2018 Georgia Outdoor Stewardship Act Legislation
The Georgia Outdoor Stewardship Act (HB 332) would dedicate a portion of the current sales and use tax collected on outdoor recreation equipment to land conservation. This change from appropriated to dedicated funding would allow the state to more effectively manage its land acquisition program and to leverage additional private and philanthropic investment.
Summary of Legislation
The goals for conservation established in the legislation include protection of water quality, wildlife habitat, cultural and heritage sites, and lands buffering Georgia’s military installations. Additional goals include support for economic development and provision of recreation.
Funds would come from the dedication of up to 80% of the existing state sales tax on outdoor sporting goods as classified by the North American Industry Classification System. The legislation as passed by the Georgia General Assembly proposes an initial dedicated amount of approximately $20 million annually..
Funds would be administered by the Georgia Environmental Finance Authority in the form or grants or loans and used for the acquisition or stewardship of conservation lands including:
- Areas critical to clean water supplies, wildlife or fisheries or natural resource based outdoor recreation.
- Acquisition and improvements of parks and trails within the jurisdiction of local governments.
- Maintenance or improved public access to permanently protected properties.
Only those projects approved by the Department of Natural Resources and consistent with established goals for land conservation would be eligible for consideration. The fiscal efficacy of each proposal would also be taken into account.
A companion bill (HR 238) would call for voter approval by referendum in November 2018.