Why It Matters: While often well-intended, bills that seek to offer no cost or discounted licenses to certain demographics can negatively impact the ability of state fish and wildlife departments to manage their state’s public trust fish and wildlife resources. Given the potential impacts that such efforts can have on the American System of Conservation Funding, CSF is working with legislatures and state and fish wildlife agencies to explore options, such as license reimbursement language, that would avoid any effects on conservation funding.
- ND SB 2297 would offer long-term volunteers of the North Dakota Game and Fish Department (NDGF) a lifetime combination hunting and fishing at no cost.
- As written, SB 2297 would impact NDGF’s ability to fully utilize the American System of Conservation Funding, the mechanism by which NDGF’s conservation efforts are supported.
- The Congressional Sportsmen Foundation (CSF) provided testimony to the House Committee on Energy and Natural Resources, urging legislators to amend SB 2297 to provide NDGF a reimbursement for the cost of such free licenses from the general fund to protect conservation funding.
Last week, the North Dakota House Energy and Natural Resources Committee held a hearing for Senate Bill 2297, legislation that would offer long-term volunteers of the NDGF a lifetime hunting and fishing combination license at no cost. While SB 2297 is well-intended, and CSF agrees that the long-term dedication and commitment to NDGF mission of the volunteers is admirable, the current language of SB 2297 carries consequences that could negatively impact NDGF’s ability to fully utilize the American System of Conservation Funding (ASCF).
Through the “user pays – public benefits” ASCF, sportsmen and women have been providing the bulk of funding for the North Dakota Game and Fish Department, and many other state fish and wildlife agencies thanks to revenue generated through the sale of hunting and fishing license and permits and excise taxes collected through the Pittman-Robertson and Dingell-Johnson Acts. While the impacts of SB 2297’s proposed no-cost license on NDGF’s license revenue are obvious, what is less known is the impact on the ability of the state agency to collect funds made available through Pittman-Robertson and Dingell-Johnson. When making appropriations of these funds, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service uses a formula based, in part, on the number of qualified licenses sold. For a license to qualify, it must result in the collection of revenue by NDGF.
In recognition of this potential impact to the ASCF, CSF provided testimony to the House Committee on Energy and Natural Resources. CSF encouraged the Committee to consider language that would allow the state to reimburse NDGF from the state’s general fund for any lost revenue associated with this or any other discounted license to ensure that the integrity of the ASCF is maintained. CSF has advocated for similar mechanisms in other states, as legislation to provide free or significantly discounted licenses for certain demographics continues to be a popular concept among state legislators.
Because SB 2297 has already been passed by the Senate, any amendments adopted in the House would require the bill to return to the Senate for concurrence. However, CSF believes that these additional steps are warranted as we continue our efforts to safeguard the ASCF and the ability of state fish and wildlife agencies to continue to manage our nation’s public trust fish and wildlife resources.