Kristyn Brady

August 9, 2019

Failing to Modernize the Pittman-Robertson Act is Like Trying to Recruit Hunters With One Hand Tied Behind Your Back

The law that is broadly and affectionately known as PR ironically doesn’t allow state wildlife agencies to market hunting to a new generation of license buyers—the sportsmen and women we desperately need to keep funding conservation

By now, you probably know that every time you buy a hunting or fishing license and certain gear, you’re paying into a hugely successful system of conservation in America—where those of us who enjoy and take something from our natural resources also give back to fish and wildlife. You’re probably even aware of the two laws that made this happen: the Pittman-Robertson Act for hunting-related spending and the Dingell-Johnson Act for fishing-related spending.

[Need a refresher on all the biggest sources of federal conservation funding? We got you.]

But there’s a major difference between these policies that has become glaring as fishing participation has crept back up and hunting participation has taken a steep nosedive.

Photo by US Fish and Wildlife Service Midwest Region.

Between 2011 and 2016, the number of hunters declined by 16 percent. Hunters spend fewer days afield and less money on equipment on average than they used to. In that same time period, 2.7 million more Americans started fishing, and spending on fishing equipment increased by more than 36 percent.

This could be because about $12 million in funds created by the Dingell-Johnson Act annually go toward national efforts to recruit, retain, and reactivate (R3) anglers. Meanwhile, no such provision is made in Pittman-Robertson.

Besides the next generation of sportsmen and women, state wildlife agencies have the most to lose if hunting and fishing participation declines, because many of these conservation-focused departments depend entirely on P-R and D-J dollars. But, as the laws are written, even a state department of natural resources with an excellent apprentice hunter program can’t so much as print up a poster to advertise it using P-R funding.

The ability to communicate with and educate the public about hunting is so much more important today than it was in the 1930s when this bill was written. At that time, more than half the country hunted or had access to someone who could likely show them how. This just isn’t the case anymore.

The Bottom Line

It’s time to modernize Pittman-Robertson and allocate just a small portion of its funds to R3 activities—the return on investment is likely to be millions of more active and engaged outdoorspeople paying into a conservation model that supports some of America’s greatest traditions. Failing to do so could create a conservation funding crisis like we’ve never seen before.

Legislation called Modernizing the Pittman-Robertson Fund for Tomorrow’s Needs Act (H.R. 877) has been reintroduced this Congress and debated in a House Natural Resources Committee hearing earlier this year. After the August recess, we need to move this bill forward without delay and before we lose lawmakers’ attention to the chaos that comes with an election year.

Have you seen state agency efforts to attract and educate new hunters that deserve more of a PR spotlight? Tell us in the comments.

12 Responses to “Failing to Modernize the Pittman-Robertson Act is Like Trying to Recruit Hunters With One Hand Tied Behind Your Back”

  1. Tyler Lebard

    I agree with this post. The R3 effort for fishing is a powerful tool and should be applied to hunting. The average age of hunters continues to increase and we aren’t seeing enough young hunters being recruited. Without continued and increased revenue from hunting related purchases the N. American big game model fail. This will lead to a decrease on spending for habitat and the animals we all admire will pay the consequences.

  2. In California, I believe hunting has declined due to the lack of available quality public land to hunt, as well as more private landowners closing their property to hunting. In addition, drawing an elk, pronghorn, or premium deer tag could take years, if ever. The odds of drawing the few random tags are so high I don’t even bother anymore. My kids will not likely ever draw one of these tags. The other thing is that the anti-hunters are becoming more and more successful in eliminating hunting. We can no longer pursue bears with dogs, hunt mountain lions, or trap bobcats. A total ban on bobcat hunting is in the works and I have no doubt it will pass. Now wolves are taking hold, and they, along with the increasing bear population, will start having an impact on the deer and elk populations. Once that happens, not even private land will produce quality deer herds, and there won’t be any tags available anyway. So, even if we tried to recruit new hunters, the best we can do is send them into public land areas that are overrun by hunters and severely lacking in animals. They get discouraged very quickly. The time and money it takes to scout backcountry areas with fewer hunters, as well as hunt them, is beyond that of most families. If dad takes two weeks of vacation to scout and hunt, that doesn’t leave much time for family vacations. I have hunted deer on public land in Utah for 30 years, and the situation there is much different. Not only do I consistently draw a tag, the animals are better managed and there are far fewer people in the field. California will continue to take actions that are detrimental to hunters. They are slowly working to remove hunting as a tool of wildlife management. Then there’s the war on guns. California has become a joke, with few laughing. No amount of R3 will help. I’m a native son and never thought I’d say this, but I’m moving out. The sooner the better.

  3. You are correct. Example: all of my father’s grandsons hunt. Only four of my eight grandsons hunt. None of the five granddaughters hunt. Geography plays a role here, four different states and two countries. They are into many activities beyond sports and we now compete with the Internet for their attention and interest. Marketing and promoting hunting will ensure that the conservation efforts we have experienced will continue to benefit future generations. Best, John

  4. This report is accurate. However, I worry that opening up PR and DJ for broader use in hunter recruitment will lead to agency administrators backing off from doing surveys, modeling, and research that are foundational to conservation. Anti science could undermine the science base. Also, expanded use of pen raised birds can threaten conservation of wild birds. Using the domestic to recruit hunters could create lower expectations.

  5. All Americans, whether they hunt and/or fish should have a hand in funding the work of state fish and wildlife agencies. We are, after all, talking about Americans’ natural heritage. I think the Missouri model of funding is worth a hard look by all states. Dedicate a share of a state’s sales tax to conservation. We already pay, as a society, untold gillions in taxes whenever we go out and buy a new car. (And cars and their infrastructure are well known for their role in degrading/destroying/fragmenting wildlife habitat.

  6. Charlie Smith

    Had a great place to deer, rabbit, and duck hunt for over 30 years❤️ The farmer/ owner died and his kids sold the farm to a house developer 👹 From 300 Acer’s to sub lots👹
    Second place l deer hunted 35 years farmer/ friend died, kids sold farm to three different people NO HUNTING!
    Back in the 60 l started rabbit and quail hunting on old rail road tracks NO MORE👹 Not growing public land so much, every now and then the state picks up a small track of land, but very rare! Public place way over hunted, over harvested 😞

  7. Matthew Van Camp

    I think that allocating a percentage of the PR acts money to recruit new hunters and retain and return old hunters is an excellent idea. Serious thought and timely response is important!
    I feel that since the same idea and efforts to increase fishermen using a percentage of the Dingall- Johnson funds has worked so well that a percentage which equals that amount of funds should probably be allocated for the same type of spending. Otherwise, we will continue losing hunters. This information needs to be proclaimed so that people are aware of the money that hunters spend will make the Image of hunting and Hunters better. in the public eye.
    I think that the difference of a traditional, bolt action or lever action hunting rifle should be explained and clarified, differentiated from the assault weapon. That the act of harvesting wild game is not like industrial farming of our meat products is… That hunting conserves wildlife and ads to the preservation of game by financing winter feeding stations, and buys land for game to live and propagate on.

    • Lily Sieu

      I defer to the eloquent content by Matthew Van Camp. As an avid hunter and conservationist, I have long campaigned for more education and opportunities the introduce women to hunting. These Dingall- Johnson funds are critical to educating women, who are key swing stakeholder is which family activities are financially supported, in the holistic family values that come from ethical hunting.

  8. Les Wojnar

    You already have my state government caught trying to divert PR moneys years ago and getting caught by the Feds.
    Now NY spends PR money on a percentage of salaries for ECO every year. If this law is re-written it will need more protections against the money being misdirected.

  9. Spencer Tomb

    It is time for hunters and anglers to step up and contact our members of Congress to tell them we want to modernize the P/R act. I am glad to report that Kansas has an up and running R3 program.

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Chris Macaluso

July 19, 2019

Is It Finally Time to Re-Examine How We Divvy Up the Catch Between Recreational and Commercial Fishing?

Today’s allocations are still based on data that is decades old

Divvying up the total catch of a fish stock between recreational and commercial fisheries is arguably the most difficult job for federal fisheries managers.

These allocations are generally set in percentages, as in 51 percent of the Gulf of Mexico red snapper stock is allocated to commercial fishing and 49 percent to recreational fishing. But these percentages are often based on catch data that is decades old.

Even when updated data shows a reallocation may be needed to reflect current catch rates or maximize the cultural and economic value of a fishery, regional management councils are slow to use that data. Sometimes they reject efforts to reallocate a fishery because of political pressure or objections from the sector that stands to lose some of its historic allocation.

Fortunately, recent policy advancements may support a fresh look at allocations. Here’s what happened.

The Timeline

2014

The Commission on Saltwater Recreational Fishing Management—an expert panel of state and federal agency administrators, researchers, industry representatives, and economists that is also known as the Morris-Deal Commission—recommends in its landmark report that allocations should be examined and reconfigured “for the greatest benefit of the nation.”

July 2016

NOAA Fisheries releases a “Fisheries Allocation Review Policy” that guides regional fishery management councils in determining how and when to examine allocations. Since the release of this document, the South Atlantic Fishery Management Council and the Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council have worked to develop criteria and timeframes by which allocations will be examined.

December 31, 2018

President Trump signs the Modernizing Recreational Fisheries Management Act of 2018 (S. 1520), a bill that was developed with support from and in consultation with the TRCP, Coastal Conservation Association, American Sportfishing Association, Center for Sportfishing Policy, National Marine Manufacturers Association, Yamaha, Recreational Fishing Alliance, and many others.

This bill requires the Comptroller General of the United States to conduct a study in the South Atlantic and Gulf of Mexico within one year to:

  • Recommend criteria—including economic, ecological, conservation, and social factors—that could be used for allocating/reallocating fishing privileges in a mixed-use fishery.
  • Identify sources of information that could reasonably support the use of the above criteria.
  • Assess the budgetary requirements for performing periodic allocation decisions in both councils.
  • Develop recommendations of procedures for allocation reviews and potential adjustments in allocation.

The bill also requires the Comptroller General to consult with NOAA, the applicable Councils and their Science and Statistical Committees, applicable state fisheries management commissions, and the recreational, commercial, and charter fishing sectors in conducting the required study.

The TRCP and its partners have worked with the Government Accountability Office and with the councils to help establish allocation criteria and ensure that future guidance documents include specific instructions for councils to help break the impasse on examining allocations.

Soon, anglers may get even more of a fair shake, and we can all stop living in the past.

 

This topic was featured at TRCP’s annual Saltwater Media Summit at ICAST on July 10, 2019.

Thank you to our expert panelists: Kelly Denit, division chief of domestic fisheries, NOAA Office of Sustainable Fisheries; Brad Gentner, economic consultant, Gentner Group; Doug Boyd, Sportfishing and Boating Partnership Council member and Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council member; and Spud Woodward, retired chief of marine fisheries management, Georgia Department of Natural Resources and a member of the South Atlantic Fishery Management Council.

And our sincerest gratitude to our generous sponsors: American Sportfishing Association, Bass Pro Shops, Costa, Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, National Marine Manufacturers Association, NOAA, Peak Design, Recreational Boating and Fishing Foundation, takemefishing.com, and Yamaha.

Kristyn Brady

June 25, 2019

House Approves Investments in Chronic Wasting Disease Research

After sportsmen and women urged Congress to invest in solutions, spending bill contains new funding dedicated to combatting CWD in wild deer

House spending bill for federal agriculture, interior, and environmental agencies (H.R. 3305) has passed with amendments that create new dedicated funding to research, test for, and battle chronic wasting disease, a fatal disease discovered in deer and elk populations across more than half the U.S. 

Led by Representatives Veasey, Gosar, Kind, and Abraham, an amendment to the House’s Agriculture Appropriations bill will send $15 million to the states to combat the spread of chronic wasting disease in wild deer.  

“Chronic wasting disease is a dangerous and contagious condition affecting deer, elk, and moose in 26 states and over 250 counties,” said Representative Marc Veasey (D-Texas). The disease spreads to new counties and states every year, threatening our wild deer populations rises. State fish and wildlife agencies are doing their best to combat the spread of this disease with the limited resources they have, but they need more support from the federal government to ramp up their efforts and effectively respond to both new and ongoing outbreaks in wild deer populations. That’s why I introduced a bipartisan amendment to dedicate new resources in the fight to contain and eventually eradicate the disease. My amendment designates an additional $12 million to be sent to state fish and wildlife agencies, bringing the total to $15 million, and I was glad to see the it adopted by the House of Representatives.” 

Reps. Gosar and Abraham successfully introduced a second amendment that will direct $1.72 million to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to research chronic wasting disease and improve the effectiveness of testing methods. 

“Research into chronic wasting disease and enhanced testing methods will help give hunters the confidence they need to continue to harvest wild deer, elk, and moose,” said Representative Paul Gosar (R-Ariz.) “I look forward to continuing to address threats posed by CWD in order to conserve resources for sportsmen and protect America’s hunting traditions.” 

Together, these amendments allocate a total of $16.72 million to fighting CWD in wild deer. It’s the first time that some portion of funding for the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service, which maintains a certification program for captive deer operations that take precautions against CWD, could be used to benefit wild deer herds.   

 “This is a major milestone in our effort to combat CWD and preserve our hunting traditions,” said Whit Fosburgh, president and CEO of TRCP. This new funding will support states in their efforts to keep deer herds healthy. We want to thank House appropriators for taking this first step, and we urge the Senate to prioritize these investments, as well, so Congress can pass legislation that tackles this epidemic headon. 

The Senate has yet to release its version of the appropriations bill.  

This news comes on the heels of the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership’s advocacy  
push to include increased resources for responding to CWD in the Agriculture Appropriations bill. The TRCP has rallied more than 1,500 sportsmen and women to contact their lawmakers and ask for these investments.  

Take action and urge senators to include these investments in their appropriations bills.

Randall Williams

June 20, 2019

New Study: Significant Opportunities to Open Recreation Access in Colo.

Outdoor Retailer audiences get a sneak preview of a new report from TRCP and onX identifying landlocked state lands across the West

Denver, Colo. — Today, onX and the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership revealed a snapshot of new data uncovered in their latest collaborative study to calculate the acreage of landlocked state lands across 11 Western states.

In a press briefing at the Outdoor Retailer Summer Market, onX founder Eric Siegfried and TRCP’s director of Western lands Joel Webster announced their preliminary findings on access barriers to trust lands in the state of Colorado, including:

  • More than 435,000 acres are landlocked by private land and cannot be reached at all by public roads or through adjacent federally managed public lands.
  • Meanwhile, 1.78 million acres of accessible lands are closed to public access by state policy.
  • A total of 558,000 acres of accessible trust lands are currently open to hunting and fishing because of collaborative agreements between the State Land Board and Colorado Parks and Wildlife.

There are 2.78 million acres of state trust lands in total across Colorado. All Western states were granted lands by the federal government at statehood, and Colorado is the only state in the Mountain West that does not allow public access to the majority of its trust lands. Webster noted that Colorado’s restrictive access rules are actually a greater hindrance to outdoor recreation on state trust lands than the landlocked land issue, which makes it an outlier among other Western states.

Governor Jared Polis is taking proactive steps to address this challenge. “Colorado is arguably the most beautiful state in America, and I’m committed to expanding the public’s access to our treasured federal and state-owned land,” said Governor Polis. “I’m delighted that Colorado Parks and Wildlife’s Public Access Program for sportsmen and women will be growing by more than 100,000 acres in time for the upcoming 2019 hunting season. We will continue looking at more opportunities to increase access in the near future.”

“We appreciate the collaborative work that has already gone into opening state trust lands to public access in Colorado and believe the state currently has perhaps the single greatest opportunity to expand public access in the West,” said TRCP’s Joel Webster. “Without a doubt, Governor Polis’s commitment to expanding public access should be encouraging to everyone who recreates in the outdoors. Other states have come up with innovative ideas for opening access to trust lands, and they offer a model for how Colorado could continue to tackle this issue.”

The project is building on a 2018 report by onX and the TRCP that found more than 9.52 million acres of federally managed public lands in the West are landlocked and lack legal public access. Those findings are available in a new report, “Off Limits, But Within Reach: Unlocking the West’s Inaccessible Public Lands,” which unpacks the issue in unprecedented detail.

“Our company’s mission is to help people find places they can explore to create a memorable outdoor experience,” says onX founder Eric Siegfried. “State lands can be easily overlooked by the recreating public, and more can be done to make these lands accessible to all. We are looking forward to calculating the full extent of access challenges and highlighting constructive opportunities to open lands to the public.”

The full report will delve deeper into the issue of recreational access across 11 Western states by focusing on landlocked lands at the state level. It will be formally presented to the press and public at the TRCP Western Media Summit on August 19, 2019 in Seattle, Washington.

“We’re excited to partner once again with onX on a collaborative project that wouldn’t be possible without their world-class product and commitment to public access,” concluded Webster.

Learn more about the forthcoming report and sign up to be the first to receive it at unlockingpubliclands.org.

Marnee Banks

June 17, 2019

Sportfishing Groups Call for Science-Based Management of Gulf Menhaden

Marine Stewardship Council takes an irresponsible approach to fishery certification

The recreational fishing community is expressing concern about the process being used to certify the menhaden fishery in the Gulf of Mexico.

Omega Protein and Daybrook Fisheries recently announced that SAI Global is recommending that the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) certify the menhaden fishery in the Gulf of Mexico as sustainable, despite ongoing concerns surrounding the industrial harvest of the small oily baitfish.

“There is a host of unknowns surrounding this industrial fishery, and yet the MSC continues to rapidly move forward,” said Patrick Murray, president of Coastal Conservation Association. “Sustainability obviously means different things to different people, and we continue to have significant concerns about this certification.”

Conservation groups and tens of thousands of anglers have all expressed concerns that menhaden management fails to account for the critical ecological role that menhaden play in the coastal ecosystem and their impacts to sportfish like snook, redfish, sharks, and other marine predators.

“No one yet knows how much Gulf menhaden is needed to fulfill its role as a primary prey species in the ecosystem,” said Mike Leonard, vice president of government affairs at the American Sportfishing Association. “There is work being done to determine that, but obviously the MSC didn’t consider that critical factor as a prerequisite for making its sustainability decision.”

“Every summer, anglers and charter captains see menhaden boats fishing right on top of Louisiana’s beaches and passes, in the same areas where important sportfish like redfish and speckled trout are feeding and spawning,” said Chris Macaluso, director of marine fisheries for the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership and an avid Louisiana angler. “For years, I’ve heard about and seen countless dead redfish floating in the same areas where menhaden boats recently fished. Recreational fishermen are right to be concerned, especially since there is so little information about what species are being affected the most from bycatch and how many non-targeted fish are being killed.”

“Menhaden provide the foundation of the entire Gulf recreational fishery, from redfish to tarpon,” said Whit Fosburgh, TRCP’s president and CEO. “Instead of a rushed process aimed at benefiting a few foreign companies, we should have a full science-based review of the fishery. There is too much at stake.”

SAI Global’s recommendation to certify Gulf menhaden as sustainable is a follow-up to the same recommendation for Atlantic menhaden made earlier this year. The Coastal Conservation Association, Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership, American Sportfishing Association, The Nature Conservancy, and Chesapeake Bay Foundation are all opposing the Atlantic menhaden certification.

In January of this year, the state of Virginia also formally notified the MSC of its opposition to certifying the Atlantic menhaden purse-seine fishery. In April, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo signed legislation to protect menhaden in New York’s waters by prohibiting harvest by purse seine, essentially rejecting the industrial harvest of Atlantic menhaden altogether.

Learn more about menhaden and their role in the marine food web here.

HOW YOU CAN HELP

WHAT WILL FEWER HUNTERS MEAN FOR CONSERVATION?

The precipitous drop in hunter participation should be a call to action for all sportsmen and women, because it will have a significant ripple effect on key conservation funding models.

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