Contact: Mark Lance, Southeastern States Coordinator
Why It Matters: With the creation of the Mississippi Outdoor Stewardship Trust Fund and the Louisiana Outdoors Forever Program, Louisiana and Mississippi will have additional dollars to qualify for federal conservation programs to benefit fish and wildlife resources along with hunters and anglers. For example, funding is available through the Wildlife and Sport Fish Restoration Acts that match dollars at a 3:1 ratio. Additionally, the states could leverage these funds for habitat work through Farm Bill programs that provide $6 billion annually for conservation work on private lands across the country.
Creating an additional source of conservation funding has been a priority for the Louisiana and Mississippi Legislative Sportsmen’s Caucuses over the past several years. The topic was front and center during CSF organized events such as the Mississippi Caucus Sporting Clays Classic in November of 2021, the annual Mississippi Caucus Fish-Fry in February of 2022, and the annual Louisiana Caucus Luncheon in April of 2022. These initiatives were a priority for CSF, and by working alongside numerous in-state and national partners to advocate for these new conservation programs, they were successfully enacted.
Now that the Mississippi Outdoor Stewardship Trust Fund and the Louisiana Outdoors Forever Program have been created – what’s next?
Members of the Board of Trustees (Mississippi Outdoor Stewardship Trust Fund), the Technical Advisory Board, and Project Selection Board (Louisiana Outdoors Forever Program) will need to be named. Counties, municipalities, state agencies, and nongovernmental entities will apply to these boards and detail proposed projects as well as how much funding would be required. These boards will then prioritize projects that improve fish and wildlife habitat, water quality, and recreational properties important for public access, including hunting and fishing.
Looking further into the future, the ultimate success of the projects born from the $10 million in seed money will pave the way for Louisiana and Mississippi to work towards establishing a dedicated source of funding for these programs, such as a dedicated sales tax on outdoor gear, rather than relying on annual appropriations made by the legislature. Voters in Georgia took a similar step in 2018 when they approved a constitutional amendment to establish the Georgia Outdoor Stewardship Fund, which dedicates 80 percent of an existing state-level excise tax on outdoor recreation equipment to conservation, without raising taxes or creating any new fees. This dedicated source of conservation funding has provided $20 million per year for projects since its inception.
CSF applauds the efforts of the Louisiana and Mississippi Legislative Sportsmen’s Caucuses for their strong, bipartisan support of providing additional funding for conservation purposes, and we will continue to work with the Caucuses and our in-state and national partners to provide a dedicated source of funding for the Mississippi Outdoor Stewardship Trust Fund and the Louisiana Outdoors Forever Program in the years to come.
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?