Contact: Mark Lance, Southeastern States Coordinator
Why It Matters: States without a dedicated conservation funding mechanism leave millions of dollars on the table every year because they cannot provide the funding to qualify for federal conservation programs. For example, funding is available through Wildlife and Sport Fish Restoration Acts that match state dollars at a 3:1 ratio. States could also leverage funds for habitat work through Farm Bill programs which provide $6 billion annually for conservation on private lands across the United States.
Funding for projects under HB 606 and 1064 would be determined by a Board of Trustees. Counties, municipalities, state agencies, and non-governmental entities would apply to the Board detailing the proposed project and how much funding would be required. The Board would prioritize projects that support and promote hunting, fishing, and other forms of outdoor recreation.
Under HB 606 and HB 1064, the diversion of sales tax on outdoor sporting goods would provide millions of additional dollars per year in funding for wildlife conservation projects. The Fund would be capped at $20 million with any excess being distributed back to the General Fund. Diverting a portion of pre-existing sales tax would also mean that there would be no increase in hunting and fishing license fees or new taxes levied on Mississippians.
Under SB 2495, the Board would make recommendations to the legislature about providing financial assistance to counties, municipalities, and state agencies for conservation projects. SB 2495 would appropriate $750,000.00 to the Fund from the state’s special fund, and any amount over $750,000.00 would be appropriated from the state’s special fund will be disbursed only on a reimbursement basis. Unlike HB 606 and HB 1064, non-governmental entities would not be eligible to apply for projects nor would projects on private land be eligible to receive funding from the Fund.
Investing in conservation is important for supporting Mississippi’s 782,000 sportsmen and women who contribute more than $3.02 billion to the state’s economy, spend more than $2.2 billion, and support more than 33,580 jobs. In 2020, Mississippi’s sportsmen and women contributed $31.74 million to conservation funding generated through hunting and fishing licenses and excise taxes on sporting related goods, the “user pays – public benefits” structure known as the American System of Conservation Funding.
The Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation will continue to work with the Caucus as well as in-state and national partners to support establishing dedicated conservation funding in Mississippi.
Studies conducted at both the state and federal level have found that the number of hunters and trappers have been on a generally declining trend over the past several decades. To increase recruitment, retention, and reactivation (R3) of hunters and trappers, which initiative do you think would have the greatest impact?