Conservation funding headlines wildlife issues

Published 8:50 pm Thursday, December 28, 2023

BROOKHAVEN — Legislators return to Jackson next week and work in the Wildlife, Fisheries and Parks committees is expected to further conservation funding. In previous years, legislators approved an increase of funding for Mississippi’s State Parks system and created the Mississippi Outdoor Stewardship Trust Fund. 

Money raised in the  Mississippi’s Outdoor Stewardship Trust Fund saw its first round of awards last year including a local project in Copiah County at Camp Kamassa. Nearby Mahannah Wildlife Management Area outside of Vicksburg was a recipient of key funding for water infrastructure repairs as were several other WMAs across the state. 

Bill Kinkade, Mississippi House Representative in Marshall County, served as the chairman of the Wildlife, Fisheries and Parks committee last year. It is not known yet if he will head the committee again but he would love to have the opportunity to do so. 

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“I’ve really enjoyed it. As a working chairman, I’ve worked diligently and would love to be a chairman again. I’m prepared,” Kinkade said. “We are going into year two of our Outdoor Stewardship Trust Fund and our second year of funding is going well. We hope to be able to fund a third year.” 

Legislators approved nearly $63 million for projects to renovate Mississippi’s State Park System. Kinkade said the committee has been progressive in the last four years to continue the effort to enhance the state park system. 

Mississippi Department of Wildlife, Fisheries and Parks Executive Director Lynn Posey said they hope to get continued funding for the state parks. 

“We have done a lot of work and have more to get done,” he said. “We hope more funding is extended. We are about to complete Phase One of our park projects. When you figure the money the legislature gave us and the money matched with ARPA funds we have spent $60 to $70 million on state parks and will try to spend that much  more to completely finish the park system.” 

Every State Park completely owned by the MDWFP will have project plans and new cabins. Posey said they will work to improve RV pads and create some new dirt bike trails and bikes at Lake Lincoln State Park. Everything is closely tied to the legislature though as 10 percent of MDWFP’s funding comes from the legislature and 90 percent comes from license sales. 

One way the legislature could help the department in 2024 is by passing legislation to create a new turkey stamp. The stamp would then fund conservation projects in the state, Posey said. The stamp would likely be between $5 to $10, similar to the Mississippi duck stamp, and would help the state determine how many turkey hunters are in Mississippi. MDWFP did not have the authority to enact a turkey stamp and would need the legislature to pass it. 

Concern for Mississippi’s turkey population has been a topic of discussion at several commission meetings and this spring hunters voiced their support for a creation of a turkey stamp to enhance turkey habitat and fund research. 

“I’m considering a turkey stamp in our state. It is time we consider our turkey habitat and predator control and work to enhance our turkey habitat,” Kinkade said. “The turkey stamp is a resource for habitat improvement and predator control so we can improve our turkey population.”