By Zach Widner, Northwest States Manager, Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation
In October of 2016, I experienced an unforgettable “first” as a hunter. No, it wasn’t the first time I’d taken one of Idaho’s lottery-only species like moose, mountain goat, or bighorn sheep. Nor was it the first time I’d helped someone drag a public land mule deer buck off the mountain. Instead, I was able to help my friend Jeff take his first deer in 15 years, marking the first time I’d been able to both reactivate and retain a lapsed hunter. Jeff’s experience harvesting a healthy 3×3 muley, from hiking up the steep shale mountain in the dark, to patiently glassing deer-trafficked draws, to making a clean shot, to gutting the deer and eventually frying up fresh backstrap, helped reinvigorate his passion for hunting. In so doing, I was able to ensure that not only would I have an extra back and set of legs to help me drag my buck off the mountain this fall, but that we would also have another reliable contributor to the American System of Conservation Funding (ASCF).
Through the ASCF (comprised of revenue from sporting licenses and Pittman-Robertson and Dingell-Johnson/Wallop-Breaux funds), sportsmen and women contribute billions of dollars to conservation. The System is a “user-pays, public-benefits” model, wherein sportsmen and women – the primary stewards of our nation's fish and wildlife resources – provide the vast majority of the funding for state fish and wildlife agencies. The revenue generated through this System helps to conserve fish and wildlife, provide clean water and healthy landscapes, and maintain access to these resources for the public at large, not just hunters and anglers. Among the many benefits provided by ASCF dollars are land access easements, construction of shooting ranges and boat access facilities, wetlands protection, and improved soil and water conservation.
This year, the sportsmen’s community is celebrating the 80th Anniversary of the establishment of the ASCF. In order to highlight the critical importance of the ASCF, the Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation (CSF) has worked with both governors and state legislative sportsmen’s caucus members in the National Assembly of Sportsmen’s Caucuses (NASC) network to have signed a number of proclamations and legislative resolutions celebrating this storied System. Further, CSF recently developed ASCF fact sheets for each of the 50 states. These fact sheets provide historical license and excise tax revenue data for every state, in addition to some of the unique projects and programs that ASCF dollars have funded over the years. For more information on the American System of Conservation Funding, visit http://sportsmenslink.org/policies/state/ascf. For a running list of proclamations and resolutions celebrating the 80th Anniversary of the ASCF, visit CSF’s ASCF Resource Center.
Jeff is already bugging me about nailing down the dates to go on scouting trips for muleys this summer, and the enthusiasm with which he’s jumped back into the sport has me confident that he will be both a perennial contributor to the ASCF, and an advocate for ensuring the integrity of this System.