Coalition Report

By Heather B. Navarro
Executive Director
Coalition For The Environment

Trouble Lurks in the Legislature Get Outside Quick!

Something’s working in Missouri, so why are some in the General Assembly trying to take it away? It’s not uncommon for Missouri to hover at the bottom of the charts for things like air quality, smoking, and emotional health. However, when it comes to conservation Missouri is often leading the way, winning awards for education and management, thanks in large part to our Conservation Sales Tax. This tax of 0.125% supports efforts to protect Missouri’s natural treasures, including ancient caves, crystal-clear lakes, and vast forests. Conservation areas throughout the state are refuges for urbanites, providing opportunities to get outside, hike, bird watch, and fish.

For almost forty years, taxpayers have been giving just one cent for every eight dollars spent to the Missouri Department of Conservation (MDC) to provide these services. The activities and projects these dollars support provide jobs and revenue throughout the state. In 2011, according to the U.S. census, 2.5 million residents and nonresidents fished, hunted, or watched wildlife. These activities generated $2.7 billion. Over $11 million in Missouri state revenue is generated each year through permits and licenses for fishing, waterfowl hunting, and boating.

Getting outdoors is vital to health, especially for our children. Spending time outside has been proven to reduce ADHD symptoms, lower stress, and prevent childhood obesity.
These opportunities depend on a system to maintain and protect our natural resources.
House Joint Resolution 27 and HJR 28, respectively, propose to cut the Conservation Sales Tax in half and force the tax to be approved by voters in 2016, 2018, and every ten years thereafter. Missouri’s enduring commitment to fund conservation efforts through the Conservation Sales Tax is something we can all be proud of. Push back has already led one legislator to withdraw a proposal to repeal the tax altogether.

We cannot expect to remain a leader in conservation if we are constantly threatening the very source of our success. Every year the tax is questioned represents another year and thousands of dollars spent playing defense – money that could be spent repairing trails, restoring habitats, and getting kids outside.

If we take away the funds to protect our state treasures, it will be a quick ride to the bottom of another list. Check out the MDC website (http://mdc.mo.gov) and you’ll find beautiful field guides, wildlife cameras, places to fish, and nature centers – resources that drive a thriving tourism industry and a healthy environment.

This spring I encourage you to contact your legislators and tell them how much you use and love Missouri’s outdoors. And more importantly, get out outside and enjoy them!

Visit www.moenviron.org to learn more.