Building a Legacy
By Robert Ramsay
On Tuesday, November 4th, citizens took to the polls to elect their leaders of choice and to vote on ballot initiatives that will influence their communities for years to come. In many locations across the country, constituencies were asked about land conservation and, specifically, how to fund the protection of critical habitat and parks within their borders. By the end of the day after all the votes were tallied, it was clear that land conservation was an important and non-partisan issue to Americans from every corner of the country.
The feeling in the Southeast was no different. Our neighbors in beautiful Florida, a voting public often characterized as politically divided, came together to overwhelmingly support dedicated funding for conservation. 75% of voters in the Sunshine State voted “YES” to the Florida Water and Land Conservation Amendment, also known as Amendment One, supporting the dedication of nearly $1 billon every year for the next two decades to the protection of their state’s natural resources.
You may have noticed that voters in Georgia did not have the opportunity to support similar conservation funding at the ballot box this year. Our state currently lacks a dedicated funding mechanism for the conservation for priority lands, the stewardship of state parks and wildlife management areas, and the support of local parks and preserves.
Hard at work to change that is a coalition known as Georgia Legacy. Partner organizations the Georgia Conservancy, The Nature Conservancy, Park Pride, Trust for Public Land, The Conservation Fund, and Georgia Wildlife Federation want conservation on the ballot.
Georgia Legacy is working with lawmakers to pass legislation during the 2015 General Assembly that will allow the voices of Georgians to be heard during the next statewide election cycle. We believe that the support for shown for conservation in Florida is not endemic to that state, but would be replicated by Georgia voters if they are provided the chance.
How would Georgia Legacy be funded?
Outdoor enthusiasts in Georgia are a driving force for both the environment and the economy. The sales of outdoor recreation equipment in Georgia, which total more than $1 billion annually, indicate that our state has a thriving and active community that relies upon accessible land and waters to enjoy outdoor recreation. Four percent of the sales of such equipment are currently collected by the state as tax revenue. With the proposed Georgia Legacy Fund, those dollars must be used to support conservation and stewardship of state parks and wildlife management areas in Georgia – funds that equal approximately $43 million per year. Those who recreate outdoors will be directly investing in the conservation and stewardship of the resources that they require.
The Georgia Conservancy and our partners believe that the protection of our natural resources should not suffer during economic up-and-downs, and we believe that a dedicated and sustainable source of funding for land and water conservation will not only prove beneficial to our state’s environment, but also to our economy.
As stewards of this state’s natural resources, and for future generations, we believe that we have a moral imperative and an economic incentive to conserve our land and water for generations of Georgians to come – our Georgia Legacy.
Learn more about Georgia Legacy at www.galegacy.org.