Forever Wild Safe for Now, Water Policy Legislation Introduced

AL Capitol DomeMore than 7,000 emails and letters have been sent to elected officials demanding protection of Forever Wild. Due to this outpouring of support for the program, this week there was no advancement of HB 502.

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. With six days left in this legislative session, fighting this bill is our 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.

It’s not too late to tell your elected officials to Vote NO on HB 502. Call or email your representative or senator today and tell them you support Forever Wild.

This week Representative Patricia Todd (D-Birmingham) introduced the Alabama Water Conservation and Securities Act. HB 577 would facilitate the coordination of plans, laws, regulations and decisions pertaining to water allocation. Under current Alabama state law, no state agency is tasked to assess stream flows to ensure that water uses are sustainable, and no agency is empowered to step in when water uses threaten the integrity of Alabama’s water resources. HB 577 would ensure that water resources are protected during times of drought or water shortage and clearly defines the conditions that that would trigger state action. For more information on HB 577, click here to download a fact sheet prepared by Alabama Rivers Alliance.

HB 502 advances, Forever Wild at Risk

imagesOn 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

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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