by Ruth Bamberger, Legislative Committee Chair
Sierra Club, Cumberland Chapter
Kentucky residents who purchase the special license plate “Nature’s Finest” to help fund the state’s Heritage Land Conservation Fund should know that the 2014 General Assembly moved this earmarked fund into General Operating Revenues. While this action was legal, it betrays those purchasing these license plates who thought the money would go for conservation projects to which they were committed. The legislature, in their unwillingness to raise any additional revenue, has resorted to “budget games” that reflect little priority for environmental issues.
The Kentucky Heritage Land Conservation Fund was set up to acquire areas possessing unique features for rare and endangered species, areas important for migratory birds, and areas to be protected in their natural state for public use, recreation, and education. Funding for the KHLCF comes from sales of license plates (8%), an unmined minerals tax (50%), and environmental fines (42%).
Receipts from license sales over the past five years amounted to over $3 million.
The 2014 General Assembly reduced funding for the Heritage Fund by $5 million in 2015 and $3 million in 2016. These cuts seriously undermine the resources needed to carry though the mission of the KHLFC. The biennial budget is now cast in stone, but those license holders and other Fund supporters need to let their legislators know that moving the Fund into General Operating Revenues is unacceptable. (find contact info for your legislators here) Given the whirlwind of budget action in the closing days of the General Assembly, most legislators were probably not aware of the Land Conservation’s fate. They need our voice!