by Tom Kenworthy
The presidential and congressional elections of last week brought good news for those who value sensible land conservation policies. But there was more good news on the state and local levels as well.
Even in a time of fiscal constraints, voters in 21 states gave overwhelming approval to ballot measures providing some $767 million for new parks, open space, water quality protections and the preservation of farms and ranches, according to The Trust for Public Land.
Of the 57 measures that went to the voters on election day last week, 46 won — a success rate of 81%.
“From Maine to Texas to San Francisco, we saw voters across the political spectrum say yes to taxes and spending for conservation which helps their communities,” noted the trust’s president Will Rogers.
- By a 3-1 margin Alabama voters approved a 20-year extension of the state’s Forever Wild land conservation initiative that will pump another $300 million into land protection efforts
- In Salt Lake County, Utah, a $47 million bond to fund regional trails and parks was endorsed by 56 percent of voters.
- Two thirds of Houston’s voters approved a $166 million bond to finish a system of bayou greenways.
- In El Paso, Texas, three out of four voters chose to support a $245 million bond, part of which will fund park improvements and land purchases.
Even as some congressional Republicans have stymied federal land conservation efforts in recent years, support for local and state programs has been extraordinarily resilient.
The Trust for Public Land has been tracking those campaigns since 1988, and reports that voters at the local and state levels have approved expenditures more than 75% of the time over more than two decades. All told, they have taxed themselves to the tune of more than $58 billion because they know that open space and parks improve their quality of life and are an important contribution to healthy economies.
Tom Kenworthy is a Senior Fellow with the Center for American Progress Action Fund