Conservation Funding Wins Big at the Ballot

Courtesy of Trust for Public Land's Center for Conservation Finance

Funding for voter-approved land conservation capped a record-breaking year in November 2008, with voters demonstrating substantial support for open space ballot measures despite the current economic and fiscal crisis facing the nation, according to The Trust for Public Land (TPL), a national land conservation organization

On November 4, voters backed 63 of the 89 (71 percent) conservation finance measures on ballots across America. These successful measures will generate a single-day record of $7.3 billion in new funding for parks and open space. Overall in 2008, voters approved 89 measures totaling $8.4 billion in new public funding for land conservation, also a single-year record. The approval rate for 2008 was 71 percent, topping the 66 percent approval rate for 2007 and just below the 74 percent rate for 2006.

The record-setting amount of funding for 2008 can largely be attributed to passage of Minnesota’s $5.5 billion Clean Water, Land and Legacy constitutional amendment (a single-measure record). The Minnesota measure nearly doubles the previous largest conservation ballot measure, New Jersey's Constitutional Amendment in 1998, which dedicated $2.94 billion in sales tax to the Garden State Preservation Trust.

A complete list of results from local and state balloting on conservation and parks is available online today from LandVote 2008.

Among the other significant measures yesterday:

  • East Bay Regional Park District, CA: a $500 million bond measure received 71% support
  • Hillsborough County, FL: a $200 million bond measure received 78% support
  • Hunterdon County, NJ: An extension of the county's 3-cent property tax for 20 years will generate $152 million
  • Community Preservation Act, MA: 7 of 8 measures approved, bringing the total of communities statewide that have adopted CPA to 140
  • Blaine County, ID: a two-year property tax for open space will establish the first county conservation program in the state
  • Johnson County, IA: a $20 million bond will establish Iowa's first county conservation program

“Tuesday’s results demonstrate sustained support among voters for new investments in land conservation, even in a very tough economic climate,” said Ernest Cook, director of conservation finance with The Trust for Public Land. “Voters understand the need to invest to preserve our land and water resources for future generations and that’s just what these ballot measures will provide funding to do.”

The Trust for Public Land and its lobbying affiliate, The Conservation Campaign, played key roles in the success of many of these ballot measures. Together, TPL and TCC assisted in 38 measures on ballots across the country on November 4, and 31 passed: an 82 percent passage rate. These measures generated $6.5 billion in new conservation funds. Remarkably, TPL's Conservation Finance program had a hand in 89 percent of the conservation funds approved in 2008.

“Whether Democrat or Republican, voters seem to be of similar minds on one issue: conservation,” said Will Rogers, president of The Trust for Public Land. “The results from 2008 continue a strong trend we have seen across the United States for the past decade: people want to preserve land in their communities, and they are willing to pay for it.”

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