Get Ready to Vote for the Georgia Outdoor Stewardship Act
As the 2018 legislative session came to a close a few days ago, a bipartisan group of Georgia lawmakers passed the Georgia Outdoor Stewardship Act (GOSA).
As a fifth-generation Georgian, long-time advisory council member of The Trust for Public Land and an advocate for greenspace issues, I urge all Georgians to support this important initiative. The Georgia Outdoor Stewardship Act will appear on the ballot in November.
If approved, GOSA will dedicate up to 80 percent of the existing sales tax on outdoor sporting goods to the protection of the Georgia’s parks, conservation lands and waters without raising or creating any new taxes or fees, with an initial dedicated amount of $20 million annually to:
- Acquire and improve parks and trails in cities and counties across the state so that all Georgians have easy access to places to play, relax and connect outdoors.
- Protect lands critical to clean drinking water and the quality of Georgia’s lakes, rivers and streams.
- Maintain and improve access to wildlife management areas and create additional opportunities for hunting and fishing.
- Help the state attract more private and philanthropic conservation investment by initiating critical conservation efforts worthy of broader support.
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 established goals for conservation. 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.
This is not Georgia’s first attempt at creating dedicated funding for greenspace and conservation. The Georgia Heritage Fund was on the ballot in 1998. When it narrowly failed at the ballot box, I went to the state archives in Clayton County and reviewed the vote tabulations county by county. What I found was that the proposal passed in our most populous counties but fell short in other parts of our state.
In the intervening years, many who were committed to this effort have worked to demonstrate to all Georgians that healthy lands and waters are worthy of investment. A coalition of leading conservation organizations – including The Trust for Public Land, The Conservation Fund, Georgia Conservancy, Georgia Wildlife Federation, The Nature Conservancy and Park Pride – came together to rethink, to plan, and to craft what became the Georgia Outdoor Stewardship Act.
At the Trust for Public Land, a national organization dedicated to ensuring that all people have close and convenient access to public lands, we have witnessed the impact that legislation such as GOSA can have on communities. Many states have adopted dedicated funding streams for land conservation; North Carolina, South Carolina, Florida and Alabama all spend more per capita than Georgia on land conservation. The Georgia Outdoor Stewardship Act will align us with these visionary efforts in our neighboring states.
Many Georgians, past and present, have worked to bring us to this precipice – and it is now up to voters. As we look toward November, every voter must consider how much the playground in their neighborhood park means to their family. Every voter must consider the value of the memories made camping and hiking at our state parks. Every voter must consider the importance of the clean water that flows to our homes. Polling indicates that eight in ten voters support the Georgia Outdoor Stewardship Act; when you vote “Yes” for GOSA in November, you will be doing your part to protect our natural resources for future generations of Georgians.
Andrew Feiler is a civic leader and long-time greenspace advocate. He has served on the advisory council of The Trust for Public Land in Georgia since 2004.
Featured image: Copyright: Byron Jorjorian. River scene with boulders and reflections of fall colors in the Amicalola River, Amicalola Falls State Park, Georgia