HB 502 advances, Forever Wild at Risk
On Wednesday of this week, House Bill 502 was voted favorably out of the House State Government committee. Introduced by Rep. Mark Tuggle (R-Alexander City), 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 could go for a vote before the full House as early as Tuesday, May 2.
With nine days left in this legislative session, fighting this bill is Conservation Alabama’s top priority. 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. Since this and other anti-Forever Wild bills were introduced, more than 6,000 emails and letters have been sent to elected officials demanding legislators Vote NO on HB 502.
Forever Wild provides some of the most unique outdoor recreation opportunities in Alabama. The program also brings measurable economic benefits to our state: generating more than $494 million in tax revenues, supporting 86,000 jobs and providing $2 billion in wages. 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.
The Forever Wild Land Trust was established by constitutional amendment in 1992 by 83% of voters. When it was reauthorized in 2012, 75% of voters reaffirmed their commitment to the program. Overwhelmingly, voters support our public lands. Just last year 80% of voters supported a constitutional amendment protecting funding for Alabama’s state parks. So, why haven’t our elected officials gotten the message?
It’s once again time to speak up for protection of public lands and the Forever Wild Land Trust. Please send a message to your legislators today: Vote NO on HB 502