Many state supported organizations are facing significant funding cuts as outlined in Governor Matt Bevin’s budget plan. One such group made its case for funding preservation to lawmakers last week.
The governor’s budget sweeps clean $10 million out of the Kentucky Heritage Land Conservation Fund. Nature Conservancy of Kentucky Director David Phemister says the fund is solely for the purpose of the purchase, protection, and management of natural lands and waters across the state. He says the cut would carry a significant impact. “There would be no source of funding to protect and conserve really important natural and working land across the state of Kentucky,” said Phemister.
Since 1994, 90,000 acres of land, most owned and managed for public access, have been protected. “The vast majority of these lands are owned and managed for public access and they support Kentucky traditions, both old like hunting and fishing and newer like bird watching and outdoor recreation,” Phemister noted.
Senate President Pro Tem David Givens says the Nature Conservancy is one of several groups raising concerns about funding. “We’re getting lots of the same appeals from a number of different groups,” Givens said. “At the same time, the governor has created space to have a very real conversation in this budget about our unfunded pension liabilities and the obligations that we have to make whole on those.”
In addition to proceeds from the ‘nature’s finest’ license plate, money for the Heritage Land Conservation Fund also comes from a portion of the unmined minerals tax and environmental fines and penalties.