Why It Matters: Sportsmen and women (comprising hunters, anglers, recreational shooters, and trappers) have played a historic role in funding conservation efforts in the United States for over 85 years. The funds collected through license sales and excise taxes on sporting goods in the unique “user pays – public benefits” structure of the American System of Conservation Funding (ASCF) are used by state fish and wildlife agencies to conduct many different conservation efforts. Over the last thirty years, sporting pursuits like hunting and trapping have seen concerning decreases in participation, which S. 130 aims to address by teaching students the importance of these activities for both the North American Model of Wildlife Management and the ASCF. New England State Coordinator Joe Bachar testified in support of this legislation via Zoom to the Joint Committee on Education and Cultural Affairs.
- On March 6, the Maine Joint Committee on Education and Public Affairs hosted a hearing on Senate Bill 30 (S. 130) , which was introduced by Maine Legislative Sportsmen’s Caucus member and former Co-Chair Senator Matt Pouliot.
- 130 would require the University of Maine System and Maine Community College System to offer a for-credit course on hunting, fishing, recreational shooting, and trapping.
- The Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation’s (CSF) New England States Coordinator, Joe Bachar, testified in support of the bill, highlighting the crucial role that sportsmen and women have in funding state-level conservation efforts and the importance of recruiting the next generation’s hunters, anglers, recreational shooters, and trappers.
Education on the economic and social importance of sporting activities, including hunting, angling, recreational shooting, and trapping, is critical in addressing the declining or stagnating rates of participation in certain pursuits, such as hunting and trapping. Former Maine Legislative Sportsmen’s Caucus Co-Chair Senator Matt Pouliot introduced a bill in Maine – Senate Bill 130 (S. 130) – that would require the University of Maine System and Maine Community College System to offer a course in which students would earn credit for hands-on experience in these sporting pursuits.
Partial inspiration for this bill originated from a presentation at the 2022 National Assembly of Sportsmen’s Caucuses Sportsman-Legislator Summit in Bozeman MT by Boone and Crocket Professor of Wildlife Conservation Joshua Millspaugh. Professor Millspaugh teaches Applied Wildlife Management at the University of Montana, where students have the opportunity to learn about the importance of hunting, fishing and trapping, and take part in the activities themselves. This course provides a unique experience to students who will make up the next generation of wildlife biologists, natural resource managers, policy makers, and conservation organization leaders.
Introducing sporting activities to students at any age can help to prevent further declines in participation – a trend that spans more than three decades. Legislative initiatives (such as S. 130) are crucial steps in the recruitment, retention, and reactivation of sportsmen and women, which subsequentially serve to maintain funding for state fish and wildlife agencies.
The Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation applauds Senator Pouliot for his leadership with S. 130 and for dedicating his efforts towards providing a meaningful participation pathway for college students to gain exposure to our sporting traditions.