Forever Wild Once Again At Risk

imagesThis week our public lands once again came under attack. House Bill 502 was introduced last week and will go to committee on Wednesday, April 26 at 3:00 pm.  HB 502 proposes a constitutional amendment that would require the Forever Wild Land Trust to pay counties for any lost ad valorem taxes on lands purchased through the program. The bill does not specify how these tax payments are calculated, allowing counties to determine how much is owed.

HB 502 starts the clock on the end of future Forever Wild purchases. With each additional acquisition, more taxes are owed, and less funding is available to purchase additional lands for public hunting, fishing and recreation.

A recent Return on Investment study shows that for every $1 invested to purchase lands, $5 is returned to the state in goods and services. In addition to services like wildlife habitat and flood control, the public lands preserved by Forever Wild serve as the foundation for our state’s recreation industry, which generates more than $2 billion in spending each year.

There is a misconception that Forever Wild has a special provision exempting it from ad valorem taxes. However, all state-owned lands are exempt from ad valorem (property) taxes – from the Governor’s Mansion and State House, to lands in the state-owned university system. These bills unfairly target a program proven to provide economic benefits to our state.

Forever Wild was overwhelming supported when introduced in 1992 with 83% of the vote and reauthorized in 2012 by 75% of voters. HB 502 is simply another back-door attempt to dismantle the program.

Please send a message to your legislators today: Vote NO on HB 502

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