Over the last few decades, rising costs for natural resource management and increased public utilization of these resources has led to the need for additional methods of funding for conservation. Dedicating lottery proceeds to funding conservation can assist with efforts such as increasing access to public lands, habitat and endangered species conservation, wildlife education, watershed restoration, and expanding outdoor recreation opportunities for the public.
For over 80 years, sportsmen and women have provided the vast majority of state-based conservation funding in the United States though a “user-pays, public-benefits” structure (via the successful American System of Conservation Funding). Over the last few decades, rising costs for natural resource management and increased public utilization of these resources has led some states to seek additional sources of funding for conservation. One such funding source involves dedicating lottery proceeds to assist with efforts such as increasing access to public lands, habitat and endangered species conservation, wildlife education, watershed restoration, and expanding outdoor recreation opportunities for the public.
Points of Interest
- In 1990, Arizona became the first state to dedicate a portion of their lottery funds to conservation through a ballot initiative. The Arizona Legislature annually allocates up to $10 million from the state’s lottery proceeds to the Arizona Game and Fish Commission Heritage Fund. The fund is used for environmental education, protecting endangered species, and expanding public access to natural resources. Since 1992, the Arizona Heritage Fund has been able to acquire and provide public access to over 18,000 acres for hunting and angling.
- In 1990, Minnesota also passed a ballot initiative dedicating not less than 40 percent of the net proceeds from its state lottery to the environmental and natural resources trust fund. Since 1991 the fund has spent more than $500 million on approximately 1,000 projects in Minnesota.
- In 1992 and 1998 voters in Colorado and Oregon, respectively, approved constitutional amendments via ballot initiatives to dedicate a portion of their state lottery proceeds to conservation. These initiatives were approved by a vast majority of voters in each state.
- In FY 2016, the Great Outdoor Colorado Trust Fund received close to $64 million from lottery funds to conserve wildlife habitat, acquire and manage public lands, and otherwise expand outdoor recreation opportunities in the state. Since the fund’s first year of operations in FY 1994, over $1.1 billion has been granted to various qualifying recipients.
- 15% of the proceeds from Oregon’s state lottery are annually granted to the Parks and Natural Resources Fund. These funds assist with projects such as watershed restoration and salmon conservation and management.
- Arizona: Summary of Proposition 200 (1990): “To provide for annual funding from state lottery revenues for the Arizona State Parks Board Heritage Fund and the Arizona Game and Fish Commission Heritage Fund for the purposes of preserving, protecting, and enhancing Arizona’s natural and scenic environment, historical and cultural heritage, biological diversity, state, regional and local parks for outdoor recreation and open space, wildlife and wildlife habitat, endangered and threatened species, urban wildlife, trails, and for environmental education; to establish definitions and guidelines for determining how such monies and interest earned from such monies shall be expended annually and for the administration of such programs by the Arizona State Parks Board and the Arizona Game and Fish Commission.”
- Colorado: “Shall there be an amendment to the Colorado Constitution to create the Great Outdoors Colorado Program; to provide for the permanent dedication of net proceeds from every state-supervised lottery game for the program after payment of certain existing obligations; to specify that the program provide for the preservation, protection, enhancement, and management of the state’s wildlife, park, river, trail, and open space heritage; to establish a board as an independent political subdivision of the state to oversee the program; and to create a trust fund for the program?”
- Minnesota: Summary of Amendment 1 (1990): “Shall the Minnesota Constitution be amended to dedicate not less than 40 percent of the net proceeds from the state lottery to the Minnesota environment and natural resources trust fund for environment, natural resources, and wildlife purposes until the year 2001?” The measure was extended to 2025 in 1998. Summary of Amendment 1 (1998) “Shall the Minnesota Constitution be amended to extend to the year 2025 the dedication of lottery proceeds to the environment and natural resources trust fund and to maximize the long-term total return to the fund?”
- Oregon: Summary of the Oregon Lottery Revenues for Parks and Conservation Act, or 1998 Ballot Measure 66: “Amends Constitution: Dedicates Some Lottery Funding To Parks, Beaches; Habitat, Watershed Protection.”
If properly implemented, dedicated funds from state lottery proceeds can complement the highly successful American System of Conservation Funding in conserving our natural resources and expanding hunter and angler access to these natural resources. As budgetary pressures increase for state fish and wildlife agencies, lottery proceeds can provide a considerable source of revenue, especially if safeguards are put into place to prevent these funds from being diverted into other accounts or uses. It is recommended that ballot language concerning the establishment of such lottery conservation funds include provisions that focus the revenue on natural resource management and on providing access for sportsmen and women.