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A lot already has been said to memorialize Sept. 11 – from tales of heroism to reflections on patriotism and stories of recovery.
Talking about something that’s been addressed by so many people already can be intimidating, but allowing this anniversary to pass without saying anything feels incomplete. I wanted to write a few simple words of thanks.
My sincerest appreciation goes out to everyone who makes America what it is today – firefighters, teachers, factory workers, conservation officers, elected officials and everyone in between. You all are part of what establishes this country as the treasured land – and the bastion of fish and wildlife resources – that it is today.
Here at the TRCP, we want to learn how best to serve the hunting and angling community and further the TRCP’s mission of guaranteeing all Americans a quality place to hunt and fish. In order to facilitate our mission, we asked sportsmen to complete a survey about issues they value most.
As an added incentive, the TRCP gave away a signature TRCP Buck knife to a randomly selected survey respondent. Matt Dunlap of Lincoln, Neb., was the lucky recipient. Matt is a law student at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. We were able to catch up with him in between classes to chat about his interest in conservation.
How did you first become interested in the outdoors?
Matt: My dad got me into the outdoors when I was really young. He took me out hunting with him when I was about 5. I also fished since I was really young.
Do you have a favorite place to hunt or fish?
Matt: Every year I go duck hunting at the Nebraska Sandhills. It’s a place I look forward to going back to every year. Right now we’re hoping for some more water in Nebraska so the ducks can land.
I also do a lot of fly fishing in Colorado. I usually go near Vail or to the Conejos River in southern Colorado.
What are you currently doing?
Matt: I recently graduated from Northwestern University. Right now I’m attending law school at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. I’m not exactly sure what kind of law I want to practice. I’m interested in environmental, but that could change.
What do you think the most important conservation issues are facing sportsmen today?
Matt: Habitat conservation in general is a pretty big deal – making sure we keep the numbers up. I’m also a big supporter of public access. The recent Colorado roadless rule is a big deal to me because I do a lot of backpacking and fishing in the rugged parts of Colorado.
Where are you planning to put your new commemorative Buck knife?
Matt: I’m putting it on top of my dresser. That’s where it is right now.
September marks the 75-year-anniversary of the Federal Aid in Wildlife Restoration Act, or the Pittman-Robertson Act. For sportsmen, this anniversary stands as a testament to the sportsman-conservation community and should evoke within us a tremendous sense of pride. Given the current divided state of our government, it is easy to forget the many successes that we as sportsmen have had – not only in the conservation of our fish and wildlife resources but in contributing to the well-being of our country.
At the unified urging of organized sportsmen and wildlife groups, the Pittman-Robertson Act diverts an 11 percent excise tax on sporting arms and ammunition to the Department of the Interior. The department then allocates the funds to pay for state-initiated wildlife restoration projects from acquisition and improvement of wildlife habitat, to wildlife research, to hunter education programs.
A significant component of the Act requires that license and permit fees collected by a state fish and wildlife agency must stay with the agency. Neither the license revenues nor the excise tax can be diverted to any other government entity.
Prior to the act, numerous species such as wild turkey, white-tailed deer, wood duck and black bear were pushed to the brink of extinction. Through wildlife restoration projects, mostly paid for through Pitman-Robertson and state hunting license funds, these important species were able to repopulate.
Since the enactment of Pittman-Robertson, the number of hunters in the United States has more than doubled, and the number of hunting days have spiked in every state. This means that sportsmen can hunt more frequently today than sportsmen hunted in 1937.
Since 1937, several amendments have been made to the act to expand the list of items that are taxed for the benefit of wildlife restoration projects, but one thing has remained consistent: sportsmen have willingly taxed themselves to perpetuate a resource that benefits the national community. To date, more than $6.5 billion has been provided to state fish and wildlife agencies through this Act.
More impressively however, is the estimated return on sportsmen’s investment in wildlife restoration. According to a recent study, the lowest estimated return-on-investment from the excise-tax was 823 percent and the highest estimate return on investment was a whopping 1588 percent. In other words, the benefits of the tax are anywhere from 8 to 15 times greater than the cost of the tax, making it a highly successful and effective investment.
Sportsmen everywhere should be proud of the Pittman-Robertson Act, and as we reflect on this great achievement, let this anniversary serve as a reminder of the power of organized sportsmen rallying together for a good cause.
Watch a short video below about the importance of funding for wildlife conservation.
I was driving down a back road on Maryland’s Eastern Shore when I pulled my truck over to let a tractor pass. The farmer tipped his hat in appreciation and was on his way to the next field. Before heading down the road myself, I took a look around; fields of crops gave way to the Chester River in the distance and a place I am proud to call home.
With tall corn and soy hiding goose pits and the vivid summer woods obscuring tree stands, it is tough to see the importance of hunting during a hot and humid Chesapeake summer. But just a few months from now, the days will get shorter and crisper, and homes across the Eastern Shore will come to life earlier than normal as decoy bags and gun cases are tossed into trucks and Labs wag their tails with the kind of anticipation only a gun dog can muster.
Waterfowl hunting means a lot to this part of the world. On the highway into town, geese adorn the welcome sign, and we have waterfowl festivals to celebrate the autumnal return of the birds. You may find yourself raking leaves in the backyard or picking out the perfect carving pumpkin at the local patch when you hear your first flight of Canada geese returning. It is a sound that compels your eyes skyward and makes many of us reflexively reach for our goose calls.
But the memory of the 2011-12 season remains stark in the minds of many hunters. Winter’s cold weather never came; nor did the birds. Some estimated that less than one quarter of the typical population actually made it as far south as the Chesapeake. The lack of snow and ice gave the birds no reason to venture to their normal southern grounds. The warmest winter anyone can remember gave way to the warmest summer, and hunters can’t be blamed for asking, “Will the birds return?”
More than a few hunters I’ve talked to are considering letting their blind leases lapse.
“I’m gonna give it one more year,” is a familiar refrain from waterfowlers pinched by a slow economy and slow days afield. Visit Higgy’s Diner on any Saturday morning during duck and goose season and you will see just what hunting means to the local economy. It’s not just about license and ammo sales; hunters open their wallets at motels, gas stations, watering holes and sub shops, as well as for guides and gear. As the birds go, so go the hunters.
Conservation is an essential part of hunting’s past – and future. Whether addressing global issues like climate change or local issues such as land use, hunters have a responsibility to become knowledgeable and participate in finding workable solutions. If the voices of hunters fall silent, it won’t be long before the voice of the waterfowl we cherish goes quiet as well.
In the last two years, policymakers have committed to significant investments in conservation, infrastructure, and reversing climate change. Hunters and anglers continue to be vocal about the opportunity to create conservation jobs, restore habitat, and boost fish and wildlife populations. Support solutions now.Learn More