acquisition and improvement of parks and trails for new and future residents to enjoy.
Regardless of where Amazon chooses to locate, the Georgia Outdoor Stewardship Act is the right decision as it will allow our leaders to continue to make the kind of strategic and impactful investments we are enjoying the benefits of today. We are certainly hopeful that both our state’s bid and this legislation will be successful in 2018.
To learn more about the Georgia Outdoor Stewardship Act, visit www.georgiaoutdoorstewardship.org.
The Conservation Fund – Andrew Schock, Georgia State Director
Georgia Conservancy – Robert Ramsay, President
Georgia Wildlife Federation – Mike Worley, President and CEO
The Nature Conservancy – Deron Davis, Executive Director
Park Pride – Michael Halicki, Executive Director
The Trust for Public Land – George Dusenbury, Georgia State Director
Featured photo by Park Pride