GIFT SUBSCRIPTIONS REQUIRE NO SHIPPING, EMAIL SENT STRAIGHT TO THEIR INBOX. GIFT NOW!
GIFT SUBSCRIPTIONS REQUIRE NO SHIPPING, EMAIL SENT STRAIGHT TO THEIR INBOX. GIFT NOW!
Subscribe Today
ADVERTISEMENT

Policy Corner Brief: FEBRUARY 2024

Policy Corner Brief: FEBRUARY 2024

Policy Corner Brief: FEBRUARY 2024

STORY BY
PHOTOGRAPHY BY

Policy Corner Brief: FEBRUARY 2024

STORY BY
PHOTOGRAPHY BY
‘‘

CONGRESSIONAL SPORTSMEN’S FOUNDATION ANNOUNCES THE APPOINTMENT OF THREE NEW BOARD MEMBERS FOR 2024

Jason Hornady of Hornady Manufacturing, Inc., Jason Vanderbrink of Vista Outdoor Inc., and Brian Luoma to join CSF’s Board of Directors.

January 18, 2024 (Washington, D.C.) The Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation (CSF),  the nation’s most effective outdoor advocacy organization, announced today the appointment of three new members to the Board of Directors (Board); Jason Hornady of Hornady Manufacturing, Inc., Jason Vanderbrink of Vista Outdoor Inc., and Brian Luoma who recently retired as CEO of the Westervelt Company. CSF’s Board of Directors is composed of a diverse mix of outdoor industry leaders with deep experience in hunting, angling, recreational shooting, and conservation that will help guide the Foundation’s continued efforts in developing and defending policies that protect and advance our nation’s outdoor traditions.

“I have had the honor of being involved with this organization for nearly 20 years, including serving time on the Board,” said Board Chairman Richard Childress. “What this organization does for America’s sportsmen and women is immeasurable and is a testament to the strength of the industry representation serving on this Board. I look forward to helping CSF continue their charge through Board engagement because, without CSF, there may not be a world where hunting, fishing, recreational shooting, and trapping exist.”

“We are excited to expand our Board with three new members who will bring diverse expertise and insight to CSF’s mission. As CSF continues to be at the forefront leading the battle to protect and advance our outdoor traditions, it is critically important that our Board membership reflects the industry and outdoor community we serve,” said CSF President and CEO Jeff Crane. “Our nation’s 55 million sportsmen and women can rest assured knowing their outdoor passions and pursuits will continue to be protected and advanced through the strength and leadership of the CSF Board and our team of policy experts.”

Jason Hornady is Vice President of Hornady Manufacturing, Inc., a company founded by Joyce Hornady in 1949. Jason is no stranger to the CSF Board having previously served as a member from 2012 through 2020 including serving as a Chairman in 2019 and 2020; thereafter, Jason was elected to the Honorary Board. He is an avid hunter and shooter and has participated in regional and national-level shooting competitions. Jason’s passion for hunting/shooting is demonstrated by his pursuits here in North America and Internationally. During his time as a shooting industry sales professional, Jason has been fortunate to work with over 150 companies and has served on several boards representing the outdoor industry.

Jason Vanderbrink is Co-CEO of Vista Outdoor Inc., CEO of Sporting Products. He previously served as Senior Vice President of Sales for all the company’s brands. During his tenure as President of Sporting Products, Jason has driven rapid and award-winning new product innovation, oversaw the acquisition of Remington and HEVI-Shot, and demonstrated record sales and profitability. An avid outdoorsman who is passionate about hunting and shooting, Jason is a proud member of the NRA Ring of Honor and a life member of several conservation organizations.

A native of Fort Bragg, California, Brian Luoma received his bachelor’s degree in Forestry and has been a Registered Professional Forester in California since 1990.  Prior to joining The Westervelt Company, Brian held multiple positions over a 29-year career with Louisiana-Pacific Corporation ranging from forestry and procurement to structural panel manufacturing and business general management at the executive level.  Throughout his career, he has served on many Industry Association boards and committees including The American Wood Council, The Wood Products Council, Forest Resources Association, and the National Association of Forest Owners.  Brian is the current Chairman of the Softwood Lumber Board and Working Forest Initiative and a regular member of the Boone and Crockett Club, the National Wild Turkey Federation, and Ducks Unlimited.

In addition to the appointment of the three new board members, Mark Cherpes, President and CEO of FN America, has been appointed to CSF’s Honorary Board of Directors.  Mark spent six years serving as a member of the CSF Board of Directors and CSF is grateful to have Mark continue his involvement through the Honorary Board.

Leading the Board in 2024 is Richard Childress Racing Chairman and CEO Richard Childress as Chairman; Harlan Kent as Vice-Chair; Bekun, LLC and Berverst, LLC Managing Director Francisco Bergaz as Secretary; and Rather Outdoors, LLC CEO Ken Eubanks as Treasurer.

 

 

CSF’S TAYLOR SCHMITZ NAMED AS 2024 CHAIRMAN OF THE AMERICAN WILDLIFE CONSERVATION PARTNERS

January 19, 2024 (Washington, D.C.) –Taylor Schmitz, Director, Federal Relations at the Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation (CSF), has been named as the 2024 Chairman of the American Wildlife Conservation Partners (AWCP). The AWCP is the nation’s leading coalition of sporting-conservation organizations working to advance the interests of sportsmen and women. CSF staff members serve on a variety of committees, councils, and coalitions and this appointment is another in a long line of examples of CSF’s leadership in the sporting-conservation community.

The AWCP, comprised of the nation’s top 50 sporting-conservation organizations, including founding member, the Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation, is an effective and collective force dedicated to ensuring the vitality of America’s wildlife resources and providing for sustainable public use and enjoyment of those resources. This unique coalition represents the interests of America’s millions of hunter-conservationists, professional wildlife and natural resource managers, outdoor recreation users, conservation educators, and wildlife scientists. While the 50 partner organizations of the AWCP may have diverse primary missions, they all hold a shared commitment to advancing and promoting pro sporting-conservation priorities. In order to further this shared mission, AWCP members regularly interact and engage with federal agencies and members of Congress through sign-on letters and more.

Over the coming months, AWCP will be developing what is known as Wildlife for the 21st Century (W-21) which serves as the blueprint for AWCP’s collective priorities and visions for wildlife and sportsmen and women in the 21st century. AWCP revises W-21 every four years to help guide the incoming Presidency and the next two Congresses. Schmitz’s Chairmanship within AWCP will position CSF to continue to guide the direction of the Partnership through the development of W-21.

“In a time where it can be easier to focus on our differences rather than our similarities, the AWCP provides a catalyst for enacting change and offers a shared voice for the sporting-conservation community,” saidCSF President and CEO Jeff Crane, who previously served as Chairman of the AWCP. “CSF is confident that Taylor will continue to be a strong voice for hunting, fishing, trapping, recreational shooting, and science-based wildlife management while serving as the Chairman of the American Wildlife Conservation Partners.”

As the trusted voice for America’s 55 million sportsmen and women, CSF has been leading the charge to protect America’s outdoor traditions in the policy arena for 35 years. By working closely with the AWCP, CSF can further its scope of influence in the policy arena.

“AWCP truly is a partnership that is unmatched in its vision, reach, and in delivering meaningful victories for wildlife, sportsmen and women, and other conservationists. I am honored to have been selected to serve as the Chairman of AWCP for 2024,” said CSF’s Director of Federal Relations and AWCP Chairman Taylor Schmitz. “During this time, AWCP will be developing Wildlife for the 21st, and I am looking forward to working with my colleagues to revise and update AWCP’s vision for wildlife conservation, access, and our sporting heritage for the next four years.”

In his role at CSF, Taylor works directly with the Congressional Sportsmen’s Caucus (CSC), the Administration, and federal agencies to advance bipartisan, meaningful solutions to issues of importance to sportsmen and women. His close work with the CSC and crucial expertise in sporting-conservation policy will prove undoubtedly beneficial in this role.

In addition to Taylor being named Chairman, CSF’s Senior Coordinator, Policy Communications Hannah Stubblefield has been appointed as Secretary of the AWCP. In her role at CSF, Hannah, an avid hunter, angler, and conservationist, is responsible for promoting CSF’s policy work through broad communication strategies as well as implementing and developing a variety of campaigns. This new role will provide CSF with the tools and resources to further develop AWCP’s campaigns and communication impact.

 

 

HOUSE AND SENATE COMMITTEES EACH PASS CSF PRIORITIES

ARTICLE CONTACT: TAYLOR SCHMITZ

Why It Matters: The committee passage of the EXPLORE Act, the Coastal Habitat Conservation Act, and the Good Samaritan Remediation of Abandoned Hardrock Mines Act marks an important step in the advancement of these priority bills for the Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation (CSF). These bills seek to improve outdoor recreational access and to enhance fish and wildlife habitat across the nation.

Highlights:

  • On Wednesday, January 17, the House Natural Resources Committee passed the Expanding Public Lands Outdoor Recreation Experiences (EXPLORE) Act (R 6492) and the Coastal Habitat Conservation Act (H.R. 2950), two priorities of the Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation.
  • The next day, the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee passed the Good Samaritan Remediation of Abandoned Hardrock Mines Act ( 2781), a long-standing priority for CSF.

Last week, the House Natural Resources Committee passed two priorities of the Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation including the EXPLORE Act and the Coastal Habitat Conservation Act. The next day, the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee passed the Good Samaritan Remediation of Abandoned Hardrock Mines Act.

The EXPLORE Act, which contains many provisions of importance to sportsmen and women, is led by Congressional Sportsmen’s Caucus (CSC) Member Rep. Bruce Westerman. CSF is particularly excited to see language that closely mirrors the Range Access Act (H.R. 1614). This language will require the U.S. Forest Service (USFS) and Bureau of Land Management (BLM) to have a minimum of one free and public target shooting range in each of the respective districts. By providing dedicated, established target ranges, this legislation will improve opportunities to recycle spent ammunition and mitigate waste and pollution at non-designated ranges on USFS and BLM lands.

Furthermore, this legislation includes language that will help improve future federal land agency planning decisions and would enhance user planning efforts for the general public. Specifically, the Improved Recreation Visitation Data section directs certain federal land management agencies to capture various recreation visitation data. This section also establishes a real-time data pilot program to make available to the public real-time or predictive visitation data for federal lands, helping sportsmen and women with their trip planning efforts.

The Coastal Habitat Conservation Act of 2023 (H.R. 2950), led by CSC Member Rep. Jared Huffman, would authorize the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s Coastal Program and would increase authorized discretionary appropriations from $20 million in Fiscal Year 2024 to $25 million in 2028 for coastal protection, restoration, and enhancement efforts around the nation and in the Great Lakes. This program has proven to be a highly successful public-private partnership for restoring and protecting fish and wildlife habitat on public and privately-owned lands.

The Good Samaritan Remediation of Abandoned Hardrock Mines Act, led by CSC Member Senator Martin Heinrich, seeks to provide liability protections to Good Samaritans who attempt to recover and restore abandoned mines. Under current law, Good Samaritans who attempt to recover and restore abandoned mine sites are legally responsible for the pollution from the mine as soon as they touch it, even if they had no prior association with the mine. This legislation will help remove these unnecessary and prohibitive constraints by ensuring that Good Samaritans who attempt to restore abandoned mines have no legal or financial responsibility for future mine pollution.

CSF would like to thank the House Natural Resources Committee and the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee for passing these three important bills.

 

 

STATE FIREARMS AND AMMUNITION EXCISE TAXES PROPOSED IN WA & NM

ARTICLE CONTACT: KEELY HOPKINSBARRY SNELLMARIE NEUMILLER

Why It Matters: Law-abiding hunters and recreational shooters have long played a vital role in funding conservation through various wildlife management nationwide. Recently, state legislatures have begun proposing state excise taxes in addition to the existing manufacturer-level taxes already being paid under federal law. Under the American System of Conservation Funding (ASCF), a unique “user pays — public benefits” program, sportsmen and women generate hundreds of millions of dollars each year for Fish & Wildlife agencies. These funds are generated through license sales and a 10-11% manufacturer-level excise tax on sporting-related goods, including firearms and ammunition. Decreased firearm and ammunition purchases that result from additional taxes and costs would have a negative impact on conservation funding. 

Highlights:

  • In New Mexico, Senate Bill 90 (SB90) has been introduced during the 2024 legislative session that if passed, would impose an 11% excise tax on all firearms, firearms parts, ammunition, and suppressors.
  • Additionally, legislators in Washington State have proposed House Bill 2238 (HB2238), imposing an 11% “privilege” tax on consumers for all ammunition sales.
  • As reported previously, the Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation (CSF) actively opposed similar legislation in California, Connecticut, Massachusetts, and New York in recent sessions, and will continue to work against this misguided legislation in 2024 in both New Mexico and Washington

Each year the recreational shooting and hunting industries contribute hundreds of millions of dollars to conservation, hunter education, shooting ranges, and other programs through the Pittman-Robertson excise tax. Combined with hunting and fishing license sales and a similar manufacturer-level tax in the recreational fishing and boating industries (Dingell-Johnson/Wallop-Breaux), this American System of Conservation Funding creates a “user pays, public benefits” program aimed at supporting state fish and game agencies. Since its inception in the early 1900’s, the Pittman-Robertson portion of the ASCF has collected over $12.5 billion dollars which were subsequently distributed out to the states to be put on the ground for conservation.

Despite strong opposition from the hunting-conservation and shooting sports communities, several state legislatures are proposing, and have even passed, additional excise tax levies on firearms and/or ammunition. The passing of AB 28 in California in 2023 has led several state legislators to introduce similar legislation, as recently seen in Washington and New Mexico. Placing new taxes on firearms and ammunition is fraught with unintended consequences that can reduce state’s access to conservation funding. Reduced sales will not only harm local businesses in the taxing state, but it will also potentially reduce the federal Pittman-Robertson revenues.

Earlier this month, a lawmaker in New Mexico  introduced Senate Bill 90, a particularly egregious piece of legislation that would impose an additional 11% excise tax on all firearms, firearms parts that can be turned into a firearm, ammunition, and suppressors.  This tax would be collected by retailers and the proceeds placed in the crime victims reparation fund, as well as a fund for children and families involved in abusive or neglect situations.  As New Mexico has so-called “universal background checks” which requires private sales to be conducted through an FFL, this new tax appears to also apply to gun transfers between private individuals and family members.  Further, some of the language implies that even if someone receives a firearm as a gift or payment for a service, the recipient of the firearm must also pay the tax.  Regardless of the intent of this bill, the vague and confusing nature of it makes it bad policy from the start.

In Washington State, House Bill 2238 was introduced into the House of Representatives on January 9, with 15 co-sponsors. Currently referred to the Finance Committee, this bill does not yet have a Committee hearing scheduled. If enacted, HB2238 would place an 11% excise tax on each retail sale, and would be levied on every person in the state for the “privilege” of using ammunition as a consumer. Revenue generated by this state tax would be earmarked for suicide prevention and firearm-related domestic violence programs.

The Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation actively opposed the Firearm and Ammunition Tax that passed in California in 2023, as previously reported. CSF and our partners are working to oppose the 2024 proposals in both New Mexico and Washington as well, as these policies are likely to have a negative impact on outdoor heritage, outdoor recreation opportunities, conservation funding, and hunter participation. CSF will continue to keep you updated on the status of these bills, and residents of each of the states are encouraged to contact their lawmakers to voice their opposition to these misguided policies.

States Involved: CA / NM / WA

 

 

BILL TO SAFEGUARD MDWFP FUNDING BROUGHT BACK TO THE TABLE

ARTICLE CONTACT: MARK LANCE

Why It Matters: Every year bills are introduced that would allow individuals to purchase a free or heavily discounted hunting and/or fishing license. Legislators tend to target deserving groups, such as first responders or veterans. However, if passed, these bills could have a significant impact on conservation funding for their respective state’s fish and wildlife agency. That is where legislation that reimburses the state fish and wildlife agency for revenue lost due to the passage and creation of free and discounted hunting licenses comes into play to protect conservation funding.

Highlights:

  • On January 18, the National Assembly of Sportsmen’s Caucuses (NASC) Executive Council Member and Mississippi Legislative Sportsmen’s Caucus (Caucus) Co-Chair Representative Scott Bounds filed HB 300.
  • This legislation is identical to HB 1012 from the 2023 session and would require that the Mississippi Department of Wildlife, Fisheries, and Parks (MDWFP) be reimbursed for any lost revenue resulting from the issuance of free or discounted hunting and fishing licenses, admission to state parks, and other fees through the State General Fund.
  • No free or discounted licenses on the books prior to the date this bill would be affected.

The MDWFP’s mission is to conserve and enhance Mississippi’s wildlife, fisheries, and parks, provide quality outdoor recreation, and engage the public in natural resource conservation. HB 300 would assist in ensuring that MDWFP continues to receive the necessary funding to continue to work towards accomplishing its mission.

While certain groups do deserve recognition for their contributions to society, there are alternate methods of recognizing them, such as providing tax credits for the purchasing of hunting and fishing licenses, rather than negatively impacting the entity charged with conserving a public trust resource. In addition to the hit on initial revenue from license sales, states that distribute free and discounted licenses are losing funds that would be apportioned through Pittman-Robertson and Dingell-Johnson/Wallop-Breaux. If passed, this legislation would bring Mississippi alongside Michigan, New Jersey, and Tennessee where state fish and wildlife agency funding is protected from impacts resulting from the passage of free or discounted licenses.

Sportsmen and women in Mississippi contributed over $30 million annually to conservation funding through the “user pays — public benefits” structure known as the American System of Conservation Funding (ASCF). Revenue generated from the purchase of hunting and fishing licenses is instrumental to the success of the ASCF.

The Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation (CSF) looks forward to continuing to work alongside Representative Bounds and the Caucus to move this initiative forward.

States Involved: MS

 

 

DELAWARE HOUSE BILL 271 SEEKS TO LIFT SUNDAY GAME BIRD HUNTING PROHIBITION

ARTICLE CONTACT: KALEIGH LEAGER

Why It Matters: Currently, in Delaware, Sunday hunting for game birds is prohibited. Delaware’s definition of game bird includes waterfowl, rails, wild turkeys, pheasants, quail, chukar, and doves, amongst others. House Bill 271  (HB 271) removes game birds from the list of species prohibited from Sunday hunting within the First State. While the passage of this legislation does not solidify Sunday game bird hunting, it is a step in the right direction towards the establishment of an additional day to hunt within the confines of the regulated seasons. By lifting the current prohibition, the Delaware Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control (DNREC) will continue to have the authority to establish and regulate season dates, bag limits and enforcement for the hunting of game birds but will gain the ability to add Sundays to the existing game bird seasons.

Highlights:

  • In 2016, the Delaware Legislative Sportsmen’s Caucus spearheaded the passage of HB 289 which permits deer hunting on both private and public lands (subject to approval of the appropriate regulatory body) on five Sundays during firearms seasons.
  • In 2018, the Caucus took further steps for access and opportunity by passing SB 198, which opened hunting every Sunday throughout the state’s archery and firearm deer seasons.
  • Currently, section 712 of Title 7 of the Delaware Code prohibits the hunting of any game birds or game animals (except deer) on Sundays. This Bill eliminates the prohibition against hunting game birds on Sundays. The Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control still has authority to establish and regulate season dates, bag limits and enforcement for the hunting of game birds but removes the legislative prohibition for Sunday game bird hunting that is currently in statute.
  • Delaware Legislative Sportsmen’s Caucus Member, Representative William Carson, is the primary sponsor of HB 271, with several fellow Caucus members as co-sponsors.
  • HB 271 has a hearing scheduled for Tuesday, January 23rd in the House Natural Resources & Energy Committee. The Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation (CSF) is submitting written testimony to encourage its passage.

Sunday hunting bans are one of the last remaining examples of the puritanical blue laws that were initially designed to encourage church attendance.  At the time when blue law restrictions were first put in place, other activities that were illegal on a Sunday included opening a store for business, drinking alcoholic beverages, and tilling your fields. Access is a major limiting factor hindering participation in hunting, and restrictions on Sunday hunting provide a temporal-access barrier to youth and others that work or attend school throughout the week and are often involved in extra-curricular activities on Saturdays. The access parity issue among Delaware’s outdoor community is that the Sunday prohibitions are discriminatory to Delaware’s hunters, excluding deer hunters..

Individuals and families need the ability to participate in safe and healthy recreation that provides citizens the chance to harvest fresh and healthy meat for consumption and nourishment. The hunting conservation community strongly supports measures that increase access and opportunity for sportsmen and women. While HB 271 does not establish a 7-day/week hunting season, it lifts the current standing prohibition on Sunday game bird hunting and will allow DNREC to add Sundays to season dates if they believe it falls within the best interest of conservation, wildlife management, and the sportsmen and women of the First State.

CSF looks forward to working with the Delaware Legislative Sportsmen’s Caucus and the Delaware State Legislature to remove the standing prohibition then working with the DNREC to ensure that Sunday game bird hunting is thoroughly considered and encouraged to be implemented within the First State.

States Involved: DE

 

 

CSF RECOMMENDS AMENDMENTS TO DISCOUNTED AND FREE LICENSE BILLS IN NEBRASKA

ARTICLE CONTACT: JAKE GOULD

Why It Matters: Legislative efforts to offer discounted or no-cost licenses for certain demographics, most commonly veterans, continue to be increasingly common across the country. It is no different in the Great Plains, as Nebraska has introduced several bills that would offer both discounted and no-cost licenses for resident and nonresident veterans that, if passed as written, would carry unforeseen consequences when it comes to the state agency’s ability to collect federal money through the Pitman-Robertson and Dingell-Johnson Acts.

Highlights:

  • Ahead of the committee hearing on January 25, the Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation (CSF) submitted testimony recommending amendments be made to Nebraska Legislative Bill 826 and Legislative Bill 1036.
  • Legislative Bill 826 (LB 826) removes the residency requirement which allows for nonresident veterans to be eligible to receive an annual combination fishing, fur-harvesting, and hunting permit at a discounted rate.
  • Legislative Bill 1036 (LB 1036) allows for active duty and veterans who are Nebraska residents to receive a free annual combination fishing, fur-harvesting, and hunting permit.

The Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation submitted formal testimony to the Natural Resources Committee encouraging amendments be made to Legislative Bill 826 and Legislative Bill 1036. LB 826, as presented, would offer nonresident veterans a discounted annual combination license, while LB 1036 offers active duty and veteran Nebraska residents a no-cost annual combination license. While CSF appreciates opportunities to show support for those who have served our nation as members of the armed forces, the amendments outlined in CSF’s testimony are to ensure the future success of the “user pays – public benefits” American System of Conservation Funding.

The ASCF serves as one of the primary sources of revenue for the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission’s (NGPC) fish and wildlife conservation efforts. The loss of revenue from the discounted and no-cost licenses, presented in both bills is evident. What is less known is the impact of the no-cost licenses, such as those described in LB 1036, on NGPC’s ability to fully claim their portion of revenue made available through the Pittman-Robertson and Dingell-Johnson Acts. The federal dollars from these Acts are calculated based on the sale, among other factors, of hunting and fishing licenses that results in revenue being collected by NGPC.

These well intended pieces of legislation carry unintended consequences that may negatively impact the NGPC and, as a result, the quality of opportunities available to sportsmen and women. For the legislature to offer these rewards, the suggested amendments provided in testimony recommend including language for reimbursement to NGPC from the state general fund for the revenue lost foregone as a result of these discounted and no-cost licenses. Doing so will allow the legislature to rightfully reward active duty military and veterans while also ensuring that NGPC will receive the funding necessary to continue their work managing the Cornhusker state’s fish and wildlife resources.

States Involved: NE

 

 

MISGUIDED HUNTER EDUCATION REPEAL BILL INTRODUCED IN KENTUCKY

ARTICLE CONTACT: CONNER BARKER

Why It Matters: It is no secret that hunter participation rates are declining across the country. While it may oftentimes go unrecognized, hunter safety education courses offer young and new hunters the opportunity to learn proper firearm safety and safe hunting practices to take afield. Hunter safety programs serve to keep hunters safe while in the field enjoying our time-honored traditions, while also instilling within sportsmen and women a strong code of ethics to guide their interactions with the natural world.

Highlights:

  • Senate Bill 60, which was introduced in January, would allow residents and nonresidents to obtain a license or permit without taking a hunter education course.
  • Currently, all 50 states require hunter safety education as a prerequisite for obtaining a hunting license, with some exceptions that vary by state.
  • In Kentucky, all hunters born on or after January 1, 1975, must carry proof of a valid hunter’s education certification.

In today’s digital age, many states offer internet based hunter safety education courses that can be completed at the convenience of the hunter. All 50 states that require hunter safety education currently offer an online and self-paced course. Some states, like Kentucky, also require a hunter education range day where hunters can showcase their firearm safety skills and learn how to safely handle a firearm prior to heading afield.

In fact, many states are working to expand opportunities to participate in hunter and firearm safety education. For example, members of the Michigan Legislative Sportsmen’s Caucus introduced a pair of bills this month that would create a model firearm safety course for schools to voluntarily offer as an elective course. Similarly, in 2022, West Virginia expanded hunter safety education course offerings beyond high schools to include middle schools.

Also related to hunter safety education, the Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation (CSF) led the charge on the bipartisan Protecting Hunting Heritage and Education Act (H.R. 5110), which was signed into law last year. The bill amended the Bipartisan Safer Communities Act, which originally had unintended consequences that negatively impacted funding for hunter education, school sponsored shooting teams, wilderness courses, and other educational programs for students.

Recruiting more hunters that have completed a hunter safety education course helps minimize potential accidents in the field. Additionally, while Kentucky and many other states offer apprentice hunting licenses which allow new hunters to hunt under the supervision of an experienced and licensed hunter before completing a hunter education course, these programs do not obviate the need to take hunter education once the apprentice period is over. Instead of repealing hunter education requirements altogether, policymakers in Kentucky could consider expanding the apprentice hunting program, like South Carolina did in 2020, to facilitate more hunting opportunities for new hunters.

CSF does not support this legislation and will continue to stay engaged to support maintaining the current hunter safety pre-requisite requirements in the Commonwealth.

States Involved: KY

 

 

MISGUIDED LEGISLATION TO END SANDHILL CRANE SEASON INTRODUCED IN TENNESSEE

ARTICLE CONTACT: CONNER BARKER

Why It Matters: The North American Model of Wildlife Conservation is widely recognized as the most successful model of wildlife management in the world. Among the seven core components that comprise the model is the key tenant that wildlife policy should be formulated using the best available science. Unfortunately, this core component is often at the center of attack in state legislatures across the country, including in Tennessee where legislation to end the Sandhill Crane season has been introduced this session.

Highlights:

  • House Bill 1867 and Senate Bill 1876 would prohibit the hunting of Sandhill Cranes in Tennessee.
  • With fewer than 200 birds in the United States less than 100 years ago, Sandhill Cranes now boast a population of over 1.4 million and are regarded as a massive conservation success story.
  • The Eastern population of Sandhill Cranes growth rate is 4% per year, while the harvest rate over the past several years in Alabama, Kentucky, and Tennessee has been <1%.
  • With the continued growth of the Sandhill Crane population, human-wildlife conflicts are on the rise, including crop depredation, which causes millions of dollars in damage each year.

The Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation (CSF) is strongly opposed to these bills. Regulated hunting poses no population-level threat to Sandhill Crane conservation. Further, a key tenet of the North American Model of Wildlife Conservation is that wildlife policy is formulated through the best available science, and there is no scientific support for ending the Tennessee Sandhill Crane season.

In fact, the growth of the Sandhill Crane population can be attributed to science-based wildlife management, supported by sportsmen-generated conservation funding, conducted by state fish and wildlife agencies, including the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency (TWRA), the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and Canada as a migratory species. The TWRA is staffed with professional wildlife biologists that work to carry out TWRA’s wildlife conservation mission. The TWRA and its Commission are the best equipped entity to make wildlife management decisions, including the regulation of Sandhill Cranes in Tennessee.

In addition to limiting opportunities for Tennesseans, Sandhill Crane management is supported by conservation dollars generated by Tennessee’s sportsmen and women through the “user pays – public benefits” American System of Conservation Funding. Tennessee’s sportsmen and women generated over $60.96 million for state-based conservation in 2021 that supports the management of game as well as non-game species. Additionally, sandhill crane conservation is supported through the sale of duck stamps, authorized by the Migratory Bird Hunting and Conservation Stamp Act, which supports wetland conservation in the United States.

Tennessee, like many other states that have a Sandhill Crane season, regulates Sandhill Crane hunting through a limited quota tag draw system to ensure that harvest levels do not exceed management goals. Additionally, hunters must pass a test to ensure that they can properly identify Sandhill Cranes in the field and complete a post-season survey regardless of whether they harvested a Sandhill Crane or not.

CSF is opposed to these bills and will work to support maintaining the current Sandhill Crane hunting opportunities in the Volunteer State.

States Involved: TN

 

 

SIGNIFICANT SPORTSMEN-GENERATED CONSERVATION DOLLARS AT RISK IN NEBRASKA

ARTICLE CONTACT: JAKE GOULD

Why It Matters: State fish and wildlife agencies rely on hunters, anglers, and recreational shooting sports participants to support their conservation efforts through the unique “user pays – public benefits” American System of Conservation Funding (ASCF). Through the ASCF, state fish and wildlife agencies not only collect funds from the hunting or fishing licenses sold, but also collect federal apportionments that are generated through excise taxes on sporting goods. Funds that are collected through this System must only be used by the state fish and wildlife agency. In Nebraska, Sections 30 and 31 of Legislative Bill 1413 look to redirect $7,000,000 from the Nebraska Fame and Parks Commission state game fund to the general fund along with $2,500,000 from the Nebraska Habitat Fund – a diversion of ASCF dollars that would make the Commission ineligible to receive federal apportionments and would result in a loss of revenue that is much larger than the already significant millions of dollars proposed to be transferred.

Highlights

  • Ahead of the hearing on January 30, the Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation (CSF) submitted formal testimony in opposition to Section 30 and 31 of Legislative Bill 1413.
  • Legislative Bill 1413 (LB 1413) proposes a transfer of $7,000,000 from the State Game Fund and $2,500,000 from the Nebraska Habitat Fund to the State General Fund.
  • The diversion of sportsmen-generated money will not only strip the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission (NGPC) of current funding, but it will make the State ineligible to receive future federal apportionments through the Pittman-Robertson and Dingell-Johnson Acts.

The Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation submitted formal testimony to the Nebraska Legislature’s Appropriations Committee in opposition to Section 30 and 31 of LB 1413 which looks to transfer $7,000,000 from the State Game Fund and $2,500,000 from the Nebraska Habitat Fund to the State General Fund. These sections, specifically Section 30, not only redirect critical conservation funding from NGPC but would also be a diversion of sportsmen-generated funding that would make the state ineligible to receive their federal apportionments through the Pittman-Robertson and Dingell-Johnson/Wallop-Breaux Acts.

The Nebraska Game and Parks Commission relies on the sale of hunting and fishing licenses and federal apportionments of revenue that is generated though manufacturer-level excise taxes on sporting goods authorized through the Pittman-Robertson and Dingell-Johnson/Wallop-Breaux Acts. This framework is known as the American System of Conservation Funding. For states, including Nebraska, to be eligible for these federal apportionments, state fish and wildlife agencies must ensure that all revenue received through the ASCF is used only for the administration of the state fish and wildlife agency.

The NPGC relies on these funds to continue their conservation efforts which benefit all Nebraskans. In 2023 alone, NGPC received more than $27.4 million in federal apportionments. As written, LB 1413 would make the NGPC ineligible for these annual apportionments, ultimately costing the agency nearly $35 million in operating revenue – significantly more than the $7 million that LB 1413 proposes to transfer. Moving forward, elected officials are encouraged to work with their state fish and wildlife agency to better understand the importance of the ASCF and the sportsmen-led efforts to fund fish and wildlife conservation throughout the country.

States Involved: NE

 

 

SENATE CSC MEMBERS INTRODUCE COMPREHENSIVE CONSERVATION PACKAGE

ARTICLE CONTACT: TAYLOR SCHMITZ

Why It Matters: The America’s Conservation Enhancement (ACE) Reauthorization Act includes nearly a dozen provisions that seek to enhance the conservation of fish, wildlife, and their associated habitats across North America, while also providing an important protection for our nation’s anglers. The Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation (CSF) served as a driving force behind the enactment of the original America’s Conservation Enhancement Act, which passed the House and Senate in 2020 unanimously. 

Highlights:

  • On Friday, Senate Environment and Public Works Committee (EPW) Chairman and Congressional Sportsmen’s Caucus (CSC) Member Sen. Carper and EPW Ranking Member and CSC Member Sen. Capito introduced the America’s Conservation Enhancement Reauthorization Act.
  • Senators Carper and Capito were joined by CSC Co-Chair John Boozman, CSC members Senators Mullin and Wicker as well as Sens. Cardin, Padilla, Whitehouse, and Van Hollen.
  • This comprehensive piece of legislation will reauthorize fish, wildlife, and habitat conservation programs across the nation that are important to sportsmen and women from Fiscal Year 2026 through Fiscal Year 2030.

On Friday, February 9, the America’s Conservation Enhancement Reauthorization Act was introduced in the Senate, a top priority for the Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation.

Notably, the ACE Reauthorization Act will reauthorize important programs and CSF priorities such as the North American Wetlands Conservation Act (NAWCA), the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation Establishment Act, the National Fish Habitat Conservation Through Partnerships (NFHP) program, and three important programs for the Chesapeake Bay.

The ACE Reauthorization Act will increase the NAWCA authorization level from $60 million annually to $65 million annually. Unfortunately, America has lost roughly 50% of its wetlands. However, NAWCA provides strategic investments to conserving and restoring degraded wetlands across North America. Since inception 35 years ago, NAWCA has provided over $2.1 billion in federal grants that has leveraged nearly $4.3 billion in non-federal contributions. In total, there have been over 3,300 NAWCA projects that have contributed to the conservation of nearly 32 million acres of wetlands in the United States, Mexico, and Canada.

The National Fish Habitat Conservation Through Partnerships section of the bill is similar to NAWCA but is focused on fisheries habitat. The ACE Reauthorization Act will increase the NFHP authorization from $7.2 million to $10 million annually while also making some changes to reporting and matching requirements. NFHP is a state and locally driven program that leverages partners to conserve priority aquatic habitat needs, restore fish populations, and enhance recreational fishing opportunities.

Additionally, the ACE Reauthorization Act will provide a 5-year protection to prohibit the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) from regulating the use of lead fishing tackle under the purview of the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA). The EPA has consistently reaffirmed state management authority of lead fishing tackle and this legislation will ensure the EPA cannot be petitioned to regulate lead tackle under TSCA for a period of 5 years.

The Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation looks forward to working with the bill sponsors of this important legislation to see this effort get across the finish line in 2024.

Policy Corner Brief: FEBRUARY 2024 This article is published in the issue.
Click here to purchase this black issue
Intrested in buying other back issues?
Click here
FILED IN: ,
ARTICLES FROM THE OCTOBER / NOVEMBER 2015 ISSUE
Life in Bronze

Filed In: ,

Liz Lewis employs several foundries in the Bozeman area to cast her lost-wax-style work. Recently, she has begun exploring the use of colored patinas to reproduce the coloration of sporting......

Being at Brays

Filed In: , , , ,

Located outside of Savannah, Georgia, and proximate to the charming coastal town of Beaufort, South Carolina, and within a short drive of Charleston—the current capital of Southern lifestyle—Brays...

Curated Fashions

Filed In: , ,

After spending more than eight years in the UK running retail shops, Ramona Brumby of Atlanta’s The London Trading Company came home. “My passion is anything to do with décor,......

Inside the October-November 20...

Filed In:

This month’s cover photo of the German shorthaired pointer was taken at Pheasant Ridge by Terry Allen during our June-July 2015 feature coverage of Ferrari. As we traveled to Pheasant......

Bertuzzi Gullwings

Filed In: , , , ,

Bertuzzi shotguns have the unique design characteristic of ali di gabbiano, Italian for “the wings of a gull” as the sideplates spring outward like wings, revealing the lockwork inside. ...

Stealthy Ghosts

Filed In: , , ,

Judy Balog, who owns and runs Silvershot Weimaraners in Michigan with Jerry Gertiser, has owned Weimaraners for more than 20 years....

You may also like

The Kind Approach

In the United Kingdom, dog trainer Ben Randall sho...

Sturdy Brothers Waxed Canva...

This portable piece is handcrafted to last a lifet...

Viski Solid Copper Shot Gla...

These shot glasses are hand crafted and feature an...

Policy Corner Brief: FEBRUARY 2024

CONGRESSIONAL SPORTSMEN’S FOUNDATION ANNOUNCES THE APPOINTMENT OF THREE NEW BOARD MEMBERS FOR 2024

Jason Hornady of Hornady Manufacturing, Inc., Jason Vanderbrink of Vista Outdoor Inc., and Brian Luoma to join CSF’s Board of Directors.

January 18, 2024 (Washington, D.C.) The Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation (CSF),  the nation’s most effective outdoor advocacy organization, announced today the appointment of three new members to the Board of Directors (Board); Jason Hornady of Hornady Manufacturing, Inc., Jason Vanderbrink of Vista Outdoor Inc., and Brian Luoma who recently retired as CEO of the Westervelt Company. CSF’s Board of Directors is composed of a diverse mix of outdoor industry leaders with deep experience in hunting, angling, recreational shooting, and conservation that will help guide the Foundation’s continued efforts in developing and defending policies that protect and advance our nation’s outdoor traditions.

“I have had the honor of being involved with this organization for nearly 20 years, including serving time on the Board,” said Board Chairman Richard Childress. “What this organization does for America’s sportsmen and women is immeasurable and is a testament to the strength of the industry representation serving on this Board. I look forward to helping CSF continue their charge through Board engagement because, without CSF, there may not be a world where hunting, fishing, recreational shooting, and trapping exist.”

“We are excited to expand our Board with three new members who will bring diverse expertise and insight to CSF’s mission. As CSF continues to be at the forefront leading the battle to protect and advance our outdoor traditions, it is critically important that our Board membership reflects the industry and outdoor community we serve,” said CSF President and CEO Jeff Crane. “Our nation’s 55 million sportsmen and women can rest assured knowing their outdoor passions and pursuits will continue to be protected and advanced through the strength and leadership of the CSF Board and our team of policy experts.”

Jason Hornady is Vice President of Hornady Manufacturing, Inc., a company founded by Joyce Hornady in 1949. Jason is no stranger to the CSF Board having previously served as a member from 2012 through 2020 including serving as a Chairman in 2019 and 2020; thereafter, Jason was elected to the Honorary Board. He is an avid hunter and shooter and has participated in regional and national-level shooting competitions. Jason’s passion for hunting/shooting is demonstrated by his pursuits here in North America and Internationally. During his time as a shooting industry sales professional, Jason has been fortunate to work with over 150 companies and has served on several boards representing the outdoor industry.

Jason Vanderbrink is Co-CEO of Vista Outdoor Inc., CEO of Sporting Products. He previously served as Senior Vice President of Sales for all the company’s brands. During his tenure as President of Sporting Products, Jason has driven rapid and award-winning new product innovation, oversaw the acquisition of Remington and HEVI-Shot, and demonstrated record sales and profitability. An avid outdoorsman who is passionate about hunting and shooting, Jason is a proud member of the NRA Ring of Honor and a life member of several conservation organizations.

A native of Fort Bragg, California, Brian Luoma received his bachelor’s degree in Forestry and has been a Registered Professional Forester in California since 1990.  Prior to joining The Westervelt Company, Brian held multiple positions over a 29-year career with Louisiana-Pacific Corporation ranging from forestry and procurement to structural panel manufacturing and business general management at the executive level.  Throughout his career, he has served on many Industry Association boards and committees including The American Wood Council, The Wood Products Council, Forest Resources Association, and the National Association of Forest Owners.  Brian is the current Chairman of the Softwood Lumber Board and Working Forest Initiative and a regular member of the Boone and Crockett Club, the National Wild Turkey Federation, and Ducks Unlimited.

In addition to the appointment of the three new board members, Mark Cherpes, President and CEO of FN America, has been appointed to CSF’s Honorary Board of Directors.  Mark spent six years serving as a member of the CSF Board of Directors and CSF is grateful to have Mark continue his involvement through the Honorary Board.

Leading the Board in 2024 is Richard Childress Racing Chairman and CEO Richard Childress as Chairman; Harlan Kent as Vice-Chair; Bekun, LLC and Berverst, LLC Managing Director Francisco Bergaz as Secretary; and Rather Outdoors, LLC CEO Ken Eubanks as Treasurer.

 

 

CSF’S TAYLOR SCHMITZ NAMED AS 2024 CHAIRMAN OF THE AMERICAN WILDLIFE CONSERVATION PARTNERS

January 19, 2024 (Washington, D.C.) –Taylor Schmitz, Director, Federal Relations at the Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation (CSF), has been named as the 2024 Chairman of the American Wildlife Conservation Partners (AWCP). The AWCP is the nation’s leading coalition of sporting-conservation organizations working to advance the interests of sportsmen and women. CSF staff members serve on a variety of committees, councils, and coalitions and this appointment is another in a long line of examples of CSF’s leadership in the sporting-conservation community.

The AWCP, comprised of the nation’s top 50 sporting-conservation organizations, including founding member, the Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation, is an effective and collective force dedicated to ensuring the vitality of America’s wildlife resources and providing for sustainable public use and enjoyment of those resources. This unique coalition represents the interests of America’s millions of hunter-conservationists, professional wildlife and natural resource managers, outdoor recreation users, conservation educators, and wildlife scientists. While the 50 partner organizations of the AWCP may have diverse primary missions, they all hold a shared commitment to advancing and promoting pro sporting-conservation priorities. In order to further this shared mission, AWCP members regularly interact and engage with federal agencies and members of Congress through sign-on letters and more.

Over the coming months, AWCP will be developing what is known as Wildlife for the 21st Century (W-21) which serves as the blueprint for AWCP’s collective priorities and visions for wildlife and sportsmen and women in the 21st century. AWCP revises W-21 every four years to help guide the incoming Presidency and the next two Congresses. Schmitz’s Chairmanship within AWCP will position CSF to continue to guide the direction of the Partnership through the development of W-21.

“In a time where it can be easier to focus on our differences rather than our similarities, the AWCP provides a catalyst for enacting change and offers a shared voice for the sporting-conservation community,” saidCSF President and CEO Jeff Crane, who previously served as Chairman of the AWCP. “CSF is confident that Taylor will continue to be a strong voice for hunting, fishing, trapping, recreational shooting, and science-based wildlife management while serving as the Chairman of the American Wildlife Conservation Partners.”

As the trusted voice for America’s 55 million sportsmen and women, CSF has been leading the charge to protect America’s outdoor traditions in the policy arena for 35 years. By working closely with the AWCP, CSF can further its scope of influence in the policy arena.

“AWCP truly is a partnership that is unmatched in its vision, reach, and in delivering meaningful victories for wildlife, sportsmen and women, and other conservationists. I am honored to have been selected to serve as the Chairman of AWCP for 2024,” said CSF’s Director of Federal Relations and AWCP Chairman Taylor Schmitz. “During this time, AWCP will be developing Wildlife for the 21st, and I am looking forward to working with my colleagues to revise and update AWCP’s vision for wildlife conservation, access, and our sporting heritage for the next four years.”

In his role at CSF, Taylor works directly with the Congressional Sportsmen’s Caucus (CSC), the Administration, and federal agencies to advance bipartisan, meaningful solutions to issues of importance to sportsmen and women. His close work with the CSC and crucial expertise in sporting-conservation policy will prove undoubtedly beneficial in this role.

In addition to Taylor being named Chairman, CSF’s Senior Coordinator, Policy Communications Hannah Stubblefield has been appointed as Secretary of the AWCP. In her role at CSF, Hannah, an avid hunter, angler, and conservationist, is responsible for promoting CSF’s policy work through broad communication strategies as well as implementing and developing a variety of campaigns. This new role will provide CSF with the tools and resources to further develop AWCP’s campaigns and communication impact.

 

 

HOUSE AND SENATE COMMITTEES EACH PASS CSF PRIORITIES

ARTICLE CONTACT: TAYLOR SCHMITZ

Why It Matters: The committee passage of the EXPLORE Act, the Coastal Habitat Conservation Act, and the Good Samaritan Remediation of Abandoned Hardrock Mines Act marks an important step in the advancement of these priority bills for the Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation (CSF). These bills seek to improve outdoor recreational access and to enhance fish and wildlife habitat across the nation.

Highlights:

  • On Wednesday, January 17, the House Natural Resources Committee passed the Expanding Public Lands Outdoor Recreation Experiences (EXPLORE) Act (R 6492) and the Coastal Habitat Conservation Act (H.R. 2950), two priorities of the Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation.
  • The next day, the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee passed the Good Samaritan Remediation of Abandoned Hardrock Mines Act ( 2781), a long-standing priority for CSF.

Last week, the House Natural Resources Committee passed two priorities of the Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation including the EXPLORE Act and the Coastal Habitat Conservation Act. The next day, the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee passed the Good Samaritan Remediation of Abandoned Hardrock Mines Act.

The EXPLORE Act, which contains many provisions of importance to sportsmen and women, is led by Congressional Sportsmen’s Caucus (CSC) Member Rep. Bruce Westerman. CSF is particularly excited to see language that closely mirrors the Range Access Act (H.R. 1614). This language will require the U.S. Forest Service (USFS) and Bureau of Land Management (BLM) to have a minimum of one free and public target shooting range in each of the respective districts. By providing dedicated, established target ranges, this legislation will improve opportunities to recycle spent ammunition and mitigate waste and pollution at non-designated ranges on USFS and BLM lands.

Furthermore, this legislation includes language that will help improve future federal land agency planning decisions and would enhance user planning efforts for the general public. Specifically, the Improved Recreation Visitation Data section directs certain federal land management agencies to capture various recreation visitation data. This section also establishes a real-time data pilot program to make available to the public real-time or predictive visitation data for federal lands, helping sportsmen and women with their trip planning efforts.

The Coastal Habitat Conservation Act of 2023 (H.R. 2950), led by CSC Member Rep. Jared Huffman, would authorize the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s Coastal Program and would increase authorized discretionary appropriations from $20 million in Fiscal Year 2024 to $25 million in 2028 for coastal protection, restoration, and enhancement efforts around the nation and in the Great Lakes. This program has proven to be a highly successful public-private partnership for restoring and protecting fish and wildlife habitat on public and privately-owned lands.

The Good Samaritan Remediation of Abandoned Hardrock Mines Act, led by CSC Member Senator Martin Heinrich, seeks to provide liability protections to Good Samaritans who attempt to recover and restore abandoned mines. Under current law, Good Samaritans who attempt to recover and restore abandoned mine sites are legally responsible for the pollution from the mine as soon as they touch it, even if they had no prior association with the mine. This legislation will help remove these unnecessary and prohibitive constraints by ensuring that Good Samaritans who attempt to restore abandoned mines have no legal or financial responsibility for future mine pollution.

CSF would like to thank the House Natural Resources Committee and the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee for passing these three important bills.

 

 

STATE FIREARMS AND AMMUNITION EXCISE TAXES PROPOSED IN WA & NM

ARTICLE CONTACT: KEELY HOPKINSBARRY SNELLMARIE NEUMILLER

Why It Matters: Law-abiding hunters and recreational shooters have long played a vital role in funding conservation through various wildlife management nationwide. Recently, state legislatures have begun proposing state excise taxes in addition to the existing manufacturer-level taxes already being paid under federal law. Under the American System of Conservation Funding (ASCF), a unique “user pays — public benefits” program, sportsmen and women generate hundreds of millions of dollars each year for Fish & Wildlife agencies. These funds are generated through license sales and a 10-11% manufacturer-level excise tax on sporting-related goods, including firearms and ammunition. Decreased firearm and ammunition purchases that result from additional taxes and costs would have a negative impact on conservation funding. 

Highlights:

  • In New Mexico, Senate Bill 90 (SB90) has been introduced during the 2024 legislative session that if passed, would impose an 11% excise tax on all firearms, firearms parts, ammunition, and suppressors.
  • Additionally, legislators in Washington State have proposed House Bill 2238 (HB2238), imposing an 11% “privilege” tax on consumers for all ammunition sales.
  • As reported previously, the Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation (CSF) actively opposed similar legislation in California, Connecticut, Massachusetts, and New York in recent sessions, and will continue to work against this misguided legislation in 2024 in both New Mexico and Washington

Each year the recreational shooting and hunting industries contribute hundreds of millions of dollars to conservation, hunter education, shooting ranges, and other programs through the Pittman-Robertson excise tax. Combined with hunting and fishing license sales and a similar manufacturer-level tax in the recreational fishing and boating industries (Dingell-Johnson/Wallop-Breaux), this American System of Conservation Funding creates a “user pays, public benefits” program aimed at supporting state fish and game agencies. Since its inception in the early 1900’s, the Pittman-Robertson portion of the ASCF has collected over $12.5 billion dollars which were subsequently distributed out to the states to be put on the ground for conservation.

Despite strong opposition from the hunting-conservation and shooting sports communities, several state legislatures are proposing, and have even passed, additional excise tax levies on firearms and/or ammunition. The passing of AB 28 in California in 2023 has led several state legislators to introduce similar legislation, as recently seen in Washington and New Mexico. Placing new taxes on firearms and ammunition is fraught with unintended consequences that can reduce state’s access to conservation funding. Reduced sales will not only harm local businesses in the taxing state, but it will also potentially reduce the federal Pittman-Robertson revenues.

Earlier this month, a lawmaker in New Mexico  introduced Senate Bill 90, a particularly egregious piece of legislation that would impose an additional 11% excise tax on all firearms, firearms parts that can be turned into a firearm, ammunition, and suppressors.  This tax would be collected by retailers and the proceeds placed in the crime victims reparation fund, as well as a fund for children and families involved in abusive or neglect situations.  As New Mexico has so-called “universal background checks” which requires private sales to be conducted through an FFL, this new tax appears to also apply to gun transfers between private individuals and family members.  Further, some of the language implies that even if someone receives a firearm as a gift or payment for a service, the recipient of the firearm must also pay the tax.  Regardless of the intent of this bill, the vague and confusing nature of it makes it bad policy from the start.

In Washington State, House Bill 2238 was introduced into the House of Representatives on January 9, with 15 co-sponsors. Currently referred to the Finance Committee, this bill does not yet have a Committee hearing scheduled. If enacted, HB2238 would place an 11% excise tax on each retail sale, and would be levied on every person in the state for the “privilege” of using ammunition as a consumer. Revenue generated by this state tax would be earmarked for suicide prevention and firearm-related domestic violence programs.

The Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation actively opposed the Firearm and Ammunition Tax that passed in California in 2023, as previously reported. CSF and our partners are working to oppose the 2024 proposals in both New Mexico and Washington as well, as these policies are likely to have a negative impact on outdoor heritage, outdoor recreation opportunities, conservation funding, and hunter participation. CSF will continue to keep you updated on the status of these bills, and residents of each of the states are encouraged to contact their lawmakers to voice their opposition to these misguided policies.

States Involved: CA / NM / WA

 

 

BILL TO SAFEGUARD MDWFP FUNDING BROUGHT BACK TO THE TABLE

ARTICLE CONTACT: MARK LANCE

Why It Matters: Every year bills are introduced that would allow individuals to purchase a free or heavily discounted hunting and/or fishing license. Legislators tend to target deserving groups, such as first responders or veterans. However, if passed, these bills could have a significant impact on conservation funding for their respective state’s fish and wildlife agency. That is where legislation that reimburses the state fish and wildlife agency for revenue lost due to the passage and creation of free and discounted hunting licenses comes into play to protect conservation funding.

Highlights:

  • On January 18, the National Assembly of Sportsmen’s Caucuses (NASC) Executive Council Member and Mississippi Legislative Sportsmen’s Caucus (Caucus) Co-Chair Representative Scott Bounds filed HB 300.
  • This legislation is identical to HB 1012 from the 2023 session and would require that the Mississippi Department of Wildlife, Fisheries, and Parks (MDWFP) be reimbursed for any lost revenue resulting from the issuance of free or discounted hunting and fishing licenses, admission to state parks, and other fees through the State General Fund.
  • No free or discounted licenses on the books prior to the date this bill would be affected.

The MDWFP’s mission is to conserve and enhance Mississippi’s wildlife, fisheries, and parks, provide quality outdoor recreation, and engage the public in natural resource conservation. HB 300 would assist in ensuring that MDWFP continues to receive the necessary funding to continue to work towards accomplishing its mission.

While certain groups do deserve recognition for their contributions to society, there are alternate methods of recognizing them, such as providing tax credits for the purchasing of hunting and fishing licenses, rather than negatively impacting the entity charged with conserving a public trust resource. In addition to the hit on initial revenue from license sales, states that distribute free and discounted licenses are losing funds that would be apportioned through Pittman-Robertson and Dingell-Johnson/Wallop-Breaux. If passed, this legislation would bring Mississippi alongside Michigan, New Jersey, and Tennessee where state fish and wildlife agency funding is protected from impacts resulting from the passage of free or discounted licenses.

Sportsmen and women in Mississippi contributed over $30 million annually to conservation funding through the “user pays — public benefits” structure known as the American System of Conservation Funding (ASCF). Revenue generated from the purchase of hunting and fishing licenses is instrumental to the success of the ASCF.

The Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation (CSF) looks forward to continuing to work alongside Representative Bounds and the Caucus to move this initiative forward.

States Involved: MS

 

 

DELAWARE HOUSE BILL 271 SEEKS TO LIFT SUNDAY GAME BIRD HUNTING PROHIBITION

ARTICLE CONTACT: KALEIGH LEAGER

Why It Matters: Currently, in Delaware, Sunday hunting for game birds is prohibited. Delaware’s definition of game bird includes waterfowl, rails, wild turkeys, pheasants, quail, chukar, and doves, amongst others. House Bill 271  (HB 271) removes game birds from the list of species prohibited from Sunday hunting within the First State. While the passage of this legislation does not solidify Sunday game bird hunting, it is a step in the right direction towards the establishment of an additional day to hunt within the confines of the regulated seasons. By lifting the current prohibition, the Delaware Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control (DNREC) will continue to have the authority to establish and regulate season dates, bag limits and enforcement for the hunting of game birds but will gain the ability to add Sundays to the existing game bird seasons.

Highlights:

  • In 2016, the Delaware Legislative Sportsmen’s Caucus spearheaded the passage of HB 289 which permits deer hunting on both private and public lands (subject to approval of the appropriate regulatory body) on five Sundays during firearms seasons.
  • In 2018, the Caucus took further steps for access and opportunity by passing SB 198, which opened hunting every Sunday throughout the state’s archery and firearm deer seasons.
  • Currently, section 712 of Title 7 of the Delaware Code prohibits the hunting of any game birds or game animals (except deer) on Sundays. This Bill eliminates the prohibition against hunting game birds on Sundays. The Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control still has authority to establish and regulate season dates, bag limits and enforcement for the hunting of game birds but removes the legislative prohibition for Sunday game bird hunting that is currently in statute.
  • Delaware Legislative Sportsmen’s Caucus Member, Representative William Carson, is the primary sponsor of HB 271, with several fellow Caucus members as co-sponsors.
  • HB 271 has a hearing scheduled for Tuesday, January 23rd in the House Natural Resources & Energy Committee. The Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation (CSF) is submitting written testimony to encourage its passage.

Sunday hunting bans are one of the last remaining examples of the puritanical blue laws that were initially designed to encourage church attendance.  At the time when blue law restrictions were first put in place, other activities that were illegal on a Sunday included opening a store for business, drinking alcoholic beverages, and tilling your fields. Access is a major limiting factor hindering participation in hunting, and restrictions on Sunday hunting provide a temporal-access barrier to youth and others that work or attend school throughout the week and are often involved in extra-curricular activities on Saturdays. The access parity issue among Delaware’s outdoor community is that the Sunday prohibitions are discriminatory to Delaware’s hunters, excluding deer hunters..

Individuals and families need the ability to participate in safe and healthy recreation that provides citizens the chance to harvest fresh and healthy meat for consumption and nourishment. The hunting conservation community strongly supports measures that increase access and opportunity for sportsmen and women. While HB 271 does not establish a 7-day/week hunting season, it lifts the current standing prohibition on Sunday game bird hunting and will allow DNREC to add Sundays to season dates if they believe it falls within the best interest of conservation, wildlife management, and the sportsmen and women of the First State.

CSF looks forward to working with the Delaware Legislative Sportsmen’s Caucus and the Delaware State Legislature to remove the standing prohibition then working with the DNREC to ensure that Sunday game bird hunting is thoroughly considered and encouraged to be implemented within the First State.

States Involved: DE

 

 

CSF RECOMMENDS AMENDMENTS TO DISCOUNTED AND FREE LICENSE BILLS IN NEBRASKA

ARTICLE CONTACT: JAKE GOULD

Why It Matters: Legislative efforts to offer discounted or no-cost licenses for certain demographics, most commonly veterans, continue to be increasingly common across the country. It is no different in the Great Plains, as Nebraska has introduced several bills that would offer both discounted and no-cost licenses for resident and nonresident veterans that, if passed as written, would carry unforeseen consequences when it comes to the state agency’s ability to collect federal money through the Pitman-Robertson and Dingell-Johnson Acts.

Highlights:

  • Ahead of the committee hearing on January 25, the Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation (CSF) submitted testimony recommending amendments be made to Nebraska Legislative Bill 826 and Legislative Bill 1036.
  • Legislative Bill 826 (LB 826) removes the residency requirement which allows for nonresident veterans to be eligible to receive an annual combination fishing, fur-harvesting, and hunting permit at a discounted rate.
  • Legislative Bill 1036 (LB 1036) allows for active duty and veterans who are Nebraska residents to receive a free annual combination fishing, fur-harvesting, and hunting permit.

The Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation submitted formal testimony to the Natural Resources Committee encouraging amendments be made to Legislative Bill 826 and Legislative Bill 1036. LB 826, as presented, would offer nonresident veterans a discounted annual combination license, while LB 1036 offers active duty and veteran Nebraska residents a no-cost annual combination license. While CSF appreciates opportunities to show support for those who have served our nation as members of the armed forces, the amendments outlined in CSF’s testimony are to ensure the future success of the “user pays – public benefits” American System of Conservation Funding.

The ASCF serves as one of the primary sources of revenue for the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission’s (NGPC) fish and wildlife conservation efforts. The loss of revenue from the discounted and no-cost licenses, presented in both bills is evident. What is less known is the impact of the no-cost licenses, such as those described in LB 1036, on NGPC’s ability to fully claim their portion of revenue made available through the Pittman-Robertson and Dingell-Johnson Acts. The federal dollars from these Acts are calculated based on the sale, among other factors, of hunting and fishing licenses that results in revenue being collected by NGPC.

These well intended pieces of legislation carry unintended consequences that may negatively impact the NGPC and, as a result, the quality of opportunities available to sportsmen and women. For the legislature to offer these rewards, the suggested amendments provided in testimony recommend including language for reimbursement to NGPC from the state general fund for the revenue lost foregone as a result of these discounted and no-cost licenses. Doing so will allow the legislature to rightfully reward active duty military and veterans while also ensuring that NGPC will receive the funding necessary to continue their work managing the Cornhusker state’s fish and wildlife resources.

States Involved: NE

 

 

MISGUIDED HUNTER EDUCATION REPEAL BILL INTRODUCED IN KENTUCKY

ARTICLE CONTACT: CONNER BARKER

Why It Matters: It is no secret that hunter participation rates are declining across the country. While it may oftentimes go unrecognized, hunter safety education courses offer young and new hunters the opportunity to learn proper firearm safety and safe hunting practices to take afield. Hunter safety programs serve to keep hunters safe while in the field enjoying our time-honored traditions, while also instilling within sportsmen and women a strong code of ethics to guide their interactions with the natural world.

Highlights:

  • Senate Bill 60, which was introduced in January, would allow residents and nonresidents to obtain a license or permit without taking a hunter education course.
  • Currently, all 50 states require hunter safety education as a prerequisite for obtaining a hunting license, with some exceptions that vary by state.
  • In Kentucky, all hunters born on or after January 1, 1975, must carry proof of a valid hunter’s education certification.

In today’s digital age, many states offer internet based hunter safety education courses that can be completed at the convenience of the hunter. All 50 states that require hunter safety education currently offer an online and self-paced course. Some states, like Kentucky, also require a hunter education range day where hunters can showcase their firearm safety skills and learn how to safely handle a firearm prior to heading afield.

In fact, many states are working to expand opportunities to participate in hunter and firearm safety education. For example, members of the Michigan Legislative Sportsmen’s Caucus introduced a pair of bills this month that would create a model firearm safety course for schools to voluntarily offer as an elective course. Similarly, in 2022, West Virginia expanded hunter safety education course offerings beyond high schools to include middle schools.

Also related to hunter safety education, the Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation (CSF) led the charge on the bipartisan Protecting Hunting Heritage and Education Act (H.R. 5110), which was signed into law last year. The bill amended the Bipartisan Safer Communities Act, which originally had unintended consequences that negatively impacted funding for hunter education, school sponsored shooting teams, wilderness courses, and other educational programs for students.

Recruiting more hunters that have completed a hunter safety education course helps minimize potential accidents in the field. Additionally, while Kentucky and many other states offer apprentice hunting licenses which allow new hunters to hunt under the supervision of an experienced and licensed hunter before completing a hunter education course, these programs do not obviate the need to take hunter education once the apprentice period is over. Instead of repealing hunter education requirements altogether, policymakers in Kentucky could consider expanding the apprentice hunting program, like South Carolina did in 2020, to facilitate more hunting opportunities for new hunters.

CSF does not support this legislation and will continue to stay engaged to support maintaining the current hunter safety pre-requisite requirements in the Commonwealth.

States Involved: KY

 

 

MISGUIDED LEGISLATION TO END SANDHILL CRANE SEASON INTRODUCED IN TENNESSEE

ARTICLE CONTACT: CONNER BARKER

Why It Matters: The North American Model of Wildlife Conservation is widely recognized as the most successful model of wildlife management in the world. Among the seven core components that comprise the model is the key tenant that wildlife policy should be formulated using the best available science. Unfortunately, this core component is often at the center of attack in state legislatures across the country, including in Tennessee where legislation to end the Sandhill Crane season has been introduced this session.

Highlights:

  • House Bill 1867 and Senate Bill 1876 would prohibit the hunting of Sandhill Cranes in Tennessee.
  • With fewer than 200 birds in the United States less than 100 years ago, Sandhill Cranes now boast a population of over 1.4 million and are regarded as a massive conservation success story.
  • The Eastern population of Sandhill Cranes growth rate is 4% per year, while the harvest rate over the past several years in Alabama, Kentucky, and Tennessee has been <1%.
  • With the continued growth of the Sandhill Crane population, human-wildlife conflicts are on the rise, including crop depredation, which causes millions of dollars in damage each year.

The Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation (CSF) is strongly opposed to these bills. Regulated hunting poses no population-level threat to Sandhill Crane conservation. Further, a key tenet of the North American Model of Wildlife Conservation is that wildlife policy is formulated through the best available science, and there is no scientific support for ending the Tennessee Sandhill Crane season.

In fact, the growth of the Sandhill Crane population can be attributed to science-based wildlife management, supported by sportsmen-generated conservation funding, conducted by state fish and wildlife agencies, including the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency (TWRA), the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and Canada as a migratory species. The TWRA is staffed with professional wildlife biologists that work to carry out TWRA’s wildlife conservation mission. The TWRA and its Commission are the best equipped entity to make wildlife management decisions, including the regulation of Sandhill Cranes in Tennessee.

In addition to limiting opportunities for Tennesseans, Sandhill Crane management is supported by conservation dollars generated by Tennessee’s sportsmen and women through the “user pays – public benefits” American System of Conservation Funding. Tennessee’s sportsmen and women generated over $60.96 million for state-based conservation in 2021 that supports the management of game as well as non-game species. Additionally, sandhill crane conservation is supported through the sale of duck stamps, authorized by the Migratory Bird Hunting and Conservation Stamp Act, which supports wetland conservation in the United States.

Tennessee, like many other states that have a Sandhill Crane season, regulates Sandhill Crane hunting through a limited quota tag draw system to ensure that harvest levels do not exceed management goals. Additionally, hunters must pass a test to ensure that they can properly identify Sandhill Cranes in the field and complete a post-season survey regardless of whether they harvested a Sandhill Crane or not.

CSF is opposed to these bills and will work to support maintaining the current Sandhill Crane hunting opportunities in the Volunteer State.

States Involved: TN

 

 

SIGNIFICANT SPORTSMEN-GENERATED CONSERVATION DOLLARS AT RISK IN NEBRASKA

ARTICLE CONTACT: JAKE GOULD

Why It Matters: State fish and wildlife agencies rely on hunters, anglers, and recreational shooting sports participants to support their conservation efforts through the unique “user pays – public benefits” American System of Conservation Funding (ASCF). Through the ASCF, state fish and wildlife agencies not only collect funds from the hunting or fishing licenses sold, but also collect federal apportionments that are generated through excise taxes on sporting goods. Funds that are collected through this System must only be used by the state fish and wildlife agency. In Nebraska, Sections 30 and 31 of Legislative Bill 1413 look to redirect $7,000,000 from the Nebraska Fame and Parks Commission state game fund to the general fund along with $2,500,000 from the Nebraska Habitat Fund – a diversion of ASCF dollars that would make the Commission ineligible to receive federal apportionments and would result in a loss of revenue that is much larger than the already significant millions of dollars proposed to be transferred.

Highlights

  • Ahead of the hearing on January 30, the Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation (CSF) submitted formal testimony in opposition to Section 30 and 31 of Legislative Bill 1413.
  • Legislative Bill 1413 (LB 1413) proposes a transfer of $7,000,000 from the State Game Fund and $2,500,000 from the Nebraska Habitat Fund to the State General Fund.
  • The diversion of sportsmen-generated money will not only strip the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission (NGPC) of current funding, but it will make the State ineligible to receive future federal apportionments through the Pittman-Robertson and Dingell-Johnson Acts.

The Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation submitted formal testimony to the Nebraska Legislature’s Appropriations Committee in opposition to Section 30 and 31 of LB 1413 which looks to transfer $7,000,000 from the State Game Fund and $2,500,000 from the Nebraska Habitat Fund to the State General Fund. These sections, specifically Section 30, not only redirect critical conservation funding from NGPC but would also be a diversion of sportsmen-generated funding that would make the state ineligible to receive their federal apportionments through the Pittman-Robertson and Dingell-Johnson/Wallop-Breaux Acts.

The Nebraska Game and Parks Commission relies on the sale of hunting and fishing licenses and federal apportionments of revenue that is generated though manufacturer-level excise taxes on sporting goods authorized through the Pittman-Robertson and Dingell-Johnson/Wallop-Breaux Acts. This framework is known as the American System of Conservation Funding. For states, including Nebraska, to be eligible for these federal apportionments, state fish and wildlife agencies must ensure that all revenue received through the ASCF is used only for the administration of the state fish and wildlife agency.

The NPGC relies on these funds to continue their conservation efforts which benefit all Nebraskans. In 2023 alone, NGPC received more than $27.4 million in federal apportionments. As written, LB 1413 would make the NGPC ineligible for these annual apportionments, ultimately costing the agency nearly $35 million in operating revenue – significantly more than the $7 million that LB 1413 proposes to transfer. Moving forward, elected officials are encouraged to work with their state fish and wildlife agency to better understand the importance of the ASCF and the sportsmen-led efforts to fund fish and wildlife conservation throughout the country.

States Involved: NE

 

 

SENATE CSC MEMBERS INTRODUCE COMPREHENSIVE CONSERVATION PACKAGE

ARTICLE CONTACT: TAYLOR SCHMITZ

Why It Matters: The America’s Conservation Enhancement (ACE) Reauthorization Act includes nearly a dozen provisions that seek to enhance the conservation of fish, wildlife, and their associated habitats across North America, while also providing an important protection for our nation’s anglers. The Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation (CSF) served as a driving force behind the enactment of the original America’s Conservation Enhancement Act, which passed the House and Senate in 2020 unanimously. 

Highlights:

  • On Friday, Senate Environment and Public Works Committee (EPW) Chairman and Congressional Sportsmen’s Caucus (CSC) Member Sen. Carper and EPW Ranking Member and CSC Member Sen. Capito introduced the America’s Conservation Enhancement Reauthorization Act.
  • Senators Carper and Capito were joined by CSC Co-Chair John Boozman, CSC members Senators Mullin and Wicker as well as Sens. Cardin, Padilla, Whitehouse, and Van Hollen.
  • This comprehensive piece of legislation will reauthorize fish, wildlife, and habitat conservation programs across the nation that are important to sportsmen and women from Fiscal Year 2026 through Fiscal Year 2030.

On Friday, February 9, the America’s Conservation Enhancement Reauthorization Act was introduced in the Senate, a top priority for the Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation.

Notably, the ACE Reauthorization Act will reauthorize important programs and CSF priorities such as the North American Wetlands Conservation Act (NAWCA), the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation Establishment Act, the National Fish Habitat Conservation Through Partnerships (NFHP) program, and three important programs for the Chesapeake Bay.

The ACE Reauthorization Act will increase the NAWCA authorization level from $60 million annually to $65 million annually. Unfortunately, America has lost roughly 50% of its wetlands. However, NAWCA provides strategic investments to conserving and restoring degraded wetlands across North America. Since inception 35 years ago, NAWCA has provided over $2.1 billion in federal grants that has leveraged nearly $4.3 billion in non-federal contributions. In total, there have been over 3,300 NAWCA projects that have contributed to the conservation of nearly 32 million acres of wetlands in the United States, Mexico, and Canada.

The National Fish Habitat Conservation Through Partnerships section of the bill is similar to NAWCA but is focused on fisheries habitat. The ACE Reauthorization Act will increase the NFHP authorization from $7.2 million to $10 million annually while also making some changes to reporting and matching requirements. NFHP is a state and locally driven program that leverages partners to conserve priority aquatic habitat needs, restore fish populations, and enhance recreational fishing opportunities.

Additionally, the ACE Reauthorization Act will provide a 5-year protection to prohibit the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) from regulating the use of lead fishing tackle under the purview of the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA). The EPA has consistently reaffirmed state management authority of lead fishing tackle and this legislation will ensure the EPA cannot be petitioned to regulate lead tackle under TSCA for a period of 5 years.

The Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation looks forward to working with the bill sponsors of this important legislation to see this effort get across the finish line in 2024.

You may also like

Purina Celebrates 127th Ann...

The role corn plays for gamebirds and economies ac...

Policy Corner Brief: MARCH ...

Sportsmen’s conservation policy issues from publ...

Policy Corner Brief: JANUAR...

Sportsmen’s conservation policy issues from publ...

ADVERTISEMENT