With the approval of the state capital budget bill, Ohio conservation groups are celebrating the allocation of critical Clean Ohio Funds.
Recently, the General Assembly finished work on the state capital budget bill (H.B. 529) for Fiscal Years 2019-2020 which includes $100 million for the Clean Ohio Fund program. This bill passed the Senate on March 21 and passed the House on March 13. Governor Kasich signed the bill on March 30.
The Clean Ohio Fund is a very successful state fund backed by bonds and matched with local funding. The Clean Ohio Fund restores, protects and connects Ohio’s important natural and urban places by preserving green space and farmland, improving outdoor recreation, and cleaning up brownfields to encourage redevelopment and revitalize communities. A broad range of organizations throughout Ohio advocated for Clean Ohio funding.
“I want to thank both the Governor and the General Assembly for their commitment to the Clean Ohio Fund. Their renewed funding commitment is an investment in Ohio’s vibrant natural areas, rich agricultural economy and outdoor recreation assets,” explained Rich Cochran, president and CEO of Western Reserve Land Conservancy. The Land Conservancy is a nonprofit land conservation and restoration organization that has permanently conserved more than 52,000 acres across northern and eastern Ohio. Cochran added, “Ohioans will continue to benefit from this investment in our cherished local landscapes.”
“The Governor and General Assembly know a good deal when they see it. Not only does the Clean Ohio Fund help preserve our state’s natural heritage, it contributes to the quality of life for millions of Ohioans from hunters to hikers to birders,” said Josh Knights, executive director of The Nature Conservancy in Ohio. The Nature Conservancy helped lead the coalitions that passed the Clean Ohio Fund at the ballot in 2000 and again in 2008. “Our supporters are very grateful to our elected officials for the renewal in funding.”
The Clean Ohio Fund enjoys broad support from environmental, conservation, recreational, and farming groups as well as local government groups. Ohio voters have twice approved the sale of bonds to fund the Clean Ohio Fund, in 2000 and in 2008. In 2008 – with an eight-year track record by which to judge it – Ohio voters approved the Clean Ohio Fund by a 61-39 margin, with all 88 counties voting yes.
Clean Ohio Funds are awarded through a competitive process on a one-time basis, supplementing local matching funds. The program supports one-time capital expenses, not ongoing, operational expenses.
The Clean Ohio Fund has been used throughout the state. All 88 counties have sponsored one or more Clean Ohio Fund projects, preserving 75,000 acres of natural areas, protecting more than 350 family farms and 59,000 acres of family farmland, creating over 500 miles of recreational trails, and cleaning up 400 abandoned industrial sites.
“Clean Ohio benefits current and future Ohioans economically and personally,” noted Krista Magaw, Krista Magaw, executive director of Tecumseh Land Trust. “Preserving the best farmland guarantees the future of farming in Ohio, our number one industry, and reinforces good land use planning. Restoring and preserving our streams and rivers provides recreational opportunities and jobs – clean water is required for human life, for industry, and for the diverse habitat that makes Ohio so special. Trails pull it all together, providing a healthy lifestyle that attracts families and businesses to our state.”
“Preserving farmland is vitally important for family farms and agriculture as a whole. Ohio Farm Bureau appreciates the continued support of the Clean Ohio Fund by the legislature and governor,” explained Tony Seegers, director of state policy for the Ohio Farm Bureau Federation.
Rails-to-Trails Conservancy’s Midwest Policy Manager, Brian Housh, added, “The Clean Ohio Trails Fund continues to provide important economic, health and recreational benefits for Ohioans in all parts of our state. Notably, the over 400 miles of trails that have been built during the past 17 years that this vital program has been in place have significantly increased business activity and created hundreds of thousands of jobs.”
For more information about the Clean Ohio Fund, visit: https://development.ohio.gov/cleanohio/.