By Joe Ulery
Indiana News Service
As dust settles from the 2023 Indiana legislative session, Hoosiers may discover lawmakers made some decisions with which members from both sides of the aisle can agree.
The contentious budget-making session generated its fair share of attention-grabbing headlines, but Mother Nature scored a record-shattering victory that may have been buried in the shadows.
Hoosier Environmental Council executive director Sam Carpenter said advocates scored $30 million for trails, $2.5 million for lake and river improvements, plus a bump in funding for clean water.
While Republicans – who control the Statehouse – refused to hand over a $25 million request from Gov. Eric Holcomb for land conservation, they did allow a pared-down amount.
“It’s important that we have wildlife habitat, that we have natural spaces,” said Carpenter. “And natural spaces are part of our natural infrastructure that can’t really be replaced. But it’s also a way that really supports our economy and our quality of life and our quality of place.”
Carpenter said he hopes lawmakers know that to attract new business or encourage existing businesses to expand, the state must have nice parks, trails and clean water.
In previous spending plans, the state provided less money than the federal government. However, Carpenter said the newest budget provides more money for land conservation than ever before.
“Conservation funding is going to go to the President Benjamin Harrison Trust, and that’s how the state funds purchasing of lands to protect,” said Carpenter. “That’s how it adds to our parks. $10 million was approved for the President Benjamin Harrison. That is actually a record amount that the state has put in.”
Carpenter also said advocates successfully pushed back on language that, if approved, would have eroded what’s left of the Indiana wetlands.