US state conservation programs often successful when created through constitutional amendment with trustee-managed funds and little to no direct legislative involvement in funding decisions, finds study released by TNC and Trust for Public Land
May 2, 2014
– A new report reveals the best attributes for successful statewide conservation programs. Among the ideal characteristics of a state conservation program are creating the program through a constitutional amendment, ensuring monies are directed to a protected, trustee-managed fund, and little-to-no direct legislative involvement in funding decisions.
The report, Making the Most of Our Money: Recommendations for State Conservation Programs, was released today by The Trust for Public Land and The Nature Conservancy. Voters and legislatures in 10 states have approved $11.43 billion in new conservation funding over the past eight years, according to The Trust for Public Land's LandVote database. Conservation funding programs have existed for decades in some states, but most current programs are relatively new. This report both assesses the individual program attributes that foretell success, and also acts as a guide for the creation or refinement of conservation programs.
"A successful conservation program ensures that money is spent on projects that best meet the public's expectations, and builds an enduring legacy for future generations to protect, enjoy, and benefit from nature," said Will Rogers, President of The Trust for Public Land. "Meeting those objectives means having the right pieces in place. Many programs have many of the right pieces. This report identifies those and helps guide the creation or refinement of successful conservation programs."
The report is particularly timely in Florida, where in November voters will decide on a constitutional amendment, the Florida Land and Legacy Amendment, to establish an annual $500 million fund for land and water conservation and protection. Across the country, many State Legislatures are considering conservation funding programs and ballot referrals for upcoming elections.
"Protecting our lands and waters is important to voters. Time and time again, they have voted to create funding to do just that. It's important for states to have an accountability process in place to deliver." said Hazel Wong Director of Conservation Campaigns with The Nature Conservancy. "This report provides a road map to establish new state conservation programs and improve existing programs."
Other critical attributes to a successful conservation programs identified by the author include good stakeholder involvement and governance, efficient program structure and operations, objective criteria for project selection, and provisions for sound land stewardship and management.
At one time or another all 50 states and U.S. territories have established both state park departments and wildlife management agencies. According to the North American Bird Conservation Initiative, 189 million acres are managed by state agencies for a variety of public purposes.
The full report is available online here.
The Nature Conservancy and The Trust for Public Land would like to thank the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation for their generous support of our programs.