Contact: Joe Mullin, Northeastern States Manager
Why it Matters: Sportsmen and women have played a crucial role in funding conservation efforts in the United States for over 80 years. The American System of Conservation Funding (ASCF), a “user pays – public benefits” structure in which those who consumptively use public resources pay for the privilege, and in some cases the right to do so, has served as a shining beacon for the management of fish and wildlife and their habitats. The funds collected through this program are the lifeblood of state fish and wildlife agencies (including the DNR) – the primary managers of our nation’s fish and wildlife resources. These critical conservation dollars fund a variety of on-the ground conservation efforts. In Maryland, an apportionment of $250,000, which can be used as the required non-federal match for an additional $750,000 federal dollars, will result in an additional $1,000,000 available for the DNR.
In late March, leaders of the Maryland Legislative Sportsmen’s Caucus exemplified what it means to be an advocate for sportsmen and women in our nation’s capitols. Maryland Legislative Sportsmen’s Caucus Co-Chairs Senator Jack Bailey and Delegate Ned Carey (also an Alternate Member on the National Assembly of Sportsmen’s Caucuses Executive Council) sent a letter to Governors Sportsmen’s Caucus Member Governor Larry Hogan requesting “a partial general fund offset of $250,000” for the Department of Natural Resources’ (DNR) Wildlife and Heritage Service (WHS). Ultimately, this request was included within the Governor’s Fiscal Year 2023 (FY23) Supplemental Budget, which was adopted by both the House of Delegates and Senate and currently awaits the Governor’s signature.
Hunting licenses sales are a crucial component to the American System of Conservation Funding (ASCF). However, non-federal match requirements needed to access Wildlife and Sportfish Restoration funding can also come from general fund revenue provided by a state. As a supplement to license revenue, such appropriations may be necessary for state agencies to be able to fully utilize apportioned federal funds. Through the Wildlife Restoration Program, an important pillar within the ASCF, state fish and wildlife agencies projects may be funded three federal dollars for every one non-federally sourced dollar. Essentially, $250,000 directed from Maryland’s General Fund to the WHS “to provide funds to supplement hunting license sales revenue” will be matched by $750,000 in federal dollars for a total of $1,000,000 for the WHS.
Maryland has not seen an increase in hunting license fees in over 30 years. As the Caucus’ letter to the Governor highlights, there has been a “diminished revenue flow with expanded responsibilities attendant to an increase in publicly-owned land,” further demonstrating the necessity that the WHS receive the $250,000 apportionment through the FY23 Supplemental Budget.
The Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation applauds not only the leaders of the Maryland Legislative Sportsmen’s Caucus, but also Maryland’s hunters, for their relentless efforts in securing this much-needed conservation funding for the DNR. While the ASCF remains the pinnacle of conservation funding, supplemental funding opportunities such as this represent an invaluable investment in a state’s fish and wildlife resources.
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?