New Bill Aims to ‘Modernize’ 80 Years of Conservation Funding

Revised act would allow states to use public funds for hunter recruitment and retention

Monday, June 12, 2017

By Lisa Lakey

A new bill introduced last month by the Congressional Sportsmen’s Caucus (CSC) aims to update the 80-year-old Pittman-Robertson Act, also known as the Federal Aid in Wildlife Restoration Act. If passed, it would allow states to use funds for public relations programs aimed at hunter recruitment and retention.

“Modernizing this fund is an important step in advancing our nation’s hunting heritage and furthering state-based conservation efforts,” CSC President Jeff Crane said. “This legislation will allow states to educate the public about the ‘user pays – public benefits’ American System of Conservation Funding.”

The system Crane spoke of is comprised of revenue from sporting licenses and funds resulting largely from the Pittman-Robertson Act. The ASCF structure supports the idea that those who use these public, natural resources pay for the right to do so.

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In return, they pay not just for sportsmen and women’s access, but for all the public. In many cases, a state’s fish and wildlife agency is funded entirely through the ASCF.

Since its enactment in 1937, the Pittman-Robertson Act has contributed more than $10 billion to states. Under the act, the excise tax revenue from the sale of firearms and ammunition is awarded to state wildlife agencies for projects related to wildlife, conservation and shooting programs.

But according to Rep. Austin Scott (R-Georgia), author of the bill and House vice chairman of CSC, as the number of sportsmen and women is on the decline, it’s time the act gets a facelift.

Specifically, the update to the bill would allow funds to be used for promotion and marketing purposes, including hunter recruitment and retention programs, hunter education programs and programs targeting the non-hunting public to inform them of the role of sportsmen and women in wildlife conservation.

“The sportsmen and women of America are the heart of wildlife conservation, and updating our nation’s system of conservation funding will ensure our recreational areas are open and available for folks to enjoy for generations to come,” he said. “By modernizing Pittman-Robertson funds and reexamining how they can be used by states, we can introduce a whole new generation of Americans to the outdoors and educate them on how to be safe and responsible sportsmen.”

The bill, that if passed could be known as the “Modernizing the Pittman-Robertson Fund for Tomorrow’s Needs Act of 2017,” also calls for “using any other means to ensure the growth of hunting and recreational shooting, as determined by the Secretary.”

Co-sponsoring the bill with Scott is CSC House Vice Chair Rep. Marc Veasey and CSC Co-Chair Gene Green, both Democrats from Texas, and CSC Co-Chair Rep. Jeff Duncan (R-South Carolina). The bill in its entirety can be read here.