By Bee Frederick, Southeastern States Director
With the Georgia legislature adjourning March 29, the sportsmen’s community in Georgia welcomed the final passage of two important pieces of pro-sportsmen legislation: the Georgia Outdoor Stewardship Act and the Hunter Mentor Program.
House Bill 332, the Georgia Outdoor Stewardship Act cleared the final legislative hurdle on the last day of the legislative session to provide Georgia with a dedicated funding mechanism for conservation lands. The legislation now awaits the Governor’s signature before moving to the ballot box to be voted as a statewide constitutional movement this November. This bill would dedicate 80 percent of the excise tax on outdoor recreation equipment to conserve land and waters. Specifically, this fund would: acquire critical areas for the provision or protection of wildlife, hunting, fishing and clean water; support state and local parks and trails; and provide stewardship of conservation land to enhance public access and use.
This measure is projected to produce $20 million annually and expire after 10 years from a sunset provision, unless renewed.
The Hunter Mentor Program, Senate Bill 332, would “Establish and maintain an outdoor mentor program that enables experienced hunters and [anglers] to mentor new hunters and [anglers] in safe, ethical, and responsible hunting and fishing practices.” The bill is cosponsored by many members of the Georgia Legislative Sportsmen’s Caucus, including National Assembly of Sportsmen’s Caucus Executive Council President Senator Bill Heath.
The Outdoor Passport License Program would allow first time participants of all ages to hunt and fish at a reduced cost during their first year of participating and would be valid for one full year after issuance.
The year-long program would provide increased flexibility and opportunities to the current apprentice program, and is applicable across all categories of noncommercial hunting and fishing privileges for anyone who has not previously purchased a license. It also includes a required mentor education course to provide instruction for mentors, incentives for mentors and mentees, and discounted licenses for those who complete the program and elect to purchase licenses for the next season.
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?