The 131st General Assembly finished work on the state capital budget bill (SB 310) for Fiscal Years 2017-2018 which includes $100 million for the Clean Ohio Fund program. This bill overwhelmingly passed the Senate on April 20, 2016 by a vote of 32-1, and the House on May 5, 2016 by a vote of 95-1. The Coalition of Ohio Land Trusts (COLT) appreciates the continued support of Governor Kasich as well as all of the Ohio Senators and House Members who supported the inclusion of Clean Ohio Funds in the bill.

The Clean Ohio Fund, which celebrated its fifteenth anniversary, is a very successful state fund backed by bonds and matched with local funding. Clean Ohio Funds are used for three kinds of land and water conservation projects: Family farmland preservation, Open space conservation, and Recreational trails.

This very effective program has been used throughout the state. All 88 counties have sponsored one or more Clean Ohio Fund projects, preserving 75,000 acres of natural areas, protecting more than 350 family farms and 59,000 acres of family farmland, creating over 500 miles of recreational trails, and cleaning up 400 abandoned industrial sites.

Clean Ohio Funds are awarded through a competitive process and supplemented by local matching funds. The Fund supports one-time capital expenses, not ongoing, operational expenses.

The Clean Ohio Fund enjoys broad support from wildlife, environmental, conservation, recreational and farming groups as well as local governments. Ohio voters initially approved the sale of bonds to fund the Clean Ohio Fund, in 2000. In 2008 — with an eight-year track record by which to judge it — Ohio voters again approved the Clean Ohio Fund, this time by a 61-39 percent margin with all 88 counties voting YES.

Al Altfater, president of the Appalachia Ohio Alliance (AOA), a nonprofit land conservancy that works in central and southeastern Ohio, said that “we are grateful for the support this very worthwhile program continues to receive from Ohio citizens, legislators and Governor Kasich. “

According to Steve Fleegal, AOA’s Executive Director, “we have been very fortunate to have been involved with a number of Clean Ohio projects that conserve valuable and unique land and water resources. We are focused on conserving riparian habitats through our Scioto River Flyway and Hocking River initiatives. Clean Ohio has helped us conserve lands that are important for enhancing water quality as well as providing essential habitat for many of our native plants and animals, as well as migratory species such as birds and butterflies.”