Conservation Community Prepares to Defend MDC Funding

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A repeal of the Conservation Sales Tax would end trout stockings, along with most conservation programs, and would put business owners like Phil Lilley out of business.

A repeal of the Conservation Sales Tax would end trout stockings, along with most conservation programs, and would put business owners like Phil Lilley out of business.

Before the 2015 Missouri Legislative Session could even begin, bills were pre-filed to repeal the conservation sales tax and to eliminate fees for fishing, hunting and trapping permits. If this incredulous proposed legislation were to become law, conservation as we know it in Missouri would cease to exist.

Representative Craig Redmon (4th District) introduced House Joint Resolution 8. It calls for a complete repeal of Missouri’s conservation sales tax through a ballot measure. This means, “That at the next general election to be held in the state of Missouri, on Tuesday next following the first Monday in November, 2016, or at a special election to be called by the governor for that purpose, the next time there is a general election held in the state of Missouri,” voters will decide whether to sustain or repeal the conservation sales tax.

First of all, it is vitally important to understand what the conservation sales tax is. In Missouri, our general state sales and use tax is 4.225 percent, which is distributed into four funds to finance portions of state government. Those are: general revenue (3.0 percent), education (1.0 percent), conservation (0.125 percent), and parks, soils and water (0.1 percent).

So when you spend $8 on taxable goods, one penny of the sales tax collected goes to conservation (8.0 x .00125 = .01). Over the course of MDC’s fiscal year 2014, those pennies added up to $107,076,440. The sales tax revenue makes up 59 percent of MDC’s funding. It provides woodlands filled with wildlife, waters teeming with fish, public shooting ranges, hiking trails, rural fire protection, native species restoration, education centers, seedlings, The Conservationist and Xplor magazines, and so much more. Without the conservation sales tax, we would lose all of this. And for what? It’s not like the money can just be redistributed. The tax would just go away. Individuals would only save a few dollars a year, but would lose the conservation programs they cherish.

Most of the rest of MDC’s funding comes from permit sales and federal reimbursements. Those funding sources are also under threat of elimination.

Senator Brian Munzlinger (18th District) introduced Senate Bill 56. It reads, “The department of conservation and its permit issuing agents shall not charge a permit fee for the acquisition of a hunting, fishing, or trapping permit for a Missouri resident.”

Eliminating fees for hunting, fishing and trapping permits would strip another $40,000,000 from the Department’s funding. MDC would not only lose the permit fees, but also associated federal reimbursements.

The Department of Conservation’s budget represents less than one percent of the entire state budget, and the Department receives no state general revenue. If HJR 8 and SB 56 were to pass, the Department would be left with basically nothing to fund the programs, places and pastimes you and your family cherish.

Here are just a few examples of losses Missouri citizens will endure if these bills pass:

  • Closure of Department shooting ranges
  • Closure of Department Nature Centers
  • Elimination of partnerships with rural fire departments
  • Closure of fish hatcheries
  • Elimination of public and private fish stockings
  • Closure of Department maintained boat accesses
  • Significant reduction in habitat work on conservation areas
  • Significant reduction in resource enforcement by conservation agents
  • Most fish and wildlife research projects and monitoring will end
  • Significant reduction in efforts to control invasive species
  • Limited support for the Share the Harvest Program

Why attack our Department of Conservation? The Department is the catalyst of recreation for millions of Missourians. And hunting, fishing, trapping, outdoor recreation and forest management supports 100,000 Missouri jobs and has an economic impact of over $12 billion dollars. Conservation works in Missouri. It is one of our most powerful economic engines in the state.

Missourians cannot stand idly by and let these catastrophic losses occur. These blatant attacks on our Department of Conservation must end. It is going to take a significant amount of citizen involvement to defend one of the greatest state conservation agencies operating in America today.

See you down the trail…

Brandon Butler


Brandon Butler is the Executive Director of the Conservation Federation of Missouri.


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