Gov. John Kasich has recommended the Clean Ohio Fund receive $100 million to fund the preservation of farmlands and open spaces and improve outdoor recreational opportunities.
The proposal is part of the $2.386 billion capital budget bill that is usually enacted every two years to provide funds for improving the state’s educational and public-service infrastructure.
The Clean Ohio Fund is the state’s main funding source for open space conservation, farmland preservation, trail creation, brownfield restoration and protection of ecologically sensitive areas. Voters approved its creation in 2000 as a $400 million bond program and renewed it in 2008. Ohio Farm Bureau has been a strong proponent of the program since its inception.
“We are supportive of the Clean Ohio Fund and are pleased to see funding for it in the capital budget,” said Tony Seegers, OFBF’s director of state policy.
The highly competitive Local Agricultural Easement Purchase Program is part of the Clean Ohio Fund. Created in 2002, LAEPP allows landowners to voluntarily sell easements on their farms to the state to keep their land in agricultural production in perpetuity.
The bulk of the proposed Clean Ohio money — $75 million — would go toward the acquisition of open space and parkland and the protection of ecologically sensitive areas and stream corridors. The Healthy Lake Erie Initiative would receive $10 million of the $75 million to help reduce the threat of harmful algal blooms and divert contaminated harbor dredges from open-lake disposal, which can harm fish and wildlife habitats and the lake’s $11 billion recreational and tourism industry.
The rest of the $25 million would be divided evenly between preserving family farmland and building new recreational and bicycle trails.
The Trust for Public Land’s economic analysis of the Clean Ohio Fund found that every $1 invested in land conservation returned $4 in natural goods and services to the state’s economy.
See what capital appropriations have been suggested for your county.