June 20, 2023

Key Priorities Stall in Mississippi but Foundation Laid for 2024 Push

Article Contact: Mark Lance,

Why It Matters: There was no shortage of legislation impacting hunters and anglers in the Magnolia State during the 2023 legislative session. Everything from establishing a dedicated source of funding for the Mississippi Outdoor Stewardship Trust Fund, to codifying key tenets of the North American Model of Wildlife Conservation, safeguarding Mississippi Department of Wildlife and Fisheries (MDWFP) funding, and more were on the docket. The Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation (CSF), along with our numerous in-state and national partners, worked diligently to advocate on behalf of sportsmen and women as well as science-based wildlife management.

Highlights:

  • HB 998 introduced by Mississippi Legislative Sportsmen’s Caucus (Caucus) Member Representative Bill Kinkade, would have codified that the state’s wildlife belongs to the citizens of the state and that the state is tasked with utilizing the best available science to manage its wildlife.
  • HB 999 introduced by Representative Kinkade, would have deposited a portion of pre-existing sales tax revenue on certain outdoor sporting goods into the Mississippi Outdoor Stewardship Trust Fund.
  • HB 1012 introduced by Caucus Co-Chair and National Assembly of Sportsmen’s Caucuses Executive Council Member Representative Scott Bounds, would have required that the MDWFP be reimbursed by the State General Fund for any lost revenue that resulted from discounted or free hunting and fishing licenses.
  • HB 1026 introduced by Representative Kinkade, would have prohibited the sale of game birds, game animals, and fish.

HB 998 and HB 1026 would have codified three key tenets of the North American Model of Wildlife Conservation, which is known as the most successful wildlife management model in the world. Ensuring that wildlife continue to be held in the public trust, that best available science is always used in management decisions, and prohibiting the sale and commercial hunting of wild game animals are paramount to the success of managing wildlife populations across the state. CSF submitted letters in support of both pieces of legislation.

After the creation of the Mississippi Outdoor Stewardship Trust Fund and the subsequent $10 million appropriation from the State General Fund, Mississippi received a boost in additional funding to qualify for federal conservation programs. While the one-time $10 million appropriation is good seed money for the program, having a source of dedicated funding would provide added security for funding critical conservation projects through 2025. CSF submitted a letter in support of HB 999 prior to the bill’s passing the House of Representatives by a strong bipartisan vote of 106-7.

In another attempt to benefit conservation funding efforts, CSF worked alongside the Caucus to introduce HB 1012. The primary focus of this legislation was to protect MDWFP’s revenue from bills that provide free or discounted hunting and fishing licenses to certain segments of the population. While these bills are oftentimes well-intended, they can cause significant funding issues for state fish and wildlife agencies and thus negatively impact the “user pays – public benefits” structure of the American System of Conservation Funding. In 2021 alone, sportsmen and women contributed over $32 million through this system, which includes the purchasing of hunting and fishing licenses. The passage of this bill would have put Mississippi in line with several other states, such as Tennessee, where the State General Fund must reimburse the agency for revenue lost due to the passage of free and discounted licenses.

While none of these bills were voted down, CSF was disappointed to see them stall during the legislative process. However, we strongly believe that positive discussions were had on actionable items in advance of the 2024 legislative session, and we look forward to building on the progress made this year and working alongside the Caucus and our partners to protect and advance Mississippi’s cherished sporting traditions into the future.

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