Contact: Mark Lance, Southeastern States Coordinator
- During the 2022 legislative session, multiple dedicated conservation funding bills were introduced 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.
- On March 2, the Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation (CSF) along with numerous partners, submitted comments in support of establishing the Fund.
- HB 606 and HB 1064 originally aimed to dedicate a portion of the state’s pre-existing sales tax on outdoor sporting goods to the Fund, while SB 2495 aimed to appropriate monies from the State General Fund to the Fund.
- On April 5, HB 606 was amended to remove the sales tax diversion and passed out of conference. Subsequently, Senate Bill 2780, an appropriations bill, was amended in conference to include a $10 million dollar appropriation to the Fund from the State General Fund for FY 2023.
Why It Matters: With the passage of HB 606 and SB 2780 and pending the signature of Governors Sportsmen’s Caucus Member Tate Reeves, Mississippi will have additional dollars to qualify for federal conservation programs to benefit Mississippi’s fish and wildlife resources along with it hunters and anglers. For example, Mississippi 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. Additional funding is also available through Wildlife and Sport Fish Restoration Acts that match dollars at a 3:1 ratio.
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 of 2021 and the Annual Caucus Fish-Fry in February of 2022.
While the diversion of sales tax revenue from outdoor sporting goods sales would have allowed the Fund to be self-sustainable and not reliant on annual appropriations made by the legislature, the $10 million dollar appropriation made to the Fund will provide a funding boost for projects. These projects will benefit wildlife and their habitats, which will also benefit recreational opportunities and public access for sportsmen and women in the Magnolia State.
Funding for projects by the Fund will be determined by a Board of Trustees. Counties, municipalities, state agencies, and nongovernmental entities will apply to the Board and detail the proposed project as well as how much funding would be required. The Board would then prioritize projects that support and promote hunting, fishing, and other forms of outdoor recreation.
CSF applauds the work of Representative Scott Bounds, Representative Trey Lamar, Chairman of the House Committee on Wildlife, Fisheries, and Parks Representative Bill Kinkade, Senator Neil Whaley, and numerous other Caucus members in establishing the Fund and will continue to coordinate with in-state and national partners to encourage Governor Reeves to sign HB 606 and SB 2780 into law.
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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?Vote Here
- Increase the number of states with discounted license tailored to specific groups. (5.27%)
- Increase access to public lands. (24.84%)
- Provide more information for new participants. (4.19%)
- Provide hands on opportunities to improve skills and knowledge. (13.14%)
- Engage youth through hunter and conservation programs in schools. (43.18%)
- I feel we have enough sportsmen and women and do not believe R3 programs are necessary. (9.39%)