By Mike Worley, Georgia Wildlife Federation
Fall is here. Opening day of deer season is behind us; waters are finally cooling down. All of us that enjoy spending time afield, whether hunting or fishing, get a bit excited this time of year. My buddies are on the coast chasing redfish. I’m in a pasture tuning up my yellow Lab, Ginee, for duck season. Hunters and anglers are always looking to the future; the next bite, the next flight, the next buck walking into range. On Election Day this year, we should look even further into the future.
Georgia Wildlife Federation houses Georgia’s nationally leading R3 (Recruit, Retain, and Reactivate) Initiative. R3 seeks to bring folks back to hunting or to recruit new hunters. As we’ve studied this issue, one of the biggest barriers of entry to our sport is a lack of places to hunt and fish. On Nov. 6, 2018, we have the opportunity to vote for Constitutional Amendment No. 1, the Georgia Outdoor Stewardship Amendment, to begin to fix that problem.
Those of us who love to hunt and fish understand the important role that our lands and waters play in our sporting traditions. What we rarely talk about, or even think about, is our impact on Georgia’s economy. In fact, according to the Georgia Department of Natural Resources, hunters in Georgia generate $977 million and anglers $1.3 billion in annual retail sales—and these two activities combined are responsible for nearly 40,000 jobs. That is an incredible impact that can continue to grow as long as land conservation and wildlife management remain a priority for our state. These are facts we need to be prepared to tell the non-sporting public. These are facts that convinced legislators to give us the opportunity to vote for Amendment 1.
We have a chance in November to make a generational impact on lands, waters and wildlife habitats. By voting yes on Constitutional Amendment 1, we are assuring the dedication of approximately $20 million annually in conservation funding to secure and maintain our lands without raising taxes or creating any new fees. A portion of this funding will go to maintaining Wildlife Management Areas (WMAs) and creating new opportunities to hunt and fish. It will also allow all who love the outdoors, not only those of us paying hunting and fishing license fees, to contribute to the protection of our natural resources. And it will provide new places for new hunters and anglers.
Why is important to do this now? Because our population continues to grow and our natural resources cannot be replaced. Less than 10 percent of land in our state is currently protected for conservation and a significant percentage of that is leased, leaving it vulnerable to future decisions of the owner. While hunters and anglers already largely fund habitat protection through license fees and excise taxes—and our state’s leaders have traditionally included funding for land acquisition and stewardship—these revenues are not enough to meet all of our land needs.
It is important to note that this amendment would not raise or create any new taxes or fees, rather it would allow outdoor enthusiasts to make a significant contribution to land conservation simply by purchasing the items they already need and use. A portion of the existing state sales tax paid in sporting goods stores would be constitutionally dedicated to protecting conservation lands. These funds would be subject to strict accountability and only be used for projects approved by the Department of Natural Resources, such as those included in Georgia’s State Wildlife Action Plan.
Georgia Wildlife Federation, the state’s oldest conservation organization, is proud to be part of a coalition that strongly supports the passage of the Georgia Outdoor Stewardship Amendment. We believe it will have an impact on our lands and wildlife that will help to sustain Georgia’s outdoor traditions for generations to come. We encourage hunters, anglers and all those who enjoy our state’s land and wildlife to join us in saying yes to this investment in our future.