Working To Establish A Legacy
It has been nearly 20 years since Georgians have been able to voice their support for land and water conservation funding in our state. In that time, Georgia has seen recession, severe drought and new questions regarding how to best conserve our land and water as populations continue to grow.
With the goal of conserving Georgia’s precious natural resources – its people, jobs, land and water – through a sustainable source of funding for land and water conservation, The Georgia Conservancy, The Nature Conservancy, Trust for Public Land, Georgia Wildlife Federation, The Conservation Fund and Park Pride joined forces in 2010 as a coalition called Georgia Legacy.
Our state currently lacks a dedicated funding mechanism for the conservation for priority lands, the stewardship of state parks and wildlife management areas, and the support of local parks and preserves - Georgia Legacy seeks to change that.
House Bill 693, introduced by Rep. Jon Burns (R-159) during the 2015 legislative session, would establish the Georgia Legacy Trust Fund, wherein 75% of all tax revenue collected annually from the sale of outdoor recreation equipment would be dedicated for the purpose of the protection and preservation of conservation land.
Georgia Legacy would:
- Provide for the acquisition of critical areas for the provision or protection of clean water, game, wildlife, or fisheries, or natural-resource-based outdoor recreation.
- Aid local governments in the acquisition and improvement of local parks and trails.
- Provide for the stewardship of conservation lands through maintenance and restoration projects.
From within the Georgia Legacy Trust Fund, dollars would also be made available in each fiscal year for loans to any city, county, or nongovernmental entity to defray the costs of acquisition of conservation land or of conservation easements placed upon property that ensure its permanent protection as conservation land.
To allow for the dedicated allocation of tax revenue into the Georgia Legacy Trust Fund, the Constitution of Georgia would first have to be amended. House Resolution 907, introduced by Rep. Burns, would seek to accomplish this through the creation of a ballot initiative presented to Georgia voters during the fall 2016 election cycle.
HR 907 proposes the following ballot initiave language:
- (Y/N) "Without increasing taxes, shall the Constitution of Georgia be amended to create the Georgia Legacy Trust Fund to protect lands that preserve drinking water sources and the water quality of rivers, lakes, and streams; to protect and conserve forests, fish, and wildlife habitat, and state and local parks; and to provide opportunities for our children and families to play and enjoy the outdoors, by dedicating, subject to full public disclosure, 75% of the existing sales tax on outdoor recreation equipment to such purposes without increasing the current state sales tax rate?"
The introduction of House Bill 693 and House Resolution 907 during the 2015 legislative session ensures that the measures will be taken up by the House in 2016 and will also provide the Georgia Conservancy and our Georgia partners with the opportunity to work with legislators to improve or amend the bill and resolution language before the start of next year's session.
If you have an opportunity – reach out and tell your State Representative or State Senator that you want them to support Georgia Legacy legislation.
The Georgia Conservancy and our Georgia Legacy partners support the passage of Georgia Legacy legislation and thank the sponsors for its introduction. We believe that the protection of our natural resources should not suffer during economic up-and-downs and that a dedicated and sustainable source of funding for land and water conservation will not only prove beneficial to our state’s environment, but also to our economy.