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Agency says land conservation paying off

Land for Tomorrow
RALEIGH — The state’s commitment to land and water conservation is paying dividends across North Carolina, including in Rowan County, according to the annual Green Book report released Wednesday by Land for Tomorrow.
North Carolina’s land and water conservation trust funds — the Clean Water Management Trust Fund, Natural Heritage Trust Fund, Parks and Recreation Trust Fund and Agricultural Development and Farmland Preservation Trust Fund — provided $78,625 for projects in Rowan County in 2010.
To date, one or more of the state’s four conservation trust funds have spent $12,078,326 in Rowan County to help conserve land and water. That funding is vital to the state’s economy and public health, Land for Tomorrow said in a press release.
“There’s a reason this year’s Green Book is titled ‘An Excellent Investment,’ ” Reid Wilson, executive director of the Conservation Trust for North Carolina and a Land for Tomorrow executive committee member, said in the press release.
“One month ago, we released a study that shows that for every $1 invested by the state’s conservation trust funds, North Carolinians receive a $4 return for natural goods and services — things like drinking water protection, cleaner air and flood control,” Wilson said. “Conservation funding is saving Rowan County taxpayers money.
“That return on investment is a conservative figure,” Wilson said, “because the study didn’t take into account the significant benefits of land and water conservation on the agricultural, tourism, recreational and military industries.
“Just last week it was announced that North Carolina had a record year for tourism, with the travel and tourism industry contributing $17 billion to the state’s economy,” he said. “People are coming here because of our fantastic natural areas. Many of those places have been protected through investment from the conservation trust funds.”
Members of the Land for Tomorrow coalition distributed highlights from the Green Book to North Carolina legislators, including the delegation from Rowan County, on Tuesday. They urged lawmakers to support keeping $50 million for the Clean Water Management Trust Fund and $2 million for the Agricultural Development and Farmland Preservation Trust Fund in the state budget. These are the current funding levels, which have already been cut roughly 50 percent from past budgets, the organization said.
Land for Tomorrow also urged legislators to maintain dedicated funding sources for Natural Heritage Trust Fund and Parks and Recreation Trust Fund.
To download the complete Green Book, including county-by-county data, visit www.landfortomorrow.org.

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