Georgia County Government - July/August 2012 - (Page 28)

Feature Georgia Legacy: Making the Economic Case for Land Conservation By the Georgia Legacy Conservation Partner Groups Forested buffers along our rivers not only protect water quality, but studies show that for every 10 percent increase in the source area’s forest cover, water treatment and chemical costs decreased approximately 20 percent. Photo courtesy Georgia Legacy. I 28 n America in the 1920s, an expression became popular: “What’s that got to do with the price of eggs?” In Georgia in 2012, one might ask these questions instead: “What does a Fulton County park have to do with the price of houses? What does a forest in Fannin County have to do with the unemployment rate? What do Chatham County’s wetlands have to do with an individual’s grocery bill in Bibb County? What connects the bank of a stream in Union County with a family’s drinking water, flood insurance premiums and health care costs?” Lawmakers and business leaders know quite well the answer to the egg question — just about everything affects the price of eggs. And many know the answers to the questions above. More than 30 studies have shown that parks have a positive impact on residential property values. The forest industry is the state’s second largest employer. Wetlands act as nurseries for fish and other marine food species. Riparian vegetation — plant life along waterways — acts as a buffer against flooding, erosion and water contamination, thus making water cleaner. In short, the answer to all of these questions is land conservation. What is done with Georgia’s land and water affects the vitality of the state’s economy and its people. Dependence on natural resources helps Georgians understand the need to use them wisely and with forethought. Local governments, particularly counties, have helped lead the way on land conservation in Georgia. According to The Trust for Public Land’s Land Vote database, county ballot measures are GEORGIA COUNTY GOVERNMENT responsible for almost $660 million of $742 million in land conservation funds approved by Georgia voters since 1998. “As Georgia’s population has grown, people started making the connection between land conservation, water stewardship and protecting their quality of life. County officials responded by proposing Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax (SPLOST) and bond projects that included funding for green space that have been widely supported by local voters,” according to ACCG Executive Director Ross King. While local governments have put skin in the game, Georgia unfortunately still lacks a stable source of state land conservation funding. As a result, the state is unable to leverage available federal matching funds and is losing out on historic opportunities to act on lowerthan-average land prices. And Georgia is further stressing the economy by missing chances to shore up job growth, lowering health-related costs and the cost of providing families with clean drinking water. Georgia also lags behind other southern states in the percentage of land protected. Georgia is the largest state east of the Mississippi River, yet only a small portion of the land, equal to 9 percent of the state, is managed for conservation and has some level of protection. Georgians are losing a connection to the land, and losing this connection means losing other natural resources that must be conserved. It is important to note conservation is no longer a singular action comprised of roping off acres of land. These days, a robust land conservation program involves providing incentives to private landowners to protect land and maintaining current public lands just as much as it includes adding more public land. Conservation means using land and water resources wisely and with forethought. Like long distance runners pacing themselves to conserve energy, Georgia needs to conserve land and water if they are to last for future generations. In 2008, ACCG launched its Land Conservation Initiative to leverage county efforts with those of state and federal agencies, conservation organizations, private foundations and others around the state. Around the same time, ACCG also began strategizing with the top conservation organizations in the state as part of what is now known as the Georgia Legacy coalition. In addition to ACCG, Georgia Legacy partners include The Conservation Fund, The Georgia Conservancy, Park Pride, The Georgia

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Georgia County Government - July/August 2012

President’s Message
Director’s Desk
Henry County: Building Bridges to Benefit One Henry
Piedmont Henry Hospital Adds Important Healthcare Component to One Henry
Five Georgia Events that Changed History
Performance Contracting: A Creative Solution
Energy Savings Performance Contracts: Risks and Rewards for Local Governments
Georgia Legacy: Making the Economic Case for Land Conservation
Extension News: The Impact of Weatherization Programs in Georgia
News & Notes
Index of Advertisers

Georgia County Government - July/August 2012