Because Georgia relies on annual funding from the legislature, our ability to protect special places is subject to the highs and lows of the economy and the priorities of our Governor in any given year. Even in good economic times, complex, multi-year land acquisition projects have been difficult to execute. Lack of certainty about future funding has hindered Georgia’s ability to leverage additional private and philanthropic dollars for land protection.
Finally, this is about to change! In November, Georgians will have the opportunity to approve a state ballot referendum, the Georgia Outdoor Stewardship Act. If the referendum is approved, up to 80% of the state sales taxes collected on outdoor gear and put it in a dedicated fund to purchase and maintain state conservation lands. The estimated amount of the annual funding is $20 million.
Funding from the Georgia Outdoor Stewardship Act can only be used for projects that are approved by the Georgia Department of Natural Resources and consistent with these goals:
- Water quality protection for wetlands, rivers, streams, or lakes
- Protection of wildlife habitat
- Protection of cultural sites, heritage corridors, and archeological and historic resources
- Protection of land around Georgia’s military installations to ensure that missions are compatible with surrounding communities and that encroachment on military installations does not impair future missions
- Support of economic development through conservation projects; or
- Provision for recreation in the form of boating, hiking, camping, fishing, hunting, running, jogging, biking, walking, or similar outdoor activities.
The legislation provides the General Assembly with the ability to adjust the amount of dedicated funding up or down based upon fluctuations in the state’s economy and overall revenue collections.