PEC submitted the following letter to members of the Pennsylvania General Assembly on November 16, 2020.
Dear Members of the General Assembly:
This week the legislature is tasked with the difficult job of finishing the state budget through the remainder of the fiscal year. One idea that has been proposed is to divert revenues from several Special Funds, including the Environmental Stewardship (“Growing Greener”) and Keystone Funds. We understand the financial challenges facing our state, but diverting revenues from these Funds will imperil jobs and projects that underpin our state’s growing recreational economy. At a time when access to recreational amenities and public lands has been one of the few respites for Pennsylvanians during the Covid pandemic, this proposal is particularly problematic.
Since March, the Pennsylvania Environmental Council (PEC) has been measuring the significant (in some areas more than two-fold) increase in trail use, and what it has meant to the public and those that work to build and maintain those amenities. The results are posted on our website, which you can find here. These findings mirror broader public sentiment about the importance of these resources. For example, here are just a few of the articles and opinion pieces on this phenomenon:
- Altoona Mirror
- Centre Daily Times
- Daily Local News
- NorthCentral PA
- Philadelphia Inquirer
- Tribune Review
- WESA Public Radio
- Pennsylvania Capital Star
The good news is that these amenities provide an outlet for people during the pandemic, while also benefiting businesses and service providers who are part of our $29 billion recreational economy. The bad news is that these resources were already under considerable strain in terms of capacity and upkeep, and will be even more vulnerable without ongoing support.
Diverting revenues is counterproductive on several fronts. Our recreational economy supports hundreds of thousands of jobs across the state and generates vital revenues for communities. Every state dollar has been shown to leverage more than its equal in private investment. Jobs supported by the Keystone and Environmental Stewardship Funds support a range of professions and businesses – from bike shops and fishing outfitters to engineers and landscape architects to contractors and equipment operators. The projects supported by these funds aren’t superfluous; diverting revenues will only result in economic opportunities lost at a time when they’re needed most.
Our public lands and trails are assets that will be in place and available for citizens and communities for generations to come. They are an investment that pay dividends every day and benefit all Pennsylvanians. PEC urges you to oppose any budget proposal that seeks to undermine these critical programs.
Thank you for your consideration.
Senior Vice President, Legal & Government Affairs