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Voters Approve Over $2 Billion for Conservation

November 15, 2010

On November 2, voters sent a strong message that conservation remains a bedrock American value and a top priority, even in a bad economy.

Overall, 29 of 35 state and local land conservation funding measures were approved, generating over $2 billion in new funding.  This 83% approval rate is the highest during the past decade and the third highest rate since 1988. Iowa's Water & Land Legacy Amendment Campaign Banner

Statewide funding measures in Oregon, Iowa, Maine and Rhode Island won by large margins, and land trusts were integral to these victories. Among statewide measures, only the largest, a vehicle license fee for California state parks, went down to defeat.

In an election dominated by negativity, campaigns took a positive message to the voters, explaining the tangible economic benefits of investing in protecting land and water. "I think the overriding message came through about the connection of land to the legacy we leave for future generations," said Liz Edsell with the Conservation Campaign of The Trust for Public Land, which spearheaded Iowa’s Water and Land Legacy amendment establishing a constitutionally protected land conservation trust to be funded by a future sales tax increase. That measure passed with a remarkable 63% of the vote -- a larger margin than all but one of the candidates on the statewide ballot.

Land Trust Alliance board member Mark Ackelson, who leads the Iowa Natural Heritage Foundation, said “Our coalition had over 130 organizations representing 300,000 members. We are a coalition of ‘jeans and suits, tennis shoes and waders, and camouflage and blaze orange.’ This victory will change the face of Iowa and helps fulfill promises made generations ago."

In Oregon, 68 percent of voters supported Measure 76, which indefinitely continues to set aside 15% of the revenue generated by the Oregon Lottery for protection of water, parks and wildlife habitat in the state.  Support was so broad that it exceeded 50% in every county of the state.  This provision has generated more than $800 million for conservation over the past decade and had been scheduled to expire in 2014.

Glenn Lamb, Executive Director of Columbia Land Trust, noted that “we used the very first cycle of lottery funding to conserve the last unprotected waterfall in the Columbia Gorge. We were thrilled to see the sunset date removed so that this important funding source will continue for generations to come.”

Banner for Oregon's Measure 76

Despite pronounced concerns over the state’s budget, voters in Arizona defeated -- by a resounding 74% to 26% vote -- a measure that would have redirected already-dedicated conservation funding to the general treasury for deficit reduction.   Of the ten measures on the state ballot, which covered a broad range of major policy and budget issues, the vote sustaining dedicated conservation spending was decided by the most lopsided margin.

California’s Proposition 21 would have instituted a new vehicle license fee to permanently fund state parks and other conservation programs.  Its defeat is disappointing, but the California Council of Land Trusts pointed out that more than three million voters supported the measure -- an amazing accomplishment in the current financial climate.

In summation, Will Rogers, President of The Trust for Public Land said, “It's the same result we have seen election after election -- American voters care about the lands and water where they live, and they're voting with their wallets. And this support hasn't changed over the years, despite the challenging economic times we're living in."

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