Why It Matters: The previously amended version of House Bill 1300 sought to transfer $150,000,000 from the Pennsylvania Game Commission (PGC), which would have also jeopardized around $40,000,000 in federal conservation dollars for the state; a potential total combined revenue loss of more than $190,000,000 for conservation funding. The PGC has been tasked with managing the Commonwealth’s wildlife resources for Pennsylvanians for more than 100 years. The Game Commission does not receive any General Fund appropriations and is almost primarily funded by hunting and furtaker license sales. The fund is supplemented by State Game Lands resource extractions and federal excise taxes on sporting arms and ammunition. More than half of the Game Fund’s annual revenue comes from license sales. License fee increases cannot be implemented without approval of the General Assembly; increases historically occur every 10 years.
- House Bill 1300 (a State Appropriations Bill), was amended by the Senate to include the transfer of $150,000,000 derived from gas and oil leases on State Game Lands (purchased with revenue derived from license sales and Wildlife Restoration Funds) from the Game Commission Fund to the Clean Streams Fund. The amended version of the bill was introduced and passed by the Senate on August 30, 2023 (29-18).
- Pennsylvania’s Game Commission (PGC) received $41,067,392 in Federal funding in FY2023 from the Pittman-Robertson Wildlife Restoration Grant Fund Program. The passage and enactment of the previously written House Bill 1300 would likely declare Pennsylvania ineligible to receive future PR-Wildlife Restoration Program funding.
- House Bill 1300 was amended in the House Rules Committee on October 4, 2023, to remove the transfer of $150M from the Game Fund. The newly amended version is headed to the Senate Rules & Executive Nominations Committee for concurrence; a hearing has not yet been scheduled.
- CSF was in contact with the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, Governor’s Shapiro’s office, PA Legislative Sportsmen’s Caucus, in addition to signing onto a joint letter of opposition with other conservation organizations and submitted a letter to the Senate Rules & Executive Nominations Committee urging concurrence of removing the transfer of Game Funds.
The American System of Conservation Funding (ASCF) represents a unique “user pay – public benefit” funding cycle that has proven most effective at supporting professional fish and wildlife management in the U.S. This “Cycle of Success” starts with the funding provided by hunters, recreational shooters, anglers, and boaters. The funds collected through the excise taxes paid on their equipment purchases and through their purchase of hunting and fishing licenses are the primary source of support for state fish and wildlife agencies. The state agencies then use these funds to manage fish and wildlife populations and provide public access to these resources. Improved hunting, recreational shooting, angling, and boating opportunities results in expanded equipment purchases, which provides a growing source of funds for future fish and wildlife management.
The U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service submitted a letter to the PGC informing them of the fiscal consequences that are tied to the passage of the previously amended HB 1300. Another blow to the state’s funding resources for wildlife management and the hunting, fishing, and trapping community will come from the ineligibility to receive funding from the Pittman-Robertson Wildlife Restoration Act’s Fund Program. The PGC has worked to manage and protect wildlife and their habitats while promoting hunting and trapping for the current and future generations since 1895.
The Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation (CSF) was heavily engaged in this fight from the time the Senate amended the bill to jeopardize conservation funding, thought today. Along with engaging a wide-array of conservation partners in a community-wide effort, CSF also worked with both state and federal agency staff, worked with the Pennsylvania Legislative Sportsmen’s Caucus Co-Chairs encouraging a legislative fix, and contacted the Governor’s Office to express the warranted concerns over transferring vital conservation dollars out of the Game Fund. The PA Sportsmen & Women Policy Workgroup, whose membership includes CSF and other Non-Government Organizations focused on conservation, also submitted a letter to the Pennsylvania State Legislature and Governor Shapiro’s Office opposing the transfer of conservation dollars out of the Game Fund.
Although the protection of $190 million in critical conservation funding is a notable victory, the fight is not yet over. The work now becomes trying to keep the bill clean without the troubling language being amended back in as the bill now returns to the Senate for concurrence. CSF has already submitted a letter to the Senate Rules & Executive Nominations Committee requesting concurrence with the House’s newly amended bill, and will continue to engage on this critical issue throughout the remainder of the legislative process.
Further updates on this topic may be made available when possible.