Outdoor Stewardship Trust Fund to be filled with an appropriation not a sales tax diversion.

Both chambers in Mississippi Legislature have signed off on the House’s Outdoor Stewardship Trust Fund bill after the legislation went to conference and being recommitted earlier this week for changes to allow for Legislative oversight.

“This is going to be a program that will effect conservation for generations to come in Mississippi,” said Senator Neil Whaley chairman of Wildlife, Fisheries and Parks. “Cannot express how happy I am to know that we go this done for he people of the state.”

The major change to HB 606 is that the fund will be filled through an appropriation by the Legislature and not a sales tax diversion. There is a cap of $20 million, excluding federal funds, that can go into the fund, but there is no obligation for the Legislature to appropriate a certain amount each year.

The original language of the bill from the House authored by Rep. Trey Lamar (R) would have diverted sales tax from sporting goods sales to the fund.

Another change made, after the bill was recommitted to conference earlier this week added a seat for on the advisory committee for both House and Senate Appropriations and Ways and Means committees as well as Wildlife, Fisheries and Parks.

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The Senate also had a bill this year with the same title, however while it created the same fund, it said it would be filled with appropriations by the Legislature with the same $20 million cap.

Since the filing of the conference report, the fund would be overseen by a board of seven persons made up of members appointed by the Governor and Lt. Governor. The members would have authority to divert monies within the fund to various projects that meet certain criteria.

Dollars can be used for the following purposes: 

  • Improvement of state park outdoor recreation 182 features and trails.
  • Acquisition and improvement of parks and 184 trails by counties and municipalities, if such parks and trails 185 lie within the jurisdiction of such counties and municipalities.
  • Restoration or enhancement projects to 187 create or improve access to public waters and lands for public 188 outdoor recreation, conservation education, or the safe use and 189 enjoyment of permanently protected conservation land.
  • Restoration or enhancement on privately owned 191 working agricultural lands and forests that support conservation 192 of soil, water, habitat of fish and wildlife resources.
  • Restoration or enhancement of wetlands, native 194 forests, native grasslands and other unique habitats important for 195 Mississippi’s fish and wildlife.
  • Acquisition of critical areas for the 197 provision or protection of clean water, wildlife, hunting, 198 fishing, military installation buffering or natural resource-based 199 outdoor recreation.

These projects can include public and private lands.

Under the bill the Legislature would not be required to appropriate any dollars but could use federal money and even American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA), if allowable, to fill the fund. The funds must be expended within two years of receipt.