For more than 20 years, the Conservancy has conducted conservation funding initiatives in 23 states, 38 counties and 19 towns and cities that together have garnered over $46 Billion in public funding for land acquisition and other conservation programs. In 2011, Kentucky decided to follow suite. Even when coffers are full, conservation programs compete with other interests for funding. During uncertain economic times, conservation funding often finds itself first in line for budget cuts. This trend, combined with the fact the rate of conservation-dedicated revenue in the state falls well behind neighboring states makes the need for increased public funding for conservation imperative.
We all wish to pass on a Kentucky to our children and grandchildren that is at least as healthy and beautiful as what we inherited. Unfortunately, this dream is jeopardized by funding cuts to programs that protect wildlife habitat, drinking water, food production, clean air and natural places across the Commonwealth.
So What Can We Do?
These are just some of the reasons why the Conservancy has joined a coalition of conservation organizations across the state to explore the feasibility of a legislative or ballot measure to establish a permanent funding source dedicated to protecting, conserving and restoring Kentucky's lands and waters before they are transformed forever. These efforts advanced last spring when a bi-partisan polling team surveyed Kentuckians about their thoughts on the topic.
Testing Voter Perception
The results of the polling project boded quite well for our initiative. We learned that voters, although most concerned with issues such as the economy and public health, also worry about the loss of farm and forest lands, water quality and flooding. Most voters, regardless of political affiliation, believe that a strong economy and healthy environment are not in conflict with one another. Finally, a vast majority of voters would like to see conservation funding maintained or increased.
Where do we go from Here?
With a strong and diverse coalition and thorough polling results in place, the Conservancy looks forward to working with conservation partners, outdoor recreation enthusiasts, tourism and businesses, and elective officials to ensure that Kentucky's lands, waters and working landscapes are protected forever. Stay tuned for the latest developments on this important funding initiative.January 11, 2012