The Missouri Chapter of The Wildlife Society submitted comments to the Missouri legislature noting their opposition to several pieces of legislation targeting the Missouri Department of Conservation. The legislation being considered has far-reaching impacts on funding and limiting the capacity of the Department to implement conservation actions with partner organizations.
HJR 27 and HJR 28 both propose amendments to the Missouri Constitution to alter sales tax procedures. HJR 27 reduces the sales tax, while HJR 28 increases how frequently voters need to re-approve the sales tax. The conservation sales tax was originally intended as a permanent source of funding for the Missouri Department of Conservation. Lowering the tax and requiring more frequent periodic re-approval would prevent long-term planning in the Department.
SB 56 would also greatly impact funding for the Department. The bill would eliminate hunting, fishing, and trapping permit fees for Missouri residents. In addition to lost permit sales, Missouri would also not receive funds from the Wildlife and Sport Fish Restoration Accounts, which are funded by excise taxes on guns, ammo, archery equipment, fishing tackle, and motorboat fuel taxes and based on the number of hunting, fishing, and trapping permits sold. The Wildlife and Sport Fish Restoration Programs receive about $56 million and permit sales and federal aid money annually. Passage of this bill would reduce funding to the Department significantly.
Partnerships between agencies and organizations are critical in managing natural resources. The Department has many partnerships at the state and local level with conservation and sportsmen’s organizations that provide valuable educational opportunities about natural resource management, hunting, fishing, firearms safety, and other outdoor recreation. SB 337 would ban the Conservation Commission and Department of Conservation from providing money and services to not-for-profit organizations and cease involvement in already existing partnerships with 4H, Future Farmers of America, Quail Forever, National Wild Turkey Federation, and the Audubon Society of Missouri, among others.
“The Missouri Chapter strongly supports the current funding model for the Department of Conservation,” says Tony Elliot, President of the TWS Missouri Chapter. He continues, “[The] partnerships have provided substantial benefits for the citizens and natural resources of Missouri and we feel it is essential for those to continue.”
This legislation has direct impacts on the ability of the Missouri Department of Conservation to manage wildlife for both the public and future generations. Both HJR 27 and HJR 28 have been introduced to the Missouri House of Representatives. SB 56 and SB 337 have been referred to the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Food Production and Outdoor Resources and Committee on Rules, Joint Rules, Resolutions and Ethics respectively.
|Colleen Hartel is a policy intern at The Wildlife Society as part of the Government Affairs & Partnership program.