Not the time to stop land preservation

Posted: May 31, 2012

Gov. Corbett’s first budget took aim at a signature environmental effort launched by two of his Republican predecessors, so it probably should come as no surprise that this year’s austere spending plan from the tax-averse governor would siphon money from two other land-conservation programs.

If there’s any surprise it’s that this aspect of the governor’s budget has generated welcome and widespread push-back that is garnering key support from influential GOP House members in the Philadelphia suburbs — where sprawl development is a real threat.

In a $27.1 billion budget, it’s almost a footnote that Corbett would propose covering other expenses by transferring $69 million from the state’s farmland preservation program and the Keystone Recreation, Parks, and Conservation Fund.

But it’s a positive sign that plenty of groups noticed, and that as a result the governor’s budget moves are being fought by farmland preservationists, environmentalists, and outdoors enthusiasts.

Despite having tax-allergic leadership in Harrisburg that is shortchanging state transportation needs, poor children’s health care, and public education, there is spirited opposition to neglecting Pennsylvania’s natural resources — even in tough times.

That’s in step with the state’s recent track record of proudly investing more than $100 million a year in preservation and environmental clean-up through such initiatives as the Growing Greener programs crafted by Republican Govs. Tom Ridge and Mark Schweiker.

It’s also a reflection of the fact that those programs are as popular as they are forward-looking, with voters weighing in at key junctures to approve hefty funding.

So it’s encouraging that House Republicans, since they hold the majority in both chambers, are crafting plans to restore funding for parks and farmland.

It’s hoped that advocates such as House appropriations chairman Bill Adolph (R., Delaware) and State Rep. Kate Harper (R., Montgomery) will persuade Senate leaders to also go that route, so that Corbett doesn’t let preservation efforts veer off the trail.

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