In the state of
Mississippi, our outdoor heritage is second to none. Currently, outdoor
recreation in our state – such as hunting, fishing, hiking, camping, birding
and paddling – generates $8 billion annually while supporting 79,000 jobs.
These numbers aren’t far
behind major industries like agriculture and forestry in terms of economic
impact, and it’s no coincidence each of these industries depend on the same
thing – securing the future of our natural resources.
That’s why it’s incumbent
upon our government to institute policies that help us grow that outdoor
culture and adventurous spirit that have been cultivated in our society for
Over the last four
Ducks Unlimited was proud to work with
Congress and the Trump Administration to pass significant conservation
legislation, making billions available for conservation efforts across the
country. The 2018 Farm Bill, Great American Outdoors Act and America’s
Conservation Enhancement Act all became law and made billions available for
on-the-ground conservation work on public and private lands.
The goal now is simple –
make sure these opportunities are available to Mississippians. On Feb. 10, the
Mississippi House of Representatives passed
House Bill 1231, which would create the
Mississippi Outdoor Stewardship Trust Fund. This bill passed by an
overwhelmingly bipartisan margin of 117-2 and would direct a percentage of the
existing state sales tax on sporting goods items to conserving the resources
and places we enjoy so much, with no new tax for Mississippians.
Opinion: Don't eliminate private sector from
Mississippi Outdoor Trust Fund legislation
This transparent and
accountable conservation trust fund would be available to these entities
through a competitive grant program overseen by an independent board. Projects
would enhance our public lands and waters and protect fish and wildlife
habitats and support soil, water and land conservation on our working farms and
Unfortunately, on March 10,
the state Senate passed their own version of the bill, only theirs was much
different than the House version. After moving through the three separate
committees, some of the most important components of the original bill were
either altered significantly or removed entirely.
Specifically, the Senate
version does not fund the trust fund or allow nonprofit entities like Ducks
Unlimited to apply for grant funds. Nor does the Senate version allow funding
to be leveraged with Farm Bill dollars and support private lands projects.
Opinion: Mississippi Outdoor Stewardship Trust
Fund legislation needs to become law
Simply put, Ducks
Unlimited supports the original House legislation because it will benefit
waterfowl habitat, foster new hunting opportunities on public lands and benefit
the public through cleaner water and protection from flooding.
In the coming days, a
conference committee will negotiate the differences between the two versions of
the legislation. It’s vitally important that Mississippi state representatives
and senators agree to pass a version similar to the original House bill to
support our public and private lands, public-private conservation partnerships
and dedicated funding to secure the future of Mississippi’s outdoors for
present and future generations alike. Our state should take full advantage of
this opportunity to make a big investment in our own backyard.
Contact your state
representative and senator and let them know you support the original House
version of House Bill 1231.
Mississippi Ducks Unlimited state chairman; B.C. Rogers, state policy chairman;
and Grayson Lewis, state policy chairman.