March 22, 2016

Congressional Sportsmen’s Caucus Leadership Introduces Legislation to Enhance Wildlife Conservation

House Congressional Sportsmen’s Caucus leadership unveiled legislation titled, Modernizing the Pittman-Robertson Fund for Tomorrow’s Needs, at a Breakfast Briefing on March 22 hosted by the Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation (CSF) and Archery Trade Association (ATA).

The Briefing was attended by several Congressional Sportsmen’s Caucus (CSC) Members in addition to congressional staffers and representatives from the sportsmen’s conservation community. CSF President Jeff Crane, along with CSC Co-Chairs Congressmen Rob Wittman (VA) and Tim Walz (MN) welcomed attendees and introduced the policy topic.

“The unique American System of Conservation Funding, started by the Pittman-Robertson fund, is a ‘user pays – public benefits’ system. Hunters and anglers are the true conservationists, and through their contributions the public can enjoy wildlife and access to the outdoors,” said Crane. “Modernizing this fund is an important step in advancing our nation’s hunting heritage and furthering state-based conservation efforts.”

CSC Vice-Chair Congressman Jeff Duncan (SC) spoke about the introduction of legislation in the House of Representatives. “We aren’t raising any taxes or imposing any new surcharges on [hunting] purchases, we just want to redirect and allow some of that money to be used in different ways,” said Congressman Duncan. “The purpose of the Pittman-Robertson Fund is to extend assistance to the states for promotion of hunting and recreational shooting. It includes activities and projects that the funds can be used for and ensures that traditional wildlife conservation remains the primary focus.”

Specifically, the bill would expand the Multistate Conservation Grant program by providing an additional $5 million annually, from archery tax collections, for hunter and recreational shooter recruitment and promotion. It also clarifies that traditional wildlife conservation remains the primary focus of the Pittman-Robertson fund.

On March 16, similar legislation was introduced in the Senate as bill number S. 2690.

Ron Regan, Executive Director of the Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies spoke on behalf of state agencies across the country. “The state fish and wildlife agencies all support this legislation,” said Regan. “It’s around 75 percent of your state fish and wildlife agency budget that is driven by hunters, anglers, and the boating community, and the agencies will be at the table trying to advance this legislation.”

Mitch King, ATA Director of Government Relations spoke about the need for a national plan that can be implemented at a local level. “Urbanization has made [hunting and recreational shooting] more difficult. With this legislation, we are recognizing how important access is to keeping the Pittman-Robertson fund alive,” said King. “We need to make sure Pittman-Robertson provides the tools and the funding to empower state agencies efforts.”

Studies conducted at both the state and federal level have found that the number of hunters and trappers have been on a generally declining trend over the past several decades. To increase recruitment, retention, and reactivation (R3) of hunters and trappers, which initiative do you think would have the greatest impact?

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