Cotter and DiPalma look to rescue land conservation funding

 

STATE HOUSE – Citing their effectiveness and Rhode Islanders’ historically strong support of land conservation efforts, Sen. Louis P. DiPalma and Rep. Megan L. Cotter have introduced legislation to add $16 million for land protection programs to the “green bond” proposed for November’s ballot.

The bills would provide funding for programs that are usually funded through green bond questions put before voters on Election Day, but conservation programs were not included in the $50 million environmental bond that Gov. Dan McKee has proposed for November’s ballot.

I’m proud to have introduced an additional $16 million in funding via the Green Bond to support local communities, open space and farmers. The legislature has typically used the Green Bond to promote important conservation projects that we have a responsibility to not let fall by the wayside. Ensuring that this funding continues is important to the advocates, organizations and legislators who put their trust in me, and I look forward to working together with all of them to turn this bill into reality,” said Representative Cotter (D-Dist. 39, Exeter, Richmond, Hopkinton), who chairs a special House commission that has been working to identify ways to improv forest management.

Said Senator DiPalma (D-Dist. 12, Middletown, Little Compton, Newport, Tiverton), who is chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, “Land conservation and preservation is a truly smart investment, one that returns a lot of value to the public for the dollars we spend. We all benefit from cleaner air and water that results from preserving green spaces, and we help ensure the survival of the wildlife, native species and beauty that are unique to our state. These programs are absolutely worth funding, and we want to make sure they continue into the future.”

The two lawmakers introduced legislation (2024-H 7550) to amend the governor’s green bond proposal by adding $16 million to the bond voters would be asked to approve on November’s ballot. Of that $16 million, $5 million would go to the Agricultural Land Preservation Committee (ALPC) for farmland protection; $5 million to the Department of Environmental Management to bring the state open space program funding back to historic levels; $3 million to support the local open space programs; and $3 million to DEM’s Division of Agriculture and Forest Environment to fund forest and habitat management on state property.

The state has historically funded all four of these programs through green bonds (although the ALPC was left off the green bond voters approved in 2022, and was instead funded by lawmakers for $2.5 million through the state budget). At this point, that previous funding has been allocated, so without the inclusion of this proposal, the state would be cutting off further support.

“Rhode Islanders deserve a safe and healthy place to live with access to clean air, clean water, open spaces and healthy, local food. Conservation is the foundation for the state’s tourism and outdoor recreation economy, and also essential to adapt to a changing climate. We’re grateful for the strong leadership of Chair DiPalma and Representative Cotter on this important issue,” said Kate Sayles, executive director of the Rhode Island Land Trust Council.

According to the independent, nonprofit conservation organization Highstead, every $1 of state funding spent on land conservation in New England returns between $4 and $11 in economic value from natural goods and services.

 

 

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