Take action for land conservation
Working with the Indiana Conservation Alliance, HEC is seeking robust new state investment in conserving our forests, rivers, wetlands, and our native fish and wildlife who depend on these habitats. In addition to the environmental benefits of land and wildlife conservation– clean air, clean water, pollination, carbon sequestration and climate resilience – these natural lands provide highly-valued outdoor recreation opportunities to meet the growing demand for parks, trails and greenways, and access to streams and lakes. What’s more, parks, trails and other outdoor lands are considered essential to improved quality of life, increasingly recognized as a key to successful community and economic development. “Innovation requires inspiration,” says the Indiana Economic Development Corporation, and this inspiration is provided by our natural spaces, from Chain O’Lakes State Park to Clark State Forest, from Limberlost to the Lost River, from Wabashiki Fish and Wildlife Area to Whitewater Memorial State Park.
But we can and must do better. Indiana lags behind many states in its commitment to our natural resources and outdoor places. Midwestern and central U.S. states like Missouri, Arkansas, and Minnesota invest hundreds of millions of dollars every year to create and expand public parks and trails, improve fish and wildlife habitats, and conserve soils. Across the country, these investments contribute to the positive economic return in jobs and value added from outdoor recreation: a new national economic report puts the value of outdoor recreation at $454 billion a year. In Indiana, the economic contribution is valued at $12.9 billion a year, employing over 107,000 Hoosiers. (U.S. Department of Commerce, 2021).
The need for this new investment is readily apparent – Indiana’s state parks hosted two million more annual visitors in 2020, during the pandemic, and this increased activity has continued. Local trails use has grown, state forests experienced record trail use, and demand for state land conservation and trail grants far exceeds available funds. The Indiana Comprehensive Outdoor Recreation Plan (2021-2025) reports that many Indiana communities are deficient in outdoor recreation acres – 39 counties and four of sixteen regions don’t provide optimum recreation places.
Our conservation budget proposal – an added $64 million a year – includes increased funding for the President Harrison Conservation Trust, the Lake and River Enhancement Fund, Clean Water Indiana, state matching funds for expected new federal dollars to protect our fish and wildlife species at greatest risk, and more resources for essential positions at Indiana’s state parks and for district foresters.
We’re excited to share that momentum is building for significant land conservation, trails, and parks funding in this year’s state budget. HEC and Indiana Conservation Alliance have been advocating for an investment in our parks and natural spaces and with help from advocates like you, Governor Holcomb has heard our call. In his State of the State address, he called out a request for $25 million in land conservation and an additional $50 million in trails funding. Thank you to all who contacted Governor Holcomb and made yourself heard!
The Indiana House Ways and Means Committee is reviewing the Governor’s budget request and will vote on the budget as soon as next week. HEC has learned of significant bipartisan support for this funding but we need to keep the momentum going.
HEC’s Senior Policy Director, Tim Maloney, gave public testimony to the House Ways & Means Committee in support of conservation funding requested by Governor Holcomb. Watch Tim’s testimony from February 9th by visiting the IGA website and selecting the Feb. 9th meeting – Tim’s testimony begins at 2:01:34.
The state budget bill (HB 1001) has passed the House and now moves on to the Senate.
HEC is excited to share that conservation funding has remained at significant levels in the House version of the state budget (HB 1001). However, the House did reduce Governor Holcomb’s stated request of $25 million for the President Benjamin Harrison Conservation Trust to $15 million. As the bill moves on to the Senate, HEC will be working diligently in coming weeks to restore the full $25 million back into the budget.
Agency budget presentations will begin in the Senate Appropriations Committee next week.
The budget passed the Senate Appropriations Committee this week, and additional funding for land conservation was stripped from the budget! We need you to take action with us now!
- Share a personal story through social media of what the parks and nature mean to you (and add #supportINparks) and invite others to join our cause.
- Please contact your State Senator and urge them to include this new conservation investment in the state budget bill.
- Stay up-to-date on all of the calls to action using our Bill Watch 2023 page.