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This time of year always reminds me of corn, sunflowers, soybeans and power lines. Dove season is upon us.
For wingshooters across the country, early September dove hunts represent the beginning of a season full of great days afield. In my mind, nothing quite beats the excitement of a morning spent drinking coffee, gathering gear and heading out to a familiar dove field. And of course, the chance to hassle your buddies for missing speedy doves!
In D.C., another kind of excitement is in the air right now: Congress is back in session. This is the time of year when legislators return from summer recess and work to make final headway on policy issues before election mania takes over.
This Fall will be particularly challenging as Congress has not yet agreed on funding for federal agencies and programs with only a matter of weeks before the end of the fiscal year. Our elected officials are facing pressure to cut budgets from all sides; however, common ground on where and how much to cut remains elusive. Interest groups confound this process further, complicating choices over the soundest federal investments.
For sportsmen, the outcome of the federal funding process — also known as the appropriations process — is critically important, as funding levels for nearly all federal programs that support conservation on public and private lands are decided through federal appropriations bills. From the North American Wetlands Conservation Act, which provides match grants to groups like Ducks Unlimited to restore and protect wetlands, to conservation programs in the Farm Bill, which provide financial incentives for landowners to forgo cultivating ecologically valuable lands, the good conservation work on which we depend to keep game on the range and ducks in the air would not happen without healthy federal funding.
Unfortunately, Congress recently has been more than willing to pass bills that massively cut conservation programs. The House Interior appropriations bill reported out of committee not long ago included a 22-percent cut in funding for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, a 37-percent cut to the North American Wetlands Conservation Fund and a whopping 80-percent cut to the Land and Water Conservation Fund, which directs a portion of oil and gas leasing revenues to fish and wildlife conservation and increased public access for recreation. As sportsmen, conservation funding is our lifeblood. We have a responsibility to be part of the conversation to keep funding levels as strong as possible.
What is the TRCP doing? The TRCP has continued its work with America’s Voice for Conservation, Recreation and Preservation, a coalition that earlier this year delivered a letter to congressional leaders signed by more than 1,200 groups advocating for programs that support habitat conservation, outdoor recreation activities, and the preservation of historic places.
The AVCRP coalition will work not only to hold the line during the yearly appropriations cycle but to elevate conservation as a congressional priority in the long term. Learn more about the role that conservation funding plays in the economy and in your next trip into the field.
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.
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