Outdoor recreationalists of all stripes–whether they be hikers, bikers, runners, horseback riders, or hunters–can generally agree that it’s important to have funding to expand and improve the natural areas they love. That’s why the open spaces bill SCR84 was voted through on November 4 of last year. With the success of the ballot measure, however, comes the trickier discussion of exactly how this open space funding is to be allocated.
The Keep It Green Coalition, of which the Trail Conference is a member, has pushed to see that the new Green Acres distribution equals the previous Corporate Business Tax (CBT) dedication of $15 million annually to the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP). Because the Trail Conference partners with State Parks and State Forests extensively to help serve the public on the trails we love, we have supported the measure.
We’re very happy to say that this push has paid off and the sponsoring senators are keeping their pledge–the new proposed allocation keeps DEP development funding at the $15 million level it was previously. The following discussion points go into more depth, but the core message is that our state partners will continue to be funded as before. There is a downside: It does not provide all the funds that we need for land acquisition, and that is an issue we must continue to fight for. Nonetheless, we have secured a continuing source of open space funding through 2045--and it is one that continues to support the State Parks and Forests where our volunteers and members work and recreate.
Jan. 11, 2016: NJ Assembly Approves Bill with Bipartisan Support to Allocate Voter-Designated Open Space, Farmland, and Historic Preservation Funding
Jan. 8, 2016: Tell the NJ Assembly to Support Open Space Protection
Toughest Part of Open-Space Preservation: Dividing Up State Funding (NJ Spotlight, February 10, 2015)