Rep. Watson Introduces Georgia Outdoor Stewardship Act

Staff Report From Georgia CEO

Tuesday, February 21st, 2017

State Representative Sam Watson (R-Moultrie) recently introduced the Georgia Outdoor Stewardship Act, or House Bill 332, legislation that would create a dedicated source of funding for land conservation throughout Georgia. Additionally, House Resolution 238, companion legislation that would call for a required voter referendum in November 2018, would propose that 75 percent of the existing sales and use tax on outdoor recreation equipment be dedicated for the protection of the state’s water, wildlife and quality of life.

“Georgia’s continued growth is an incredible blessing, but it also presents a challenge as we work to maintain the critical balance between building our economy and protecting our quality of life.  For our state to remain a place where people want to live and companies want to locate, we must be proactive with regard to the protection of our natural resources so that they are not lost for future generations,” said Rep. Watson. “The Georgia Outdoor Stewardship Act supports the mutual goals of supporting economic development and protecting lands, water and wildlife at no additional cost to our citizens.”

The Georgia Outdoor Stewardship Act would not only support the state’s land conservation efforts, but the legislation would also provide dedicated funding to protect and preserve other environmental areas of immediate need in Georgia. For example, this legislation would provide funding for the protection of the gopher tortoise, which if classified as an endangered species would trigger new federal regulations that could impact economic development in certain areas of the state.  This legislation would also protect the lands surrounding Georgia’s military installations to ensure that missions are compatible with surrounding communities and that encroachment issues do not affect the future missions of Georgia’s military installations.

“It is estimated that the Georgia Outdoor Stewardship Act would generate as much as $40 million annually through a portion of the sales and use tax already collected on equipment used for hunting, fishing, wildlife watching and other outdoor recreational activities,” added Rep. Watson.  “In addition, the shift from annually appropriated to dedicated funding would better position Georgia to compete for additional federal, private and philanthropic investment.”

“While we have been fortunate to have a legacy of leaders committed to supporting land conservation through the appropriations process, there are needs that need to be addressed quickly before they impact our future economy and quality of life. We believe this is a viable solution and look forward to working with members of the General Assembly as they consider this important legislation,” said Robert Ramsay, president of the Georgia Conservancy.