Conservancy commends support for Keystone Fund
The Chesapeake Conservancy today congratulated the Pennsylvania House, which voted overwhelmingly to restore full funding to the commonwealth’s Keystone Recreation, Park and Conservation Fund and Farmland Preservation Program. Last month, the Pennsylvania Senate voted to restore half these funds. Governor Corbett has proposed permanently eliminating these vital programs and re-directing the funds to the State’s General Fund.
“We congratulate the House and Senate on recognizing the importance of the Keystone Fund and Farmland Preservation Programs. We urge the Conference Committee to accept the House amendment and fully fund these programs.” said Joel Dun, executive director of the Chesapeake Conservancy.
Keystone helps local governments preserve green spaces for public enjoyment and pays for the expansion, renovation and construction of public libraries and recreation facilities, Dunn noted. In addition, the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (DCNR), Pennsylvania’s agency tasked with managing state parks and recreation areas, receives about 30% of Keystone Fund appropriations to carry out these responsibilities annually. Since its establishment, the Keystone Fund has supported:
- 2,600 Community Park Projects
- 490 Historic Preservation Projects
- Management of the 117-unit State Park System
- Preservation of 120,000 acres
- Expansion, Renovation and Construction of 168 Public Libraries
Continuation of the Keystone Fund requires no new tax burden on residents; a portion of the real estate transfer tax goes to the fund. Notably, every dollar spent by the fund has leveraged more than $2 dollars from other sources.
The Keystone Fund also provides numerous benefits to Pennsylvania’s economy. It helps raise the value of properties located near public lands conserved with its support and facilitates the management of recreation areas that attract millions of visitors who spend roughly $1.3 billion annually.
The Governor’s budget would also re-allocate funds derived from cigarette tax revenues that are intended to preserve Pennsylvania’s farmlands. This would harm the commonwealth’s number one industry, agriculture, which employs nearly 1 in 7 residents and contributes $50 billion to the economy.
Dunn noted that the Senate had earlier restored money to the Keystone Fund, adding, “As the Senate and House prepare to resolve budget discrepancies in Conference Committee, it is important to remind Governor Corbett about the Keystone Fund’s achievements and merit, and to encourage him to support the legislature’s decision. These programs have overwhelming bi-partisan support in Pennsylvania’s House and Senate.”