FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
February 24, 2017
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OUTDOOR STEWARDSHIP ACT GOOD FOR LAND AND WILDLIFE
Covington, GA – For many families in Georgia, hunting and fishing are rich traditions that go back generations. Calendars are planned around the prime seasons for various species and celebratory meals feature both what was caught and stories about how it was done.
In recent years, we’ve seen a new generation of Georgians begin to enjoy these traditions. More millennials are starting to hunt and fish, appreciating the connection it provides both to their food and the land. In addition, women have become the fastest growing demographic in the outdoors and shooting sports. These trends are extremely positive for the future of wildlife and wildlife habitat.
According to the most recent National Survey of Fishing, Hunting and Wildlife Recreation, Georgia experiences an annual economic benefit of $5.5 billion from wildlife-dependent recreation. As interest in these outdoor activities continues to grow, it is reasonable to expect this number to multiply. That is, as long as we continue to make land conservation and wildlife management a priority for our state.
We are fortunate to have leaders in Georgia who appreciate the importance of our lands, streams and wildlife habitats. The state’s annual budget typically includes a significant amount of funding for land acquisition, leases and stewardship. Just in the six years since Governor Deal took office the state has permanently acquired nearly 60,000 acres of conservation lands, an incredible investment for our outdoors enthusiasts. But as Georgia’s population continues to grow, we must do more. Less than 10% 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 contribute significantly to habitat protection through license fees and excise taxes, these revenues will never be enough to meet all of our land conservation needs.
The Georgia Outdoor Stewardship Act, which has been recently introduced to the General Assembly, proposes a solution that would generate as much as $40 million in annual, dedicated funding for land conservation. It would do so by dedicating 75% of the existing sales tax on outdoor recreation equipment. This proposal 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.
According to the Georgia Department of Natural Resources, 1.4 million anglers spend $1.3 billion every year on their passion, and 630,000 hunters spend nearly $1 billion solely on retail sales. When you add in wildlife watching and other outdoor recreation, significant dollars are being spent every year in Georgia that could directly support these growing pastimes by ensuring funds are always available to protect lands, keep streams and lakes clean, maintain access to parks and preserving our coastlines.
About Georgia Wildlife Federation
The 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 Act. We believe it will have an impact on our lands and wildlife that will allow Georgia’s outdoor traditions to continue for generations to come. We encourage hunters, anglers and all those who enjoy our state’s land and wildlife to join us in encouraging the members of the General Assembly to say yes to this investment in our future.