Land Stewardship and Conservation Task Force


Minutes of the<MeetNo1> 2nd Meeting

of the 2007 Interim


<MeetMDY1> April 24, 2007


The<MeetNo2> 2nd meeting of the Land Stewardship and Conservation Task Force was held on<Day> Tuesday,<MeetMDY2> April 24, 2007, at<MeetTime> 1:00 PM, in<Room> Room 131 of the Capitol Annex. Representative Robin L. Webb, Chair, called the meeting to order, and the secretary called the roll.


Present were:


Members:<Members> Senator Charlie Borders, Co-Chair; Representative Robin L. Webb, Co-Chair; Hugh Archer, Juva Barber, Stephen Coleman, Doug Doerrfeld, Don Dott, Teresa Hill, Greg Kuhn, William Martin, Duane Murner, Gary Verst, and Bruce Williams.


Guests:  Bert May, Kentucky League of Cities (attended for Jerry Deaton); Mark Cramer, Fish and Wildlife (attended for Jon Gassett); Jeff Harper, Kentucky Farm Bureau (attended for Laura Knoth); Tony Sholar, Rotunda Group; Leah MacSwords, Division of Forestry; Libby Jones; Mary Jean Eddins, Kentucky Heritage Land Conservation Fund Board; Eric Gregory, East Kentucky Power Co-op; Jim Mahan, PACE; Rosetta Fackler, KDOW; Brooke Shileman, KDOW; Margi Jones, KDOW; Doug Wampler, Oldham Ahead; and Bruce Scott, Kentucky Conservation Committee.


LRC Staff:  Hank Marks, Katie Carney, Mark Mitchell, and John Scott.


A quorum being present the Chair, Representative Robin Webb, called the meeting to order. Rep. Webb stated that it is the mission of the Task Force is to balance the interests of economic development and conservation and seek ways to secure adequate and stable funding in the face of declining funding and competition for scarce resources. She then introduced Mr. James Farr, the Environmental Manager for the Florida Division of Lands.


Mr. Farr opened with a map showing the conservation lands of Florida. Florida has over 450,000 acres covered by conservation easements, and nearly 10,000,000 acres under some form of state, federal, local, or water management protection. He stated that every county has some protected lands. He then described the history of Florida land conservation from 1963 until the present "Florida Forever" program, which coordinates several separate land conservation and acquisition programs. He discussed the level of support by citizens in terms of a ballot initiative in which they taxed themselves for the purpose. The Florida Forever program is largely funded through a documentary stamp tax on all real estate transactions, which in turn funds bonds used to fund the program. $300 million per year is funded through either bonding or a general appropriation. Mr. Farr explained the centralized organizational structure in which acquisition and ownership is centralized in the department of Environmental Protection and the management (with funding) of the lands is distributed to the appropriate agencies with regard to their missions and responsibilities. Next, he discussed land selection and ranking factors, acquisition criteria and measures, and the associated processes for ranking, selection and acquisition. He then discussed the data collection system used. Data is collected for rare species, wild life aggregation sites, rare or high quality natural community occurrences, invasive plant occurrences, conservation lands, environmental land acquisition projects, and potential natural areas. At this time, Mr. Farr described the Florida Forever program's partnerships with local governments, water management districts, non-profit organizations, and state and federal agencies. He also described contractual partnerships for data collection and analysis. At this point Mr. Farr described several graphic information maps that each represented an aspect of data collection or type of conservation property. In concluding, he described the land management process, and how it is funded. He stated that it presently costs about $200 million per year to fund land management in Florida. He described how a land trust fund which, prior to 1990 was dedicated to land acquisition, was transitioned to fund management only for the Florida 2000 and Florida Forever programs. He noted that the managing agencies also have funds and trusts for management, as well.


Rep. Webb asked for further description of the personnel numbers and organizational structure of the program and asked if the individual entities had autonomy to acquire land on their own or did they have to go through the centralized process as it was presented to the task force. She was told that, with only minor exception, all agencies went through the centralized process. Rep. Webb stated that in this state there is some competition between agencies, and was there such competition or problems in Florida with everyone "under one umbrella". Mr. Farr stated, no, with only one or two exceptions related to agencies that wanted to manage the land for different purposes. He described an amicable and cooperative process on the front end with the ranking process in which the issues are largely worked out prior to management assignment. Rep. Webb and Sen. Borders each asked questions related to the appraisal process and were provided with a description of the process. There followed some questions and description of the real estate tax and the differences between land acquisition and conservation easements. There was some discussion of bonding with Mr. Farr stating that he thought it was cost effective, in that  one can "buy now without having to pay for it all now", in the face of escalating prices and disappearing land. Mr. Martin asked about, and was provided with a description of the process, formula, and costs for land analysis and management. Management funds are supplied only to state agencies. Nonprofits and local governments must provide their own funds. Mr. archer asked about appraisals and attitudes toward land preservation by developers and was told that often developers use the presence of adjacent protected lands as a "selling point" and that such proximity is part of the comparables used for appraisal.


Rep. Webb introduced Mr. Richard Rogers, the Assistant Secretary of the North Carolina Department of Natural Resources, who made a presentation on the North Carolina Naturally program. Mr. Rogers opened by stating that seven years ago that the governor and cabinet secretary decided that conservation needed to be looked at differently in North Carolina, that there needed to be a more comprehensive, interconnected approach. He discussed North Carolina’s strategic plan, partnerships and funding resources. He stated that a holistic approach to conservation looks at the value of conservation for various purposes and interests, and the need for public involvement and interconnections. After showing several maps demonstrating the rapid loss of natural areas in North Carolina, Mr. Rogers stated that, "We must act quickly or natural networks will be gone, and it is cheaper to protect natural systems now than to restore them later. He then went on to describe what he called the "interconnected approach". He stated that there would never be enough funds to buy up the land so the focus must be on incentives to conserve land under private ownership. He discussed the North Carolina approach as having three major program areas: working lands, forever natural lands, and "working on the water". Regarding working lands, he noted that last year North Carolina lost 1000 farms. He then went on to discuss the economic impacts of public, managed lands in terms of the contributions of the military, agriculture and forestry, tourism, and recreational and commercial fishing. He stated the need for, and described an interconnected and strategic planning process, that is intended to coordinate conservation efforts, inform funding decisions, and guide conservation efforts for the next 25 years. After this, Mr. Rogers discussed partnerships. He discussed North Carolina's effort to bring all agencies and program plans into a cooperative and coordinated system and efforts to construct graphic maps to represent the entire picture of land and water conservation. Mr. Rogers discussed the priority and ranking process for land acquisition and conservation. He presented several graphic maps used in this process, showing land areas by type and identifying areas by priority for conservation. He stated that North Carolina has been trying to pull together all stakeholders in land conservation in a way similar to the Land Stewardship and Conservation Task Force, and commended Kentucky's efforts in this regard. Next, Mr. Rogers listed and briefly described the agencies and programs responsible for land preservation and conservation and observed that most of them are located under one agency. He described North Carolina's Million Acre Program, which is the strategic plan to secure an additional 1,000,000 acres over 10 years. In concluding, Mr. Rogers described tax credit incentives for conservation and access, and other methods by which land conservation and preservation is funded in North Carolina. Rep. Webb noted Kentucky's recent effort to pass tax credit legislation similar to North Carolina's. There followed an extended discussion of tax credit incentives and some difficulties experienced in North Carolina relating to appraisals. With regard to funding in general, Mr. Rogers discussed the value of dedicated, stable sources of funds in order to meet strategic goals and institutionalize programs. Following the presentation there were several questions and additional discussion relating to the North Carolina program.


Upon returning from a short break, the Task Force Chair introduced Mr. James Aldridge, Director of the state chapter of The Nature Conservancy. Mr. Aldridge began by stating the importance of leveraging federal funds. He then spoke of the concept of “conservation by design" and the "filters" used to establish priorities and create a system of conservation. He presented several graphic maps showing various ecosystems and conservation areas in Kentucky. Returning to funding, Mr. Aldridge spoke of several cost sharing projects and the main sources of federal funding such as the federal Farm Bill, the Wetland Reserve Program (WRP). Regarding the WRP he noted that Louisiana with many wetlands got $500,000 and protects 1,000,000 acres compared with Kentucky's 16,000 acres. He stated that there is discussion of combining these two programs, which would be advantageous to Kentucky, and Kentucky should advocate for this merger. Next Mr. Rogers discussed forest and farmland protection and the forest legacy and PACE programs. Regarding forest conservation he noted that Kentucky forests lead the nation and the world in hardwood production and species diversity and yet, he stated, we are doing relatively little to protect them. He returned to his concern that most of the federal money requires matching funds, averaging about 20 cents on the dollar, and thus state underinvestment in conservation results in the lost of a great amount of funding for conservation. Mr. Aldridge noted that the Land Heritage Trust Fund has been a stable but inadequate source of funding. In this regard he stated that he could not help but notes that North Carolina protected as much land in one year as Kentucky has protected in the last decade. However, he stated, 100,000 people pay an extra $40 for a nature license plate and this shows wide-spread support. After these observations, Mr. Aldridge described funding measures in several representative states. There was a brief discussion of real estate transfer taxes, the history of such tax in Kentucky and other states, opposition by Real Estate organizations, its potential usefulness in funding debt service on bonds. Mr. Aldridge noted that the most popular source of funding over the past 20 years has been bond revenue. At this point he called for a more comprehensive approach to land conservation that can meet the needs of very diverse types of land and people interested in preservation.


Rep. Webb initiated a discussion of combining farmland and wetland protection in the farm bill and the issues surrounding stream mitigation. There was some discussion of incentives and Mr. Aldridge spoke about the need for more cooperation, and the difficulties of separate cabinets being involved with land acquisition, stating that this contributes to a slow acquisition process that can result in additional cost and in the loss of opportunities to acquire land. He stated that the Finance Cabinet regards The Nature Conservancy as an agent rather than a partner and that there is little appreciation in the Cabinet for the risks taken by the nature Conservancy and the interest costs of money borrowed in anticipation of land acquisition. A question was asked and there followed a discussion of incentives for forest land protection.


The Chair introduced Lynn Garrison, Director of the Division of Public Information of the Department for Fish and Wildlife Resources. Mr. Garrison began with a comparison of Kentucky with the seven surrounding, contiguous states. Regarding state lands, Kentucky ranks last among the eight states. Likewise, Kentucky also ranks last in the number of wildlife refuges and in the number of land trusts and acres protected. The number one state regarding land trusts is Virginia. Mr. Garrison said that that is due to the tax credit incentive program in that state. In concluding this part of his presentation Mr. Garrison stated that Kentucky also ranks near the bottom in national wilderness areas, but it is about average regarding national forests and grasslands, national parks, Corps of Engineer lands, and federal lands. After this discussion, Mr. Garrison discussed various funding sources and land protection tools used throughout the country, along with a detailed review of funding sources in each of 22 states.


Senator Borders stated that if the Task Force accomplishes nothing more than formally recognizing that there is a problem in this area it will have served its purpose. He noted that several elements of the state budget are funded because people perceive that there is a need in that area, and there needs to be increased an awareness that there is a need to preserve land. Sen. Borders concluded his statement saying that the day's presentations regarding what other state's do and the needs we have in this area had been enlightening and had "not fallen on deaf ears.


Rep. Webb thanked Mr. Garrison for his presentation, observing that he had established himself as a valuable resource going forward. She noted that she was encouraged to learn that Missouri had recently voted to maintain the major tax that funds land preservation. She noted the importance of funding that enables us to take advantage of federal dollars, but said that in some cases it may be necessary to forgo federal dollars in order to ensure state autonomy. In this regard she said that the Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources has done a very good job of securing federal money over the years.


Mr. Archer noted that last year there were 180 ballot measures of which 47% passed with 80% majorities. He noted also that in the year 2000 the measures raised $3 billion and last year they raised $6.5 billion.


Mr. Williams stated that he was pleased with the support of both the House and Senate and the bipartisan support for this Task Force, which has worked out well.


The Chair observed that so far the Task Force has only received information and that perhaps at its next meeting the members will spend more time talking with each other.


There being no further business, the meeting was adjourned at 4:45 PM.