Conservation Makes Economic Sense for Georgia
By Tom Harbin, Managing Partner, Source Capital
The beauty of Georgia’s natural resources has a way of getting into one’s blood. For generations, my family and I have reveled in Georgia’s northern mountains, expansive hunting and fishing destinations, and serene Golden Isles. As supporters of The Nature Conservancy of Georgia,, we’ve taken on volunteer leadership roles and helped advocate for the ongoing protection of the critically important lands and waters we enjoy for recreation and rely on for jobs, clean drinking water and more. These resources must be protected for the sake of us all. Not only because of the impact Georgia’s lands and waters have on our individual lives, but also because of their impact on our state’s economy.
Fortunately, Georgians have a historic opportunity to take decisive, forward-looking action to protect our state’s lands and waters for future generations by voting yes on Amendment One, the Georgia Outdoor Stewardship Amendment. This measure, which is on the general election ballot this fall, will dedicate a portion of the existing sales and use tax on outdoor sporting goods—about $20 million a year – to land and water conservation and stewardship. Should voters agree, Amendment One will have a generational impact on land and water conservation and stewardship in our state without raising taxes or creating any new fees. Specifically, this funding will be used to maintain parks, trails, hunting and fishing destinations while expanding the state’s ability to acquire and protect additional acres of forestland and maintaining access for those who enjoy the outdoors.
The conservation benefits of Amendment One are numerous—from an increased opportunity for new parks in communities that lack sufficient greenspace, to better upkeep of wildlife management areas, to ensuring the proper management of our watersheds. At the same time, the impact of Amendment One on Georgia’s economy should not be overlooked. Georgia’s $27 billion outdoor recreation industry creates thousands of jobs and generates $8.1 billion in wages and salaries from the Southern Blue Ridge to the coast. And other industries that rely upon access to lands and waters such as agriculture, tourism, and our growing film industry pour billions into the state annually – that’s why leading industry organizations such as the Georgia Chamber of Commerce, Outdoor Industry Association and Council for Quality Growth all support Amendment One.
Of course, the most basic reason that we should all support Amendment One is that we want to be outdoors. Whether in the mountains, on a lake or on the beach, with our family, friends or enjoying a moment of solitude, being outdoors is where we create new memories, focus on our health and get to experience the natural beauty of the state we all call home.
Amendment One garnered strong bi-partisan support as it moved through the Georgia legislature and was recently endorsed by Governor Nathan Deal. Now, it’s our opportunity as Georgians to support our state’s economic and environmental future. Please vote Yes on One on Election Day.
Tom Harbin, a member of The Nature Conservancy in Georgia’s board of trustees, is a managing partner at Source Capital, a private equity firm founded in 2002 which makes both control equity investments and debt investments in mature, lower middle-market U.S. companies across a range of industries. He currently serves as the Chairman of Aerial Access Equipment, LLC, Backyard Products, LLC and Sparus Holdings, Inc.