JACKSON, Miss. (WLBT) - A pending bill at the State Capitol could help multiply the money available for Mississippi outdoor spaces. Conservation Trust Fund, HB 1231.
House Bill 1231 would create the Mississippi Outdoor Stewardship Trust Fund. That would redirect a portion of the sales tax revenue from your sporting goods purchases into the land you love.
“People would have a lot more and better hunting experiences through funding of this trust fund,” explained Ed Penny, Ducks Unlimited Director of Public Policy. “The projects that we would do with these dollars all benefit Mississippi sportsmen and women and conserve wetlands in our state.”
But what if you’re not into hunting or fishing? Those backing the bill to create a conservation trust fund say you could still enjoy the benefits.
“There’s something for everybody here,” described Alex Littlejohn, The Nature Conservancy Mississippi Chapter State Director. “It could mean anything from new walking trails, to new city parks, to public land restoration on wildlife refuges and national forests, to private land conservation that we’re already seeing supported through the farm bill. We just want to see that scaled up to a size and a pace that matter.”
A new board would be formed with appointments from the Lt. Governor and Governor. That board would assess the proposals and figure out those that would have the broadest benefits. Federal dollars are available to match funds and get more bang for the buck.
“There’s literally millions if not billions of dollars available for the state of Mississippi to compete for,” noted Penny. “But what we need are these state level dollars to match with dollars from Ducks Unlimited or other organizations, other state dollars to do the work that we think we need to.”
“We see our neighbors in the southeast and we’re one of only two states that doesn’t have a dedicated conservation funding source,” Littlejohn said. “The most recent state that enacted similar legislation was Georgia. In the first year, Georgia took 20 million dollars and they leveraged 77 million in federal funds. So, they essentially took 20 million dollars and turned it into a 100 million dollar impact in that state. I want Mississippi at that table and I want to see that same result.”
It passed the House by a vote of 107-2. It will need to clear three Senate committees before being taken up by the full Senate.