From Tim Gestwicki, CEO of the North Carolina Wildlife Federation:
When North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory was the mayor of our city, he received high marks for many of his signature accomplishments, including proactive, common sense natural resource conservation initiatives. He was a champion for land conservation efforts to protect drinking water quality in Mountain Island Lake, and lent a strong voice of support for the greenways that brought opportunities for families to hike and bike, along with economic development, to the Charlotte region.
During McCrorys tenure as mayor, Mecklenburg County received more than $17 million from the states natural resource trust funds. Most of that money came from the Clean Water Management Trust Fund. Millions went towards restoring polluted Little Sugar Creek and for preserving Charlottes natural water supply. There is no question that citizens now and in the future are better for those awarded monies.
Unfortunately, North Carolinas four conservation trust funds have been cut dramatically in the last year, and because of that, fewer forests, stream banks, farms and park lands have been protected. In particular, the Clean Water Management Trust Fund suffered the largest percentage cuts, first by Gov. Bev Perdues raiding and most recently by the past legislatures action to cut the fund 80 percent, the most disproportionate cut on record.
It is time for the conservative leadership to put the conserve back into conservative. There is a rich heritage of true conservatives championing the conservation of natural resources, from Republican presidents Theodore Roosevelt, Nixon, and Bush Sr., to GOP Gov. James Martin. North Carolinas environmental resources are the fabric that binds our economy. From farming to forestry and hunting and fishing, natural resources drive the economy.
According to the Outdoor Recreation Industry, the economic value of outdoors activities in our state contributed more than $19 billion in consumer spending and supported 192,000 direct jobs and $1.3 billion in local and state taxes last year. Studies show time and again that it is nearly 10 times less expensive to protect water sources than to clean them for drinking water supplies. Investing in our state resource assets makes economic sense. For every dollar the state invests in land and water infrastructure, it sees a yield of $3 in goods and services provided.
Investments in conservation are prudent and smart business decisions. They help to catalyze major redevelopment while improving water quality and can enhance protection of drinking water supplies, a critical aspect to the future of North Carolina. As our state continues to grow (projections see us adding the population size of South Carolina by 2030), investments in the states largest industries agriculture, tourism, and the military can be accomplished through the state resource trust funds. They are proven, cost-effective, long-term investments that yield high returns for taxpayers and provide both public and private benefits.
As Gov. McCrory works to create his budget, lets hope he can build upon his success as Charlotte mayor by restoring critical funding to the Clean Water Management Trust Fund. Sportsmen and all citizens are hungry for a leader who will work for conservation, the states outdoor sporting heritage, and common-sense economic and environmental investments. Please, Gov. McCrory, be that leader.