As the Pennsylvania General Assembly rushes to complete a state budget for the remainder of the 2020-2021 fiscal year, lawmakers are once again considering ideas that are fundamentally counterproductive — like diverting revenues from special funds like the Keystone Fund and the Environmental Stewardship Fund, also known as Growing Greener.
These special funds support the development and maintenance of a wide array of projects and amenities, including trails and public lands that thousands have relied upon to stay sane and healthy during these difficult times. If you’ve ever taken refuge from the news by stepping out for a hike or a ride, chances are you’ve benefited directly from Keystone- or Growing Greener-funded projects. And you’re not alone: research by PEC shows Pennsylvanians are recreating outdoors like never before, with 2020 trail use up dramatically statewide — in some areas, more than doubling last year’s numbers.
Not only do state-funded outdoor recreation assets serve as a lifeline for the physical and mental health of Pennsylvanians, they’re also critical to the success of one of the state’s most vibrant and fastest-growing economic sectors: our outdoor industry, one of the nation’s largest, generating more than $29 billion in annual economic activity. Those dollars support hundreds of thousands of jobs — in everything from construction and manufacturing to retail sales and service — jobs that can’t be outsourced, providing indispensable revenues to communities in every part of the Commonwealth.
As the state charts a tenuous path to economic recovery, cashing out one of our most successful long-term investments now would be disastrously shortsighted.
Pennsylvania’s world-class outdoor recreational assets boost our standard of living and create real prosperity locally. Many of these resources simply wouldn’t exist without public investment through programs like Growing Greener and the Keystone Fund. But the return on taxpayers’ investment exceeds the value of the assets themselves: every dollar spent on public lands and trails in Pennsylvania brings more than its equal back into the economy. As the state charts a tenuous path to economic recovery, cashing out one of our most successful long-term investments now would be disastrously shortsighted.
As time runs out on the budget process, PEC has joined with other advocates for conservation and outdoor recreation in calling for the protection of special funds. We urge all Pennsylvanians do likewise by contacting their elected representatives and asking them to support Growing Greener and the Keystone Fund. With a budget expected to be finalized this week, there’s no time to waste.
Find your legislators via this link.