In 1988 Missourians went to the polls and approved by almost two to one a one-tenth of one percent sales tax for state parks and soil conservation. The tax, first enacted in 1984, has reduced by half the loss of one of our state's most valuable resources - soil. And it has made Missouri State Parks the envy of the nation for their beauty and recreation opportunities.
This year on November 5, voters can continue to save soil and improve parks by voting "Yes" for Amendment 8. The amendment will extend the sales tax for parks and soils, which otherwise will expire in November, 1998. [The Conservation Commission, at its meeting October 21 at Montauk State Park, unanimously endorsed the one-tenth of one percent sales tax.]
If passed, the tax revenue will be used by the Department of Natural Resources to maintain, operate and improve 79 State Parks and historic sites, and continue soil conservation practices that have made Missouri the leader in soil loss rate reduction.
Before 1982 soil loss in Missouri was so severe that the amount lost each year could have buried Interstate 70 in 40 feet of soil from Kansas City to St. Louis. Although that amount has been cut in half, Missouri is still among the top ten states in the nation in soil loss. Five million acres of farmland remain to be treated.
Landowners have benefited directly from soil conservation practices made possible with cost-share funds provided by the sales tax. More than 125 million tons of soil have been saved on 1.2 million acres of cropland. All Missourians have benefited from the improvements to water quality resulting from reduced siltation in rivers and lakes and lower pesticide levels.
If Amendment 8 passes on November 5, soil conservation programs will focus attention on the problem of non-point source pollution and increased protection for Missouri watersheds - a concern identified by 80 percent of Missourians asked to name the greatest threat to our state's environment.
Since 1984, the number of visitors to Missouri State Parks and Historic Sites has jumped 77 percent. Nearly two thirds of visitors are from urban areas. What visitors find (and what they return for) are attractive, well-maintained recreation areas that offer low-cost fun in the outdoors.
Funds from the one-tenth cent sales tax have improved campgrounds in 35 state parks, built cabins and other facilities and added several new parks and lands. One such site of statewide significance is Illiniwek Village, Missouri's only area showing evidence of occupation by the Illinois Indians.
The sales tax currently yields about $57 million per year, divided equally between State Parks and soil conservation. Each Missourian pays about $10 in taxes to support these programs. Yet $10 spent by each Missourian alone will not provide the benefits of Amendment 8.
By combining our dollars, we can continue to lead the nation in protecting our soil resources, water quality and State Parks. We can continue to be the conservation state.
Editor - Tom Cwynar
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