There has been a long history in Pennsylvania of investing public dollars in natural and outdoor recreational resources…the benefits can be experienced in every county of the Commonwealth.
In 1993, the Pennsylvania General Assembly, in a nearly unanimous vote, and the general public, in an overwhelming referendum vote, established the Keystone Recreation, Park and Conservation Fund. The Keystone Fund and its dedicated funding source, a 15% share of the State’s realty transfer tax, passed in the Senate by a vote of 48 to 0 and in the House by a vote of 196 to 3 (Act 50 of 1993). In November of 1993, Pennsylvania citizens strongly affirmed the General Assembly’s action, with 67% of voters voting to supplement the Keystone’s permanent funding stream with $50 million in bond revenues.
In establishing the Keystone Fund, the General Assembly sought to create a dedicated and permanent funding source for making investments in recreation, parks, conservation, libraries, historical preservation, and education.
Growing Greener began in 1999 when Governor Tom Ridge and legislative leaders agreed to commit $650 million over five years for investments in farmland preservation, conservation of open space, restoring and protecting Pennsylvania’s streams and rivers, improving and expanding state and local parks, and developing new trails and greenways.
In 2002, the General Assembly and Governor Mark Schweiker created the Environmental Stewardship Fund (ESF) to help fulfill the original Growing Greener commitment and to establish a permanent funding mechanism to carry the program’s success into the future. They provided the Environmental Stewardship Fund with a dedicated revenue source by increasing the fee charged for dumping trash in Pennsylvania landfills.
Governor Ed Rendell and the General Assembly, recognizing the need to accelerate the work of Growing Greener, decided to put a $625 million bond referendum question to the voters. In the 2005 primary election, 60% of voters approved the bond and Growing Greener II was established.
he Pennsylvania Agricultural Conservation Easement Purchase Program (ACEPP) is a voluntary program that enables county governments to protect active farmland by purchasing agricultural conservation easements from willing landowners. (This is sometimes referred to as “purchase of development rights.”) These easements limit the use of farmland to activities compatible with agriculture, while keeping the land in the landowner’s ownership and control. Currently, 57 counties participate in the program.
Oil and Gas Lease Fund
In 1955, the Pennsylvania General Assembly created the Oil and Gas Lease Fund. Money received from oil and gas leases on state lands (except for Game Lands) are directed to be placed in the Oil and Gas Lease Fund, to be used a broad range of conservation infrastructure, including land acquisition. Recently, money from this fund, which was significantly higher due to leasing of land for drilling in the Marcellus Shale, was transferred to the PA General Fund.
Created by Congress in 1965, the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) was a bipartisan commitment to safeguard natural areas, water resources and our cultural heritage, and to provide recreation opportunities to all Americans. National parks like Rocky Mountain, the Grand Canyon, and the Great Smoky Mountains, as well as national wildlife refuges, national forests, rivers and lakes, community parks, trails, and ball fields in every one of our 50 states were set aside for Americans to enjoy thanks to federal funds from the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF).