By Bee Frederick, Southeastern States Director
On November 6, Georgia voters will have the opportunity to establish the Georgia Outdoor Stewardship Fund at the ballot box with Amendment 1.
If passed, the constitutional amendment would dedicate 80 percent of the existing excise tax – without raising taxes or creating any new fees – 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.
The measure is projected to produce $20 million annually and expire after 10 years from a sunset provision, unless renewed. This funding could not be used for any other purpose and would be subject to strict accountability provisions and public disclosure. Only projects consistent with the state’s established goals for conservation would be approved. After clearing the legislature earlier this Spring, the measure now awaits the voters.
The ballot language states: “Without increasing the current state sales tax rate, shall the Constitution of Georgia be amended so as to create the Georgia Outdoor Stewardship Trust Fund to conserve lands that protect drinking water sources and the water quality of rivers, lakes, and streams; to protect and conserve forests, fish, wildlife habitats, and state and local parks; and to provide opportunities for our children and families to play and enjoy the outdoors, by dedicating, subject to full public disclosure, up to 80 percent of the existing sales tax collected by sporting goods stores to such purposes without increasing the current state sales tax rate?
The Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation, Georgia Wildlife Federation, Georgia Outdoor News, Georgia Hunting & Fishing Federation, and many other conservation groups urge Georgia voters to approve this amendment.
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?