A publication of the Kentucky Center for Public Service Journalism

Letter to the editor: Ruth Bamberger says proposed state budget threatens conservation programs

I recall when my father was a state legislator in the 1960’s how he always boasted about the quality of Kentucky state parks and the pristine beauty of so many of our rural areas. But for the past ten years, the state government has been chipping away at funding for land conservation, and in the current budget bill, funding may very well disappear.

The Kentucky Heritage Land Conservation Fund is the state’s only program investing in land conservation. It is financed mainly by sale of “Nature’s Finest” license plates, an unmined minerals tax, and environmental fines. Since its inception, the Conservation Fund has protected 90,000 acres at 154 individual sites in 67 counties.

In Northern Kentucky, this fund has benefited Boone Cliffs, Dinsmore Woods, and Morningview Heritage Site—areas for hiking, bird watching, and other outdoor activities. The state Park System and fishing and hunting areas have also been beneficiaries of the Fund. These lands and waters are part of the outdoor economy which generates millions of dollars annually in revenue for the state.

In the previous budget enacted in 2016, the state reduced the KHLCF from $10 million to $5 million, and now the current budget proposal calls for sweeping $5 million into the general operating fund.

For the thousands of Kentuckians who have purchased the “Nature’s Finest” license plates, believing that their money goes for land conservation, the state is taking it away to cover shortfalls in the budget.

Legally, it can do that, but in reality, it is violating the trust of those who purchased the “Nature’s Finest” license plates.

The House has passed a budget bill for the coming fiscal biennium without money for the KHLCF; the bill is now before the Senate. So there is still time to pressure the Senate to restore at a minimum the $5 million omitted in the House version.

Fortunately, two Northern Kentucky senators sit on the Senate Appropriations and Revenue Committee- – Sen. Chris McDaniel (Committee Chair) and Sen. Wil Schroder (Committee member).

Citizens can call the Legislative Hotline in Frankfort, 1-800-372-7181, and tell the operator to give a message to the senators that “you urge $5 million to be restored in the budget bill to the Kentucky Heritage Land Conservation Fund.” Or one can call the senator’s offices at 1-502-564-8100.

Dr. Ruth Bamberger
Cumberland Chapter Sierra Club
Legislative chair, State Sierra Club

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