Effort to Establish Dedicated Conservation Funding Returns to the Mississippi Legislature

Contact: Mark Lance, Southeastern States Coordinator

  • Multiple dedicated conservation funding bills have been introduced recently by Mississippi Legislative Sportsmen’s Caucus (Caucus) members. Representative Trey Lamar introduced House Bill 606 , Caucus Co-Chair and National Assembly of Sportsmen’s Caucuses Executive Council Member Representative Scott Bounds introduced House Bill 1064 , and Caucus Co-Chair Senator Neil Whaley introduced Senate Bill 2495 to establish the Mississippi Outdoor Stewardship Trust Fund (Fund) to support fish and wildlife conservation initiatives in the state.
  • HB 606 and HB 1064 would dedicate a portion of the state’s pre-existing sales tax on outdoor sporting goods to the Fund. SB 2495 would appropriate monies from the State General Fund to the Mississippi Outdoor Stewardship Trust Fund.
  • Funding for projects under HB 606 and 1064 would be determined by a Board of Trustees. Counties, municipalities, state agencies, and nongovernmental entities would apply to the board detailing the proposed project and how much funding would be required. The board would prioritize projects that support and promote hunting, fishing, and other forms of outdoor recreation.
  • Under SB 2495, the board would make recommendations to the legislature about providing financial assistance to counties, municipalities, and state agencies for conservation projects.

Why It Matters: States without a dedicated conservation funding mechanism leave millions of dollars on the table every year because they cannot provide the funding to qualify for federal conservation programs. For example, funding is available through Wildlife and Sport Fish Restoration Acts that match state dollars at a 3:1 ratio. States could also leverage funds for habitat work through Farm Bill programs which provide $6 billion annually for conservation on private lands across the United States.

Diversion of sales tax monies could provide millions of additional dollars per year in funding for wildlife conservation projects. Diverting a portion of pre-existing sales tax would also mean that there would be no increase in hunting and fishing license fees or new taxes levied on Mississippians.

The Mississippi Outdoor Stewardship Coalition reports that 75% of registered voters in the state of Mississippi support dedicated conservation funding through a diversion of the existing sales tax on sporting good items.

Dedicated conservation funding has been a priority for the Caucus over the past year. Last year Representative Scott Bounds introduced legislation to establish the Fund. The bill passed the House of Representatives by a vote of 117-2 but ultimately died in conference. Dedicated conservation funding was also front and center during the Caucus Sporting Clays Classic in November.

Investing in conservation is important for supporting Mississippi’s 782,000 sportsmen and women who contribute more than $3.02 billion to the state’s economy, spend more than $2.2 billion, and support more than 33,580 jobs. In 2020, Mississippi’s sportsmen and women contributed $31.74 million to conservation funding generated through hunting and fishing licenses and excise taxes on sporting related goods, the “user pays – public benefits” structure known as the American System of Conservation Funding.

The Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation will continue to work with the Caucus as well as in-state and national partners to support establishing dedicated conservation funding in Mississippi.

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