June 8, 2022

Advocates, Lawmakers, and DCNR Secretary Cindy Adams Dunn Highlight Once-in-a-Lifetime Opportunity to Protect Our Waterways

Advocates, Lawmakers, and DCNR Secretary Cindy Adams Dunn Highlight Once-in-a-Lifetime Opportunity to Protect Our Waterways 

For Immediate Release
Jared Stonesifer, stonesifer@pennfuture.org

Harrisburg, Pa. - More than $2.2 billion in federal American Rescue Plan funding remains unallocated in Pennsylvania, and the Commonwealth currently has a multi-billion dollar surplus in its coffers as lawmakers work to pass a new budget by June 30. 

In a Commonwealth so flush with cash, clean water advocates from two dozen organizations joined with elected officials in Harrisburg on Wednesday to ask lawmakers a simple question: if not now, when? 

At least one-third of Pennsylvania's waterways are deemed impaired and polluted. Unfortunately, our dirty water problem in Pennsylvania is getting worse, not better, and elected officials in Harrisburg need to take action now to properly fund the programs and initiatives that are needed to clean our waterways.

It’s clear that our abundant waterways and parks are valued by Pennsylvanians. In 2020, a poll commissioned by Conservation Voters of PA and the Growing Greener Coalition showed that nearly 90 percent of voters support funding for Pennsylvania's land, water, and wildlife, even during the economic downturn of the COVID-19 pandemic. 

They are also an important economic driver to local and state economies. In 2020, according to a recent report by the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership, the economic contributions generated by outdoor recreation in Pennsylvania accounted for more than $58 billion in economic output, supported more than 430,000 jobs and provided over $6.5 billion in tax revenue at the federal, state, and local levels. 

We can’t continue to lose ground in the ongoing fight for clean water. That’s why programs like Growing Greener III and the Clean Streams Fund need to be prioritized this summer as lawmakers debate a new fiscal spending plan. Those two proposals would direct $750 million towards clean water, conservation, and open space funding. Over the past year, advocates have worked hard to successfully build support and momentum around these two bills. This state budget, which must be passed by June 30th, is the best chance to get them over the finish line. 

“We are at a historic juncture in Pennsylvania, where we can choose to support vibrant parks, trails, clean waterways, healthy outdoor recreation opportunities and so much more on our public lands,” said Department of Conservation and Natural Resources Secretary Cindy Adams Dunn. “These are places where citizens can come together and relax, recreate and recover. Where the community and state economies benefit from the local jobs supported and the quality of life improvements. What better way to come together in bipartisan fashion to help restore our society and economy than by investing in a clean, healthy environment, green spaces, parks and trails. It is critical we invest in our natural spaces and set Penn’s Woods up for its brightest future.”

State Rep. Lynda Schlegel-Culver, the prime sponsor of the House bill that will replenish the Growing Greener fund, said the time is now to reinvigorate such an impactful program. 

“More than 20 years after Gov. Tom Ridge signed the initial Growing Greener legislation into law, the program continues to positively impact Pennsylvania in so many ways,” Rep. Schlegel-Culver said. “But if we are to continue to enjoy benefits such as clean water, preserved farmland, recreational and employment opportunities and thriving communities, we must once again make necessary investments that allow that growth to carry on.” 

Clean water and conservation practices aren’t just essential for healthy communities and a robust recreation and tourism sector, but it’s also vital for one of the most important segments of Pennsylvania’s economy - our farmers.

“Farm conservation is a leading legislative priority for the Pennsylvania Farm Bureau and its members, but the benefits of conservation extend to the entire Commonwealth,” said Kyle Kotzmoyer, the State and Local Affairs Specialist for PFB. “All farmers want to make improvements to their land and adopt new conservation practices but are often unable to do so because of the lack of available funds. Clean water ensures farms retain long-term viability, helps promote healthy soils, and provides clean drinking water for their animals.”

Renee Reber, a campaign manager at PennFuture who organized Wednesday’s rally in Harrisburg, urged lawmakers to act now on behalf of clean water and conservation in Pennsylvania. 

“Pennsylvania is facing a once-in-a-lifetime chance to invest in our rivers and streams,” Reber said. “The importance of this generational funding, and its impact on clean water across Pennsylvania, cannot be overstated. We urge lawmakers in Harrisburg to support clean water funding without delay.” 

Additional quotes from partner organizations: 

“The remarkable increase of available funding from a state surplus, the American Rescue Plan, and the bipartisan infrastructure legislation present a historic opportunity to protect and restore Pennsylvania’s 86,000 miles of rivers and streams. The Choose Clean Water Coalition is fully supportive of Growing Greener III and the Clean Streams Fund. There is perhaps no better investment in the future of the Keystone State’s economy, public health, and way of life than supporting critical clean water programs.” Kristin Reilly, Director of the Choose Clean Water Coalition 

“Investing in Growing Greener III and creating the Clean Streams Fund is crucial in protecting waterways across the Commonwealth. At the Coalition for the Delaware River Watershed, we are proud to engage in this cross-coalition advocacy with partners from throughout the Commonwealth. Our unity around this issue is representative of the far-reaching positive effects these investments could have on Pennsylvania and its six watersheds. Support for Growing Greener and the Clean Streams Funds would be a significant step towards protecting and improving the water that our economy, lives, and livelihoods rely on.” High Garst, State Policy Advocate for the Coalition for the Delaware River Watershed.

“There has never been a better time for the state to boost its investments in clean water and public lands. State revenues are robust and federal American Rescue Plan dollars are ideally suited for one-time investments with long-term payouts to communities.” Andy Loza, Executive Director, WeConservePA

“We must take advantage of this historic opportunity to invest in conservation projects that preserve our open space and protect the water we drink. Investing in these critical priorities will create jobs and bolster our tourism industry even as we protect our Commonwealth’s stunning natural beauty. We call on Governor Wolf and the legislature to work with advocates on quickly advancing funding that will allow communities across Pennsylvania to benefit.” Molly Parzen, Executive Director of Conservation Voters of Pennsylvania

“Audubon Mid-Atlantic enthusiastically supports Growing Greener III and the incredible opportunity it presents to protect wildlife habitat, increase green infrastructure, and create more parks. This important legislation will position Pennsylvania as a leader in preparing for climate change and protecting important bird habitats across the state for the benefit of both wildlife and people. The broad base of support for Growing Greener III shows how important this type of conservation funding is for the people and birds who depend on Pennsylvania’s treasured landscapes.” Jim Brown, Director of Policy, Audubon Mid-Atlantic

"Pennsylvania must seize this once-in-a-generation opportunity to invest in clean water, to support the agricultural community through robust conservation assistance and to protect open space for people and wildlife." Joel Dunn, President and CEO, Chesapeake Conservancy

“LRCA is supporting Growing Greener III and the Clean Streams Fund on behalf of the over 300,000 Pennsylvanians who call the Lackawanna River Watershed home. Our municipalities are struggling to maintain failing water infrastructure, in some cases over 140 years old. We need new resources to aid local governments to become better stewards of our rivers and streams. Growing Greener III and the Clean Streams Fund are a commitment to the constitutional rights for a clean, healthy and safe environment that is the heritage of every Pennsylvanian.” Bernie McGurl, Director, Lackawanna River Conservation Association

"EPCAMR has worked for over 27 years on supporting the reclamation of abandoned mines and the restoration of our watersheds that have been polluted by the legacy of past mining in both the Anthracite and Northern Bituminous Region. We will always be a voice for our underrepresented coalfield communities. We need clean water funding because there remain so many streams that are not clean, don't sustain life in them, and leave the communities to have to continue to look at their waterways that shouldn't be flowing by with yellow, orange, red, and or whitish-gray hues. Growing Greener IIII and the Clean Streams Fund will provide an important boost in funding to tackle these pollution problems with the hopes of turning those waterways into much healthier ecosystems that could add recreational value and improve the quality of life in our coalfield communities across the Commonwealth." Bobby Hughes, Executive Director of Eastern Pennsylvania Coalition for Abandoned Mine Reclamation 

“The Appalachian Mountain Club supports the investment of $750 million for Growing Greener III and the Clean Streams Fund to connect communities to parks, trails, and open spaces across Pennsylvania. These funds are crucial for continued success in conserving land and water resources, restoring damaged land and waterways, and ensuring Pennsylvanians’ rights to a clean and healthy environment.” Danielle Guttman, Conservation Outreach Manager,
Appalachian Mountain Club

“As people of faith, we believe that water is life. We need clean water to ensure the health and safety of all life, and full funding for programs like the Clean Streams Fund and Growing Greener is instrumental to protecting our water resources.” The Rev. Sandra L. Strauss, Director of Advocacy & Ecumenical Outreach, Pennsylvania Council of Churches

“Investing in water resources is a top priority for Pennsylvania as we have more than 86,000 miles of rivers and streams, the most dense of any state in the US. We call on our lawmakers to support and approve a budget that encompasses our most fundamental necessity: access to clean water now and for future generations.” Ted Evgeniadis, Lower Susquehanna Riverkeeper 

“The Commonwealth’s legislature has a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to act on its clean water commitment by passing the proposed spending budget for fiscal year 2022-23, and Clean Streams Fund and Growing Greener legislation to provide investments for critical financial and technical resources to farmers and communities for clean water. Clean water is critical to the health, economic well-being, and quality of life of all Pennsylvanians and a lot of work lies ahead. It is time our Commonwealth seizes its opportunities to create a legacy of clean water for future generations.” Harry Campbell, Pennsylvania Science Policy & Advocacy Director, Chesapeake Bay Foundation

“We’re happy to see support for this critical conservation funding from both Democrats and Republicans. Pennsylvanians have flocked to the outdoors in record numbers over the past two years and it's clear we need additional investments in our state parks and communities to ensure everyone has clean water and access to outdoor recreation. Jen Quinn, Legislative and Political Director, Sierra Club Pennsylvania

“The Pennypack Trust is thankful for Growing Greener’s support in helping to protect parts of our 862 contiguous acre preserve in Huntingdon Valley, PA. Our preserve serves as a vital refuge for wildlife within this highly developed area and it's imperative that we continue to grow. According to a new Return on Environment economic study released this year, our protected open spaces avert over $1.2M annually in ecosystem services. Growing Greener III and the Clean Streams Fund will provide valuable funding towards land acquisitions and restoration projects within the Pennypack Watershed. In addition, Montgomery County and the Pennypack Trust are partnering to expand multi-use trails, specifically, the Cross County Trail, through our open spaces. Growing Greener III will help increase bicycle infrastructure throughout the region.”  Kevin Roth, Education, Outreach, and Volunteer Coordinator, Pennypack Ecological Restoration Trust 

“State conservation funding is critical to the continued health of Pennsylvania’s waterways like the historic Delaware River, national park sites like the Captain John Smith National Historic Water Trail on the Susquehanna River, and local economies in gateway communities like Gettysburg. We applaud lawmakers in Pennsylvania for prioritizing clean water and urge them to fully fund Growing Greener III and the Clean Streams Fund in this year’s budget.” Ed Stierli, Mid-Atlantic Senior Regional Director, National Parks Conservation Association

"Pennsylvania has an unprecedented opportunity to advance clean water protections in the state that should not be missed. Dedicating federal American Rescue Plan funds to expand successful Growing Greener water restoration programs and to establish an Agricultural Conservation Assistance Program for farmers will help local economies, protect public health, and restore local waterways. It's a win for everyone." Robin Broder, Deputy Director of Waterkeepers Chesapeake.