The Mississippi Legislature appropriated $10 million for the fund last year. Governor Reeves has appointed Ricky Flynt to oversee the program.
During the 2022 Mississippi Legislative session, lawmakers passed legislation (House Bill 606) which created the Mississippi Outdoor Stewardship Trust Fund. The trust fund considers projects that seek to improve state parks, increase access to public waters, and enhance conservation of fish and wildlife resources.
The trust fund can hold a total of $20 million. The Legislature appropriated half – $10 million – during the 2022 Session.
On Friday, Governor Tate Reeves announced that the grant program is now accepting applications. He also announced the appointment of Ricky D. Flynt as Project Manager Supervisor for the program, effective February 1, 2023.
“From our rivers and forests to our farmlands and coastlines, Mississippi is truly blessed with a wealth of natural beauty,” said Governor Tate Reeves. “We have a duty to preserve our land and ensure that our kids have similar opportunities to enjoy it. This Trust Fund and Mr. Flynt will both play key roles in Mississippi’s critical conservation efforts.”
Monies from the Trust Fund may only be used and expended for the following purposes:
- Improvement of state park outdoor recreation features and trails.
- Acquisition and improvement of parks and trails by counties and municipalities, if such parks and trails lie within the jurisdiction of such counties and municipalities.
- Restoration or enhancement projects to create or improve access to public waters and lands for public outdoor recreation, conservation education, or the safe use and enjoyment of permanently protected conservation land.
- Restoration or enhancement on privately owned working agricultural lands and forests that support conservation of soil, water, habitat of fish and wildlife resources.
- Restoration or enhancement of wetlands, native forests, native grasslands and other unique habitats important for Mississippi’s fish and wildlife.
- Acquisition of critical areas for the provision or protection of clean water, wildlife, hunting, fishing, military installation buffering or natural resource-based outdoor recreation.
The trust fund application states that real property may only be acquired when the property is, at the time of acquisition, being leased by the state as a wildlife management area; adjoins or is in close proximity to state or federal wildlife management areas or state parks, or would provide better public access to such areas; is identified in a wildlife action plan developed by a state agency; constitutes riparian lands, and its acquisition is for the purpose of protecting any drinking water supply; or surrounds a military base or military installation.
The Mississippi Department of Finance and Administration (DFA) said that unless trust funds are paid in reimbursement of project expenditure(s) approved retrospectively by the Board, a county, municipality, state agency or nongovernmental entity receiving trust funds for a project pursuant to the Act must expend the funds within two (2) years of receipt.
“If a county, municipality, state agency or nongovernmental entity receiving funds does not expend the funds within two (2) years after receipt, the receiving entity must provide an accounting of the unused funds and reason(s) for failure to expend the funds,” DFA continued. “If the Board determines the project will not be completed in a timely manner, the county, municipality, state agency or nongovernmental entity may be required to return the unexpended funds.”
To learn more about the Mississippi Outdoor Stewardship Trust Fund or to apply, click here.