By Kent Keene, Lower Midwestern States Coordinator
I, like many rural Midwesterners, fell in love with hunting and fishing at an early age. In fact, hunting was basically all that I thought about for many of my formative years. In retrospect, this is probably why I could never keep a high school girlfriend between the months of September and January. My love for our sporting heritage eventually inspired me to pursue a career as a wildlife management biologist.
Following college, I began a graduate research program at Auburn University. Although it took some time to realize it, I – a hunter – worked on research projects designed to benefit (among other things) hunters, that was funded by, you guessed it, hunters! By purchasing licenses and paying self-imposed excise taxes on firearms, ammunition, archery equipment, fishing tackle, and motorboat fuel, hunters and anglers are contributing the bulk of money that is then used to fund wildlife and fisheries research, conservation, management, and public access to our fish and wildlife resources. As sportsmen and women, we literally love what we do so much that we’re more than willing to purchase the necessary licenses to go afield and pay excise taxes that were originally established by sportsmen-conservationists. This unique “user pays–public benefits” structure of fish and wildlife management funding is known as the American System of Conservation Funding (ASCF).
However, the contributions of hunters and anglers don’t stop there. In 2018, CSF, along with the American Sportfishing Association and National Shooting Sports Foundation, released a series of reports detailing the expenditures made for hunting, target shooting and sportfishing gear and services based on the US Fish and Wildlife Service’s most recent 5-year survey. Among other data points, the reports noted that in 2016 alone, hunting and angling supported 1.6 million jobs and provided $72 billion in salaries and wages. These monies also generated nearly $20 billion in local, state and federal tax revenue, much of which benefits vital conservation and educational programs that improve our outdoor areas for all who enjoy them and make hunting and shooting safer activities.
To recognize and celebrate the historic and ongoing contributions of hunters and anglers, our nation celebrated the 47th annual National Hunting and Fishing Day (NHFD) on Saturday, September 28. I was fortunate enough to join Governors Sportsmen’s Caucus (GSC) member Nebraska Governor Pete Ricketts for a NHFD proclamation signing ceremony in Lincoln on September 23. During the ceremony, Governor Ricketts spoke of the history and legacy of Nebraska’s hunters and anglers, including both their economic contributions and their role in preserving Nebraska’s heritage. He also signed a pledge to work with a novice hunter during the upcoming hunting season in an effort to recruit the current and next generation of sportsmen and women.
Similarly, CSF staff are working with our partners to promote hunting and angling recruitment, retention, and reactivation (collectively referred to as “R3”) efforts nationwide. In addition to the promotion of NHFD by our elected officials, many state fish and wildlife agencies also held NHFD-associated events to introduce newcomers to hunting and fishing, and to note the critical role that these activities play in ensuring professional management of our nation’s fish and wildlife.
NHFD was established with the unanimous passage of two Congressional resolutions in 1972, with President Nixon signing the first NHFD proclamation that year. Since then, NHFD has grown into a major national holiday. As in years past, we at the Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation (CSF) are again proud to have supported and sponsored NHFD, working alongside governors in the GSC and state legislators to promote NHFD and the immense economic and conservation contributions provided by America’s hunters and anglers. As of this writing, 36 governors have issued National Hunting and Fishing Day proclamations – with several even holding proclamation signing ceremonies similar to Governor Ricketts’s – while a number of state legislative sportsmen’s caucus leaders have published op-eds celebrating our sportsmen’s traditions.
I hope you were able to join us in celebrating the 47th anniversary of National Hunting and Fishing Day last weekend, and in recognizing that, by participating in our hunting and angling traditions, you’re also an essential contributor to both the American economy and the funding of fish and wildlife conservation.