New Conservation Funding Sources were Created in LA and MS – What’s Next?

Contact: Mark Lance, Southeastern States Coordinator

  • During the 2022 legislative sessions, Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation (CSF)-priority bills were passed in Louisiana and Mississippi to provide additional sources of conservation funding.
  • Mississippi Legislative Sportsmen’s Caucus Member Representative Trey Lamar’s House Bill 606 created the Mississippi Outdoor Stewardship Trust Fund and National Assembly of Sportsmen’s Caucuses Executive Council Member and Louisiana Legislative Sportsmen’s Caucus Member Representative Jerome Zeringue’s House Bill 762 created the Louisiana Outdoors Forever Program.
  • Both new conservation funding programs received $10 million in appropriations from their respective State General Fund and will further supplement revenue generated by sportsmen and women through the “user pays – public benefits” structure known as the American System of Conservation Funding.

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.

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