A Clear Victory for Land Conservation: Americans Approve $2.4 Billion in New Open Space Funding
Thursday November 4, 2:12 pm ET
Documents Americans' Support for Land Conservation
WASHINGTON, Nov. 4 /PRNewswire/ -- Despite a presidential election that revealed broad political polarization, voters in states and communities nationwide came together to dedicate new public funds for conservation. In Tuesday's elections, voters in 111 communities in 25 states passed ballot measures to create $11 billion in new public funding, including $2.4 billion for protecting land for parks and open space, according to the Trust for Public Land (TPL). Overall, 111 of 147 local and state measures nationwide were successful -- a rate of passage of 76 percent. This is consistent with November 2003, when 79 percent of open space ballot measures were successful nationwide. Since 1998, 935 out of 1,215 conservation ballot measures have passed in 44 states, raising close to $25 billion in funding for land conservation -- a passage rate of approximately 77 percent.
"American voters are remarkably consistent in approving three out of every four funding measures for land conservation, both before 9/11 and after, whether in recession or recovery," said Will Rogers, TPL president. "The mandate is clear -- land conservation is a high priority for Americans."
Voter support for land conservation came from Republican and Democratic
Support Support Support
State Jurisdiction Bush Kerry Conservation Funding
Florida Collier 65% 73%
Montana Gallatin 56% 63%
Virginia Chesterfield 63% 76%
California Los Angeles 63% 76%
Rhode Island Statewide 59% 71%
Colorado Boulder 69% 58%
"Voters across the political spectrum have again voiced strong support for protection of natural lands, clean water and safe parks," said Ernest Cook, TPL director of Conservation Finance. "Voter reaction to the pressures of uncontrolled growth and sprawl is bipartisan."
States with the most local conservation measures on the ballot were those offering matching funds to local governments, especially Florida, Massachusetts, Michigan and New Jersey. These four states alone accounted for over half the total number of ballot measures for conservation funding in the country.
# of Conservation
State Funding Measures
New Jersey 43
The results of Tuesday's votes, along with results of all 2004 conservation funding measures, will be published as a report in early 2005. Results from ballot measures going back to 1998 are also available on the LandVote database at www.landvote.org
A poll released in April 2004 by TPL and The Nature Conservancy demonstrated overwhelming public support for conservation ballot measures -- 65 percent of the nation's voters indicate support for increasing taxes to fund state and local government programs to purchase land to "protect water quality, natural areas, lakes rivers or beaches, neighborhood parks and wildlife habitat" including a solid majorities of Democrats (76%), Independents (65%) and Republican voters (57%). Results for November 2004 conservation ballot measures reflected these poll findings.
A complete list of results from local and state balloting on conservation and parks is available on-line today from LandVote -- www.landvote.org
. Significant measures in Beaufort County, South Carolina ($12 million), and San Diego County, California ($850 million), are too close to call at this time. The largest successful measures in each region of the country are:
Location $$$ for Open Space/Parks % in Favor % Against
Rhode Island statewide $70 million 71 29
Barnstable, MA $44 million 78 22
Hunterdon County, NJ $105.5 million 76 24
Brookhaven, NY $100 million 72 28
Fairfax County, VA $75 million 70 30
Charleston County, SC $221.5 million 59 41
Alachua County, FL $105 million 51 49
Gwinnett County, GA $85.5 million 65 35
Adams County, CO $173 million 54 46
Boulder County, CO $75.6 million 58 42
Gallatin County, MT $10 million 63 37
Los Angeles, CA $100 million 76 24
Sacramento, CA $48 million 75 25
Earlier in 2004, 42 ballot measures for land conservation were approved by voters in 22 states raising $821 million for conservation-related purposes. Added to the November results, the total local and state open space funding created at the ballot box in 2004 is now approximately $3.2 billion.
Cook notes, "State legislatures, county commissions and city councils are continuing to give high priority to land conservation, even in tough economic times. This is an acknowledgment that such funds are an investment in the future."
Most measures tabulated by LandVote are property tax increases or general obligation bonds. Bonds allow communities to borrow money in order to save land now, paying off the debt over the next 20 or 30 years. Dollar amounts of each measure are either the total amount of the bond, or in the case of a new tax, the total revenue created over the lifetime of the levy (usually 10 to 20 years). When a ballot measure contains no sunset provision, LandVote estimates its revenue total based on a 20-year duration.
The Trust for Public Land, established in 1972, is the only national nonprofit working exclusively to protect land for human enjoyment and well- being. Through LandVote, TPL supports public funding for parks and other protected lands across the United States. Visit TPL on the web at www.tpl.org