Pa. leads the way in farm preservation

HARRISBURG, Pa. – Gov. Tom Ridge’s new state budget proposal continues his administration’s historic commitment to Pennsylvania’s environment, directing nearly $140 million to implement the third year of “Growing Greener” – Pennsylvania’s largest-ever environmental investment.

Financial support.

Ridge also proposed $4.6 million for the first full year of the program. He continued his call to lawmakers to address the impact of landfills on Pennsylvania communities.

“After 300 years, I am proud that we can still call Pennsylvania ‘Penn’s Woods,’” Ridge said. “I am committed to keeping it that way.

“We will under this budget. We’re going to grow greener, smarter and cleaner than ever before.”

Ridge’s 2001-02 budget proposes $138.9 million to fulfill his commitment for the third year of the five-year, nearly $650 million initiative. The planned appropriation of $135 million has increased to nearly $140 million due to accrued interest.

How money is allocated.

The $138.9 million is allocated to several state agencies:

* $20.6 million to the Department of Agriculture for farmland preservation

* $51.9 million to the Department of Environmental Protection for watershed protection and restoration, including installing stream buffers, fencing streams, treating or eliminating acid mine drainage, plugging abandoned oil and gas wells, restoring wetlands, reclaiming abandoned mines, and funding watershed assessments

* $33.5 million to the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources to make infrastructure improvements in Pennsylvania’s world-class state parks and forests, including new bridges and roads, sewer and water systems, campground enhancements, and grants for community recreation and conservation initiatives

* $32.9 to the Pennsylvania Infrastructure Investment Authority for water, sewer and storm-water projects.

Ridge noted in his budget address that Pennsylvania recently was rated the No. 1 state in the nation for farmland preservation. The American Farmland Trust selected Ridge to receive the National Achievement Award for Pennsylvania’s “remarkable accomplishments.”

Making strides.

Since 1989, Pennsylvania has protected more than 1,500 farms, totaling more than 180,000 acres – more farms and more acres preserved than any state in the nation. About 67 percent of that farmland was protected during the Ridge administration.

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