Conservation Funding in Georgia – An Easy Choice
By Georgia Conservancy President Robert Ramsay
Georgia’s economic success is inextricably connected to our quality of life – quality of life which is directly influenced by access to an abundant variety of natural resources. Our state’s physical beauty, available land and bodies of water have created an enviable location where families want to live and companies want to locate. And without a significant and active effort to conserve and protect our land and resources, the quality of live that Georgians have grown to cherish will radically change, and not for the better. Investing in our land today will determine if our state is still a place where we want to live, work and play in the future. The conservation of our state’s land and water is not only a sound ecological decision, but is one that will enhance our economy.
With its ability to dedicate $20 million-plus annually to the conservation of Georgia’s natural resources, Amendment One, the Georgia Outdoor Stewardship Amendment, is truly a once-in-a-generation opportunity for Georgians to voice their support for revolutionary funding that will provide for our natural resources in a way that embraces our environmental assets as economic assets.
Amendment One, which you will find on the November 6 general election ballot, does not call for a new or additional tax. Instead, monies would be appropriated from the existing state sales and use tax on outdoor sporting goods – items as diverse as shotgun shells and backpacking tents – for conservation purposes.
Georgia currently lacks a dedicated funding mechanism to ensure our state’s critical lands can be protected, conserved and managed. Today, Georgia’s land conservation program relies on annual appropriated funding, the nature of which makes multi-year acquisition plans difficult to execute and often precludes the state’s ability to leverage additional federal, private and philanthropic investment. Funds set aside through the newly passed legislation would provide our state’s Department of Natural Resources with the additional financial resources necessary to acquire lands identified as critical in the most recent Georgia State Wildlife Action Plan and Statewide Comprehensive Outdoor Recreation Plan.
In addition to providing acquisition dollars to expand habitat protection for the nation’s sixth most biodiverse state, dedicated conservation funding would also be allocated to better protect and manage existing public lands, as well as the waters and parks where we research, recreate and relax. Additionally, Amendment One calls for the use of matching dollars for local greenspace projects statewide.
Georgia’s robust $27 billion outdoor recreation industry and $61 billion tourism industry are signals that that sustainable conservation funding is good for both the environment and the economy, as these industries rely directly upon access to our state’s coast, lakes, rivers, forests and mountain ranges.
Weather you enjoy fishing within our globally-significant saltmarsh ecosystems, taking brisk autumn morning hikes in our State Parks in the Blue Ridge Mountains, or biking with your family through your favorite local park, support for Amendment One this November will only help to enhance those experiences and expand opportunities for others – throughout Georgia and beyond – to share in them.
November 6 will be here before we know it, and as always, much of the news will be focused on important national, state and local elections. You’ll be presented with number of hard choices as you make your way down the ballot, but extending your support for conservation shouldn’t have to be tough.
Robert Ramsay is the President of the Georgia Conservancy
To learn more about the Georgia Conservancy, please visit: http://www.georgiaconservancy.org
To learn more about Amendment One and The Georgia Outdoor Stewardship Coalition, please visit: www.georgiaoutdoorstewardship.org. The Georgia Outdoor Stewardship Coalition includes The Georgia Conservancy, The Conservation Fund, The Georgia Wildlife Federation, The Nature Conservancy, Park Pride and The Trust for Public Land
Featured Photo: Lower Altamaha River by GC member Phuc Dao