Contact: Mark Lance, Southeastern States Coordinator
Why It Matters: States without a dedicated conservation funding mechanism, like Louisiana, often leave millions of dollars on the table because they cannot provide the match funding to qualify for federal conservation programs. However, if Louisiana established a dedicated conservation funding source, the state could leverage significantly more federal funds to implement conservation programs that benefit fish and wildlife resources and the sportsmen and women who enjoy the “Sportsman’s Paradise.”
Earlier this year, National Assembly of Sportsmen’s Caucuses Executive Council Member and Louisiana Legislative Sportsmen’s Caucus (Caucus) Member Representative Jerome Zeringue introduced an appropriations bill, House Bill 406, that includes a $10 million appropriation from the State General Fund to the Louisiana Outdoors Forever Fund. The $10 million appropriation is not only contingent on the passage of HB 406, but also the passage of HB 762, which would create the Program. Funding for projects under the Program would be determined by a project selection board. Counties, municipalities, state agencies, and nongovernmental entities would apply to the Board detailing the proposed project and how much funding would be required. Once projects are identified and approved, funding would then be made available through the Louisiana Outdoors Forever Fund.
Projects that would improve fish and wildlife habitat, water quality, and recreational properties important for public access, including hunting and fishing, would be eligible to receive funding through the Program.
Investing in conservation is important for supporting Louisiana’s outdoor heritage. Last year, Louisiana’s sportsmen and women contributed $43.21 million to conservation funding through hunting and fishing license and excise taxes on sporting related goods. This “user pays – public benefits” structure known as the American System of Conservation Funding is the primary driver of conservation dollars in the state. The LA Outdoors Forever Program and the LA Outdoors Forever Fund would provide additional funding available for federal match dollars through the Wildlife and Sport Fish Restoration Acts that match state dollars at a 3:1 ratio. Louisiana 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.
HB 406 now awaits referral in the Senate, and HB 762 awaits action in the Senate Committee on Natural Resources and Environment.
The Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation will continue to work with the Caucus, as well as in-state and national partners to support the establishment of the Louisiana Outdoors Forever Program and the Louisiana Outdoors Forever Fund.
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?