Whether you’re a hiker, hunter, angler, nature viewer or all-around conservationist, there is a compelling reason to vote on November 6.
Democrat, Republican or Independent, it doesn’t matter. The need to protect public lands and waters, wildlife, outdoor recreation opportunities and our national outdoor heritage crosses party lines.
On Tuesday, voters in some states will have the opportunity to cast their ballot in support of these important resources and traditions via specific legislation. Up for deliberation are the rights of citizens to hunt and fish, both the renewal of existing and the allocation of new funds for acquiring and improving public lands, the need to ensure opportunities for public input regarding the sale of public lands, and more. Below is a breakdown of some of these measures.
The need to protect public lands and waters, wildlife, outdoor recreation opportunities and our national outdoor heritage crosses party lines.
Yet regardless of whether you live in a state where you will have the opportunity to decide such issues, all voters have the ability to positively impact conservation through the lawmakers they choose to elect.
Georgia Stewardship Act
In Georgia, a state where approximately just 4 percent of all land is federally owned, a new constitutional amendment aims to increase funding for conservation and the acquisition and management of public lands. The Georgia Stewardship Act would allocate up to 80 percent of the state’s current sales tax on outdoor sporting goods — as classified by the North American Industry Classification System — to both improve the condition of existing state parks and wildlife management areas and purchase land for new ones, according to the Atlanta Business Chronicle. Funds would also go toward the protection of water sources and wildlife habitats. Signed by Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal in May, the passage of the act would create a long-term sustainable source of funding for conservation in Georgia. The legislation is projected to generate around $20 million annually for a period of 10 years, at which point it would be up for renewal.
North Carolina Right to Hunt and Fish Amendment
More of a preemptive measure than a response to any real threat, the North Carolina Right to Hunt and Fish Amendment is meant to upgrade hunting and fishing from a simple privilege to a constitutional right; according to its language, the legislation would protect “the right of the people to hunt, fish, and harvest wildlife.” The amendment also indicates that hunting and fishing are the preferred means of managing wildlife. Opponents argue the measure is an attempt to draw a certain demographic to the polls, while supporters of the legislation say it is necessary to protect the state’s hunting and fishing heritage. Twenty-one states currently have in place similar measures that guarantee residents’ constitutional right to hunt and fish.
Connecticut’s Question 2
Designed to ensure government transparency and accountability and protect public lands, Connecticut’s Question 2 would make sure the public has input on the selling off of state-owned land. Specifically, it would amend the state constitution to “protect lands held by the Department of Energy & Environmental Protection (e.g. state parks, state-owned farms, forests, trails, wildlife management areas, etc.) or the Department of Agriculture from being sold, converted, swapped, or given away without first receiving a public hearing and a two-thirds vote from the General Assembly,” according to The Trust for Public Land. Some say the measure is a reaction to a yearly trend by the legislature of selling or transferring state-owned land — sometimes state parks or conservation lands — without a public hearing.
Twenty-one states currently have in place similar measures that guarantee residents’ constitutional right to hunt and fish.
Montana’s Open Space, Rivers and Farmland
The renewal of the Missoula County Open Space Bond and City Stewardship Levy would provide funding to protect more than 15,000 acres and 40-plus miles of river in Missoula, Mont. Initially passed in 2006, the bond has since been depleted, but voters will have the opportunity to approve an additional $15 million for conservation funding in the county. In the city, the legislation includes a $500,000 levy for park stewardship. The renewal of the Open Space Bond and City Stewardship Levy will allow for a continued focus on conservation, public land accessibility, trail maintenance and creation, the promotion of healthy activities, and more.
Colorado Ballot Issue 1A
Known as the conservation initiative, Issue 1A — on the ballot in Chaffee County, Colo. — is largely the result of concerns expressed by citizens regarding the impact of wildfires and increased outdoor recreation on forest health, water quality and wildlife habitats. The measure proposes a tax increase of 0.25 percent — one-fourth of every cent — for county residents. If passed, it is projected to raise more than $1 million annually for conservation. According to The Trust for Public Land, this money would go toward strengthening forest health and reducing the risk of wildfires; supporting ranches, farms and rural landscapes; protecting water quality and quantity; helping manage the effects of the increased use of trails, campsites and rivers; and conserving and protecting wildlife habitat from wildfires.