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State Rep. Matt Dubnik’s first home-grown bill to benefit wetlands
Matt Dubnik

Wish a happy bird day to Rep. Matt Dubnik, R-Gainesville, who passed his first home-grown bill through the Georgia General Assembly on Wednesday: House Bill 784, benefiting waterfowl and wetlands conservation in Georgia.

The bill creates a specialty license plate carrying the Ducks Unlimited logo, which will raise money for the Department of Natural Resources to dedicate to the cause of the plate: conserving and restoring wetlands. The mechanics work in the same way as other license plate legislation, including the bee bill sponsored by Rep. Emory Dunahoo, R-Gillsville. That bill is still in the Senate hopper.

Dubnik passed his true first bill out of the legislature earlier this month, but that bill was a minor piece of legislation that he had been asked to carry by House leadership and that didn’t affect his district, he said.

“I will probably remember this one as my first one,” Dubnik said, laughing, about HB 784.

Dubnik has been involved with Ducks Unlimited for the past 15 years, including a 6-year stint as head of fundraising for the group in Georgia. Each year, the environmental conservation group raises more than $2 million in the state.

“More than 90 percent of members claim to be hunters, but we’re not a political activist group around hunting,” Dubnik said on Wednesday, March 15. “We certainly embrace our hunting heritage, but we’re in the land conservation business.”

The group has a presence in all 50 states, Canada and Mexico and each year raises about $225 million for conservation of wetlands throughout North America.

In Georgia, wetlands are concentrated along the coast, following the Flint River and in Southwest Georgia, Dubnik said, but even waterfowl that aren’t native to Georgia can be found in the state during migrations.

“While they may not call Georgia home, they’re passing through,” he said.

Wetlands also help provide clean drinking water in coastal Georgia because they act as a “natural filtration system” and can help prevent storm surges during hurricanes.

At more than $20 per year, per tag raised through the legislation — and about 20,000 members of Ducks Unlimited in Georgia — the wetlands license plate could raise serious money each year for wetlands projects.

“All those moneys that are generated by the sales of those tags will stay in the DNR budget … specifically in the Wildlife Resource Division to be earmarked for wetlands work here in Georgia,” Dubnik said.

Cash raised through specialty license plates can also be used as an anchor for other money.

“Ducks Unlimited is actually the No. 1 partner for the Georgia DNR (on wetlands projects). We can bring matching dollars,” he said.

With HB 784 passed by both the House and Senate, the bill will head to Gov. Nathan Deal’s desk this year for his signature.