Combined efforts from the Mississippi House and Senate have resulted in the passing of the Mississippi Outdoor Stewardship Trust Fund (HB 606), an appropriation to aid in providing funding for the improvement of the Mississippi outdoors.
Two bills with similar wording have been debated by legislators for months, with the main difference being where the funds would be derived.
In House’s original wording, the trust fund would be filled by sales tax from sporting goods, whereas the Senate’s bill proposed it be filled by appropriation.
Additional wording in the Senate’s bill included a cap on the trust fund of $20 million, excluding federal funds.
With the recent passing of the combined bills, legislators agreed to the Senate’s wording of where to get the funding but added that the legislature has the option to not designate funds each year.
Both sides also decided that the Governor and Lt. Governor would appoint a board of seven to oversee the funds and added a seat on several House and Senate committees.
Now, the current wording of the bill would allow the funding to be used for:
- Improvement of state park outdoor recreation features and trails.
- Restoration or enhancement on privately owned working agricultural lands and forests that support conservation of soil, water, habitat of fish and wildlife resources.
- Acquisition and improvement of parks and trails by counties and municipalities, if such parks and trails lie within the jurisdiction of such counties and municipalities.
- Restoration or enhancement projects to create or improve access to public waters and lands for public outdoor recreation, conservation education, or the safe use and enjoyment of permanently protected conservation land.
- Restoration or enhancement of wetlands, native forests, native grasslands and other unique habitats important for Mississippi’s fish and wildlife.
- Acquisition of critical areas for the provision or protection of clean water, wildlife, hunting, fishing, military installation buffering or natural resource-based outdoor recreation.
With sine die approaching, Governor Tate Reeves does not have too much time to sign the bill before the end of the 2022 legislative session.