Establish dedicated state funding for land conservation
One way of ensuring that a state's natural resources are protected is to create programs that provide dedicated, continuous funding for land conservation. The State can do this by creating a funding source for land preservation and restoration, by providing matching funds to local governments that create their own conservation funds, and by giving matching grants to nonprofit land conservation organizations. To ensure both action and commitment and to leverage scarce resources, states can require a match, implement a funding sunset provision, and require that all purchases be targeted to high-priority lands and linked to local smart growth plans.
States can provide funding to conserve, protect, and restore important natural and working lands through a variety of mechanisms. Some of the funding strategies used by states include:
- bonds (New Jersey, California, Florida);
- general fund appropriations (Arizona, Indiana, Georgia);
- environmental license plate sales (Connecticut, Mississippi, Pennsylvania);
- real estate transfer taxes (Washington, Illinois, Delaware, Maryland);
- cigarette taxes (Minnesota, Texas, Nebraska);
- sales taxes (Missouri, New Jersey, Arkansas);
- gas taxes (Idaho, California),
- lotteries (Maine, Oregon, Colorado);
- environmental penalty money (Alaska, Utah, Kentucky); and,
- state statutes (Massachusetts).
While there are numerous ways for states to dedicate money for conservation, a few best practices help states to leverage their investment. Local governments are important partners in successful conservation efforts. State conservation programs should use incentives, such as matching grants, to encourage good land conservation practices at the local level. Local governments should be encouraged to conduct comprehensive planning that incorporates the results of a green infrastructure inventory and clearly defines high-priority areas for conservation and restoration, along with areas for development. To ensure that state investment in land conservation is used effectively, the State should require local governments to institute strong conservation zoning as a condition before they may receive state funds.
- North Carolina’s Natural Heritage Fund
North Carolina supports land conservation through three separate trust funds: The Natural Heritage Trust Fund, the Parks and Recreation Trust Fund, and the Clean Water Management Trust Fund. Two of the funds draw upon a real-estate transfer tax, one also relies on the sale of personalized license plates, and another relies on general appropriations.
— North Carolina's Natural Heritage Fund