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Policy Corner Brief: MARCH 2023

Policy Corner Brief: MARCH 2023

Policy Corner Brief: MARCH 2023

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Policy Corner Brief: MARCH 2023

STORY BY
PHOTOGRAPHY BY
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SENATE CONGRESSIONAL SPORTSMEN’S CAUCUS LEADERS INTRODUCE BILL TO MODERNIZE FEDERAL DUCK STAMPS

ARTICLE CONTACT: TAYLOR SCHMITZ,

Why It Matters: Under current law, when a hunter purchases an electronic federal duck stamp, the e-stamp is only valid for 45 days to allow for a physical stamp to be mailed. Once the 45-day period has passed, the e-stamp is no longer valid, and a hunter must have a signed physical stamp in their possession while hunting. This legislation will modernize this process by allowing hunters to have a permanent e-stamp on their cell phone while afield and will send the physical stamp after the latest waterfowl season has closed.

Highlights:

  • On Tuesday of last week, the Senate Congressional Sportsmen’s Caucus (CSC) Leadership introduced the Duck Stamp Modernization Act of 2023, a bill that will provide that electronic federal duck stamps are valid for the entirety of the waterfowl hunting season.
  • Specifically, the Duck Stamp Modernization Act was introduced by CSC Co-Chairs Sens. John Boozman and Joe Manchin as well as CSC Vice-Chairs Sens. Angus King and Roger Marshall.
  • This legislation will uphold and maintain the integrity of the federal duck stamp while simultaneously decreasing barriers to compliance.

Last week, the Duck Stamp Modernization Act of 2023 was introduced by Congressional Sportsmen’s Caucus (CSC) Co-Chairs Senators John Boozman and Joe Manchin and CSC Vice-Chairs Senators Angus King and Roger Marshall. This common-sense legislation will bolster the federal duck stamp, improve compliance for hunters, and safeguard the traditions of the federal duck stamp.

Since 1934, when the federal duck stamp was signed into law, the program has generated over $1 billion for wetlands conservation. On average, 98% of the purchase price for federal duck stamps goes directly back to improving wetland habitats and enhancing access for hunters – making this program one of the best returns on investments for conservation efforts. Furthermore, the federal duck stamp has conserved over 6 million acres of wetlands within the National Wildlife Refuge System.

This bipartisan legislation will modernize the federal duck stamp process by allowing hunters to have an electronic duck stamp on their smartphone for the entirety of the hunting season. To uphold and ensure the traditions of the federal duck stamp, the physical stamp will be mailed to purchasers from March 10 to June 30.

“The Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation (CSF) thanks Congressional Sportsmen’s Caucus Senate Leaders Sens. Boozman, Manchin, King, and Marshall for introducing the Duck Stamp Modernization Act of 2023. By modernizing the electronic Federal Duck Stamp, this legislation safeguards the time-honored, artistic importance of the actual stamp, while also streamlining the licensing process for waterfowl hunters,” said CSF President and CEO Jeff Crane.

CSF looks forward to working with the Senate Congressional Sportsmen’s Caucus Leaders to see this legislation signed into law.

 

SENATE CSC CO-CHAIR AND CSC MEMBER REINTRODUCE AMERICA’S OUTDOOR RECREATION ACT

ARTICLE CONTACT: TAYLOR SCHMITZ,

Why It Matters: Our nation’s vast network of federal public lands and water provide significant recreational opportunities for America’s sportsmen and women. The America’s Outdoor Recreation Act recognizes the importance of federal public lands for sportsmen and women by seeking to increase public access, streamlining recreational permitting processes, modernizing public land visitation data, and conserving important water systems for anglers and boaters.

Highlights:

On Thursday, March 16, the America’s Outdoor Recreation Act was reintroduced in the Senate by Congressional Sportsmen’s Caucus (CSC) Co-Chair Sen. Joe Manchin and CSC Member Sen. John Barrasso. This legislation is strongly supported by the Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation.

The America’s Outdoor Recreation Act includes well over 30 provisions that seek to increase outdoor recreational opportunities, including hunting, fishing, and recreational shooting, by enhancing access, modernizing permitting processes, improving visitation data, and authorizing unique conservation measures.

One provision in particular that CSF is excited to see included is language that requires the U.S. Forest Service and the Bureau of Land Management to ensure that each of their respective districts has at least one public target shooting range. Not only does this provision recognize CSF’s efforts to promote recreational shooting, but it also recognizes the important role played by America’s 32 million recreational target shooters who are the backbone of state wildlife conservation funding.

The America’s Outdoor Recreation Act will also assist federal agencies in efforts to prevent the spread of aquatic invasive species, which pose a serious threat to native aquatic ecosystems and the economy. Once established, aquatic invasive species are difficult, if not impossible, to eradicate, and significant resources must be invested annually in population management. Preventing harmful introductions before they occur is the most effective means to avoid the risk aquatic nuisance species present.

Furthermore, this legislation includes language that will help improve future federal land agency planning decisions and would enhance user planning efforts. 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 Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation thanks CSC Co-Chair Sen. Manchin and CSC Member Sen. Barrasso for their continued leadership of the America’s Outdoor Recreation Act. CSF looks forward to seeing this legislation move quickly through the Energy and Natural Resources Committee.

 

THE CONGRESSIONAL SPORTSMEN’S FOUNDATION UNVEILS 2023 FARM BILL PRIORITIES

ARTICLE CONTACT: KENT KEENE,

Why It Matters: Generally reauthorized every five years, the United States Farm Bill represents one of the largest and most important pieces of legislation passed by Congress. Covering topics ranging from crop insurance to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (formerly known as Food Stamps), the Farm Bill’s provisions touch nearly all Americans in one way or another. For sportsmen and women, our nation’s original conservationists, the Farm Bill’s Conservation and Forestry Titles represent some of the greatest investments in fish, wildlife, and forest conservation in the world. In support of robust Conservation and Forestry Titles, the Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation (CSF) is proud to unveil our priorities for the 2023 Farm Bill.

Highlights:

  • With the 2018 Farm Bill set to expire at the end of September, Congress is already hard at work preparing priorities as it seeks to reauthorize the Farm Bill in 2023.
  • In support of robust investments in the Conservation and Forestry Titles, CSF is unveiling our priorities for fish and wildlife conservation for the 2023 Farm Bill.
  • In support of these priorities, CSF is working closely with members of the Congressional Sportsmen’s Caucus, mission partners, and other stakeholders to advance these priorities.

As the debate surrounding the 2023 Farm Bill continues, CSF is proud to release our priorities for the Farm Bill’s Conservation and Forestry Titles. These priorities are designed to elevate the sporting-conservation community’s voice in support of Farm Bill programs that support critical habitat management efforts for fish and wildlife and provide access for sportsmen and women throughout the country.

CSF’s priorities cover a wide range of programs and practices, each serving to improve habitat for fish and wildlife, and, in turn, opportunities for sportsmen and women. These include maximizing enrollment in the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP), the original Farm Bill conservation program. Currently enrolling acres through the latest general CRP signup period, CSF supports improvements designed to maximize enrollment in the program in a manner that compliments agricultural production across the country.

Similarly, and arguably most important to sportsmen and women, CSF and many partners within the sporting-conservation community are requesting that Congress triple investments in the Voluntary Public Access – Habitat Incentive Program (VPA-HIP). VPA-HIP allows state fish and wildlife agencies to leverage federal investments against state funds to create voluntary public access to private lands programs. Across the country, VPA-HIP supported programs are connecting hunters, anglers, and wildlife viewers with landowners who graciously open their property for public access in exchange for humble payments and habitat management assistance.

Within the Forestry Title, CSF’s priorities focus on the reauthorization of programs like Good Neighbor Authority (GNA) and Collaborative Forest Landscape Restoration Program (CLFRP) to ensure that the U.S. Forest Service retains the opportunity to work with engaged partners and allow our nation’s public and private forest resources continue to receive necessary management actions. Finally, CSF is taking the lead in supporting increased recognition for the role of the Farm Bill’s conservation programs in supporting the conservation of critical fisheries throughout the country. While much of the conversations surrounding the Farm Bill’s conservation programs center on direct, on-site impacts, CSF has led the development of a Fish in the Farm Bill Coalition to highlight that many of these programs carry important beyond-the-farm benefits that many tend to overlook.

While this preview provides just a snapshot of CSF’s priorities, it demonstrates both the depth and breadth of our leadership to benefit not only the conservation concepts most important to us as sportsmen and women, but also to support the farmers, ranchers, and forest landowners who implement these programs. Through their participation, these landowners are advancing their conservation legacy while supporting the overall sustainability and profitability of their agricultural or forestry system in a true win-win for everyone.

 

CSF Farm Bill Infographic

 

TROUBLESOME BILLS COULD IMPACT SPORTING DOG OWNERS IN FLORIDA

ARTICLE CONTACT: MARK LANCE,

Why It Matters: Do you have a canine sidekick that accompanies you during your outdoor pursuits? Whether it be a duck dog, deer dog, or a pack of rabbit chasing beagles, if you are a sportsman or woman in Florida that owns an intact female dog over the age of 6 months, then you should pay attention to SB 1492 and HB 1581, as these bills could require you to register with the state as a “breeder.” Here at the Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation (CSF), we are actively working with conservation partners in the Sunshine State to oppose this harmful legislation.

Highlights:

  • Hunting with dogs is a time-honored tradition that millions of sportsmen and women across the country enjoy.
  • SB 1492 and HB 1581 define a “breeding female dog” as any dog that has not been spayed and is more than 6 months of age, and they define any location in which an individual owns at least one “breeding female dog” as a “dog breeding facility.”
  • If an individual owns a dog that meets this definition, then they are subject to register as a breeder, pay unnecessary fees, and be subject to inspection.

While there is an exception for “private dog owners” that allows for one litter of puppies for “personal benefit,” the owner must prove that there was no intent to breed a dog and sell the litter. Additionally, if the dog in question has two litters in a year then the owner is required to register as a breeder no matter the situation.

Placing these unnecessary burdens on responsible dog owners disincentivizes these individuals from keeping dogs and would discourage prospective owners from obtaining a canine companion. Dogs are incredibly useful in hunting activities such as running, flushing, and retrieving game, and many individuals utilize dogs to track and recover wounded game.

Subjecting sportsmen and women to commercial dog breeding facility requirements threatens the sporting heritage of many Floridians. These sportsmen and women generated over $70 million for conservation funding through the American System of Conservation Funding in 2021 alone. They also support more than 99,880 jobs and contribute more than $10 billion to the state’s economy while engaged in their pursuits.

Dogs are incredibly important to our shared sporting heritage, and the Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation will continue to work with our conservation partners to oppose these troublesome bills and protect the time-honored traditions of sportsmen and women across the Sunshine State.

States Involved: FL

 

$1.6 BILLION OF SPORTSMEN AND WOMEN GENERATED FUNDING ANNOUNCED BY DOI

ARTICLE CONTACT: TAYLOR SCHMITZ,

Why It Matters: The funds that are being distributed by the Department of the Interior are generated entirely by sportsmen and women through the purchases of firearms, ammunition, fishing tackle, and motorboat fuel. For over 80 years, sportsmen and women have played an integral and unique role in providing the vast majority of conservation funding in the United States through a “user pays — public benefits” structure known as the “American System of Conservation Funding”. For most states, the combination of the Pittman-Robertson and Dingell-Johnson Acts, in addition to hunting and fishing license sales, accounts for 80% of state fish and wildlife agency revenue, but in some cases these programs account for 100% of agency budgets.

Highlights: 

  • Last week, the Department of the Interior announced the apportionment of more than $1.6 billion in funding that is generated on the backs of sportsmen and women through excise taxes on recreational shooting, hunting, fishing, and boating equipment.
  • This announcement marks back-to-back years of record-breaking funding generated under the Pittman-Robertson and Dingell-Johnson Acts – programs that are overwhelmingly supported by the industry manufacturers who pay these excise taxes.
  • The combination of Pittman-Robertson, Dingell-Johnson, and hunting and fishing license revenue has secured the hunting, recreational shooting, fishing, and boating community as the nation’s leading conservationists for over 85 years.
  • Specifically, the Pittman-Robertson Act generated $1.19 billion for FY23 while the Dingell-Johnson Act provided more than $424 million.

Last Friday, the Department of the Interior announced $1.6 billion of sportsmen-generated funding under the Pittman-Robertson (P-R) Act and the Dingell-Johnson (D-J) Act, delivering back-to-back years of record funding.

The Pittman-Robertson and Dingell-Johnson Acts are celebrated and unparalleled partnerships that support and bolster our hunting, recreational shooting, fishing, and boating heritage. Enacted in 1937 at the request of hunters and recreational shooters, the Pittman-Robertson Act directs manufacturer level and supported excise taxes on firearms, ammunition, and archery equipment to be used for wildlife conservation purposes, hunter education, and programs to increase access for hunting and target shooting. Last year, CSF led the development of a document that celebrates the 85th anniversary of the Pittman-Robertson Act, which was supported by more than 45 organizations, including the trade organizations who represent firearms, ammunition, and archery manufacturers.

Recognizing the success of P-R, in 1950, the Dingell-Johnson Act was enacted to establish a similar funding structure for to promote fishing and boating through excise taxes on fishing tackle and certain boating equipment. Since that time, P-R and D-J have served has the lifeblood of most state fish and wildlife agencies and continues to be heralded as the most successful conservation program in the world.

The Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation is excited to see back-to-back recording-breaking funding for state-based conservation and access programs. CSF thanks the industry manufacturers who provide the funding for P-R and D-J and herald the program for its unmatched success.

 

PUBLIC LANDS SUNDAY HUNTING RESOLUTION INTRODUCED IN SOUTH CAROLINA

ARTICLE CONTACT: JOHN CULCLASURE,

Why It Matters: Removing barriers to hunting participation, like Blue Laws with no basis in wildlife management that prohibit hunting on Sunday, is critical to supporting hunter recruitment, retention, and reactivation efforts and putting hunters on an equal access playing field with other public land user-groups that are not prohibited from engaging in their recreational pursuits on Sundays.

Highlights: 

  • On February 16, National Assembly of Sportsmen’s Caucuses Executive Council Member and South Carolina Legislative Sportsmen’s Caucus (Caucus) Co-Chair Representative Bobby Cox and Representative Travis Moore introduced Joint Resolution H. 3991 to convey support for opening Sunday hunting on Wildlife Management Areas (WMAs).
  • In 2022, Sunday hunting repeal legislation passed the House of Representatives but did not advance in the Senate.
  • South Carolina is the only Southern state where Sunday hunting on public lands is completely banned.

In 2021, the South Carolina South Carolina Department of Natural Resources (SCDNR) and Clemson University held a series of public meetings across the state and conducted an online survey to gauge public opening about opening Sunday hunting on WMAs. The report stated, “75% of participants were in favor of hunting on Sunday,” and online “responses were approximately 2:1 in favor of Sunday hunting on SCDNR WMAs.”

While Sunday hunting on private lands is legal in South Carolina, Sunday hunting on Wildlife Management Areas is prohibited by SCDNR Regulation 2.5North Carolina opened public lands Sunday hunting in 2021, and Virginia opened Sunday hunting on public lands in 2022. Maine, Massachusetts, and South Carolina are the only three states in the country that do not allow any Sunday hunting on public lands.

The Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation (CSF) and the broader sportsmen’s community strongly supported the 2022 bipartisan legislation. Moving forward,  CSF will continue to work with the Caucus and partners to advocate for expanding Sunday hunting opportunities for the sportsmen and women that support the acquisition and management of WMAs through the “user pays – public benefits” American System of Conservation Funding, yet ironically have less access to WMAs than any other user-group.

States Involved: SC

 

CSF SUBMITS COMMENTS IN SUPPORT OF DEDICATED CONSERVATION FUNDING IN MISSISSIPPI

ARTICLE CONTACT: MARK LANCE,

Why It Matters: HB 999 would establish a dedicated source of revenue for the Fund by dedicating sales tax on outdoor gear under the North American Industry Classification System Tax Code Section 451110. This added security in funding through 2025 would enhance the Fund’s capability to contribute to projects benefiting fish and wildlife, their habitats, and opportunities for sportsmen and women without the cloud of yearly appropriations hanging over it.

Highlights: 

CSF applauded the passage of HB 606 last year, which established the Fund, and the subsequent $10 million appropriation that was made by the legislature that provided invaluable seed money for the Fund to have the capacity to assist in conservation projects.  The establishment of the Mississippi Trust Fund has been a priority of the Caucus for many years. The Fund was the topic of interest at the Caucus’ 2021 Sporting Clays Classic and the Annual Caucus Fish Fry in 2022.

CSF’s letter stated, “By dedicating a percentage of the existing sales tax on sporting goods to conservation funding, the Trust Fund can improve its capability to capitalize on matching private conservation dollars as well as federal funds through various fish, wildlife, and natural resources conservation programs. This added security in funding would allow the Trust Fund to continue to work towards fulfilling its mission to improve wildlife habitat, enhance access to public lands, restore wetlands and improve water quality, support fish and wildlife conservation on working forests and farms, and promote hunting, fishing, recreational shooting, and other forms of outdoor recreation without the funding uncertainty that the Trust Fund currently faces through the annual appropriation process.”

The approach to redirect revenue generated from pre-existing sales tax would mirror similar steps taken in years past to establish the Georgia Outdoor Stewardship Fund which now generates upwards of $20 million per year for conservation projects.

CSF will continue to work alongside our in-state partners and the Caucus to establish a dedicated source of conservation funding in Mississippi to complement the “user pays – public benefits” structure of the American System of Conservation Funding.

States Involved: MS

 

SECOND YEAR OF EMPIRE-SIZED SUCCESS FOR NEW YORK’S MENTORED HUNTING PILOT PROGRAM

ARTICLE CONTACT: JOSEPH MULLIN,

Why It Matters: Beginning during the 2021-22 hunting season, a pilot program was implemented in New York, allowing counties to authorize mentored deer hunting for 12 and 13-year-olds. The overwhelming acceptance of this program brings New York’s hunting age in line with most other states in the country. The success of that first year was remarkable, as 9,859 12 and 13-year-old hunters harvested 1,564 deer. The following year, 9,416 12 and 13-year-old hunters saw a harvest of 1,824. The evidence is clear: the mentored youth hunting pilot program has proven itself to be safe and effective. The Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation has long advocated for making this program a permanent fixture within New York, and it played an instrumental role in making the past two years possible.               

Highlights:

  • For the second year in a row, New York’s pilot program authorizing mentored 12 and 13-year-old hunters to harvest deer with a crossbow, rifle, shotgun, or muzzleloader has proven itself to be an incredible success – both statistically and socially.
  • This pilot program began during the 2021-22 hunting season after a decade-long effort spearheaded by the New York Legislative Sportsmen’s Caucus, the New York Sportsmen’s Advisory Council, and the Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation (CSF). Prior to the passage of the authorizing legislation New York had the highest firearm deer hunting age in the nation at 14 years old.
  • In a report provided by the New York Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) to the State Senate and Assembly, the DEC made three recommendations for the pilot program, including the State “make permanent the authorization for 12- and 13-year-old hunters to hunt deer with a firearm and crossbow.”

Following the 2022-23 hunting season in the Empire State, the New York Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) reviewed the facts and figures for the pilot program authorizing mentored 12 and 13-year-old hunters to harvest deer with a crossbow or firearm in preparation for reporting back to the State Senate and Assembly on the program’s overall success. The results were simple, “The second year of the pilot has proven to be as successful, safe, and popular as the first.”

The total number of Deer Harvest Reports submitted to the DEC by 12 and 13-year-old hunters increased by over 14%, going from 1,564 during the 2021-22 season to 1,824 during the 2022-23 season. In addition to this, the DEC stated that “No hunting-related shooting incidents, violations, or license revocations involving 12- and 13-year-old hunters were reported/occurred during the first two years of the pilot program,” which is further emphasized by the DEC’s assertion that “youth hunters are the safest group of hunters.”

In its report back to the State Senate and Assembly, the DEC offered the same three recommendations this year as the last:

  1. Make permanent the authorization for 12- and 13-year-old hunters to hunt deer with a firearm and crossbow;
  2. Extend the authorization for 12- and 13-year-old hunters to hunt deer with a firearm or crossbow to all of New York State (subject to other provisions of ECL) and remove the requirement for counties to pass a local law opting-in; and
  3. Allow 12- and 13-year-old hunters to also hunt black bear with a firearm and crossbow.

As CSF has previously reported, coordinated efforts alongside the New York Legislative Sportsmen’s Caucus and New York Sportsmen’s Advisory Council (NYSAC) took nearly a decade to make this possible. CSF looks forward to continuing its crucial work alongside the Caucus and NYSAC towards securing a permanent authorization for 12 and 13-year-old hunters in New York.

States Involved: NY

 

CSF OPPOSES ILLINOIS BILL THAT WOULD PROHIBIT THE TRANSFER OF AMMUNITION

ARTICLE CONTACT: BOB MATTHEWS,

Why It Matters: Legislation that restricts sportsmen and women from sharing in the enjoyment of our outdoor pastimes are a threat to the longevity of hunting, fishing, recreational shooting, and trapping. The basic ability to exchange ammunition between fellow hunters and recreational shooters must be protected, and CSF will continue to oppose this bill.

Highlights: 

  • IL House Bill 1057 would prohibit the sale and transfer of firearm ammunition if the transferer does not possess a Federal Firearm License.
  • The bill would significantly restrict sportsmen and women from exchanging ammunition while hunting or recreational shooting.
  • The Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation (CSF) opposes HB 1057, which seek to limit sportsmen and women’s ability to enjoy and share our time-honored traditions of outdoor recreation.

Recently, CSF submitted testimony on Illinois House Bill 1057, which would prohibit the sale and transfer of firearm ammunition if the transferer does not hold a Federal Firearms License (FFL). This would mean that sportsmen and women not possessing an FFL would be unable to exchange ammunition afield or at a shooting range without committing a felony. This bill seeks to further restrict responsible gun owners in the Prairie State, following last session’s eleventh-hour passage of House Bill 5471, which prohibited the sale, transfer, and possession of semi-automatic firearms and standard capacity magazines.

Based on the language of this proposed bill, friends spending a day at their favorite shooting range would be unable to exchange ammunition with one another. Doing so would mean committing a felony, if for example you wanted to simply try out a friend’s new gun unless you purchased the ammunition needed for that gun yourself. The implications of this legislation are apparent and significant: hunters and recreational shooters would be barred from enjoying and sharing their favorite pastimes with others.

Illinois, like every state in the nation, relies on its hunters and recreational shooters to provide the funding needed to manage the state’s natural resources through the American System of Conservation Funding. It is widely recognized that recreational target shooters, whom per-capita spend even more money on firearms and ammunition than hunters, are the financial keystone for the ASCF. According to an estimate by the National Shooting Sports Foundation, “80 percent of Pittman-Robertson excise tax contributions are generated by sales attributed to recreational shooting.” Recognizing this, CSF supports opportunities for sportsmen and women to be able to borrow firearms and ammunition as a way to try new opportunities while potentially encouraging future purchases that would support this ASCF.

CSF is working to oppose this bill and protect the ability of Illinois’ many sportsmen and women to participate in their favorite outdoor activities without unnecessary restrictions and barriers.

States Involved: IL

Policy Corner Brief: MARCH 2023 This article is published in the issue.
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Policy Corner Brief: MARCH 2023

SENATE CONGRESSIONAL SPORTSMEN’S CAUCUS LEADERS INTRODUCE BILL TO MODERNIZE FEDERAL DUCK STAMPS

ARTICLE CONTACT: TAYLOR SCHMITZ,

Why It Matters: Under current law, when a hunter purchases an electronic federal duck stamp, the e-stamp is only valid for 45 days to allow for a physical stamp to be mailed. Once the 45-day period has passed, the e-stamp is no longer valid, and a hunter must have a signed physical stamp in their possession while hunting. This legislation will modernize this process by allowing hunters to have a permanent e-stamp on their cell phone while afield and will send the physical stamp after the latest waterfowl season has closed.

Highlights:

  • On Tuesday of last week, the Senate Congressional Sportsmen’s Caucus (CSC) Leadership introduced the Duck Stamp Modernization Act of 2023, a bill that will provide that electronic federal duck stamps are valid for the entirety of the waterfowl hunting season.
  • Specifically, the Duck Stamp Modernization Act was introduced by CSC Co-Chairs Sens. John Boozman and Joe Manchin as well as CSC Vice-Chairs Sens. Angus King and Roger Marshall.
  • This legislation will uphold and maintain the integrity of the federal duck stamp while simultaneously decreasing barriers to compliance.

Last week, the Duck Stamp Modernization Act of 2023 was introduced by Congressional Sportsmen’s Caucus (CSC) Co-Chairs Senators John Boozman and Joe Manchin and CSC Vice-Chairs Senators Angus King and Roger Marshall. This common-sense legislation will bolster the federal duck stamp, improve compliance for hunters, and safeguard the traditions of the federal duck stamp.

Since 1934, when the federal duck stamp was signed into law, the program has generated over $1 billion for wetlands conservation. On average, 98% of the purchase price for federal duck stamps goes directly back to improving wetland habitats and enhancing access for hunters – making this program one of the best returns on investments for conservation efforts. Furthermore, the federal duck stamp has conserved over 6 million acres of wetlands within the National Wildlife Refuge System.

This bipartisan legislation will modernize the federal duck stamp process by allowing hunters to have an electronic duck stamp on their smartphone for the entirety of the hunting season. To uphold and ensure the traditions of the federal duck stamp, the physical stamp will be mailed to purchasers from March 10 to June 30.

“The Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation (CSF) thanks Congressional Sportsmen’s Caucus Senate Leaders Sens. Boozman, Manchin, King, and Marshall for introducing the Duck Stamp Modernization Act of 2023. By modernizing the electronic Federal Duck Stamp, this legislation safeguards the time-honored, artistic importance of the actual stamp, while also streamlining the licensing process for waterfowl hunters,” said CSF President and CEO Jeff Crane.

CSF looks forward to working with the Senate Congressional Sportsmen’s Caucus Leaders to see this legislation signed into law.

 

SENATE CSC CO-CHAIR AND CSC MEMBER REINTRODUCE AMERICA’S OUTDOOR RECREATION ACT

ARTICLE CONTACT: TAYLOR SCHMITZ,

Why It Matters: Our nation’s vast network of federal public lands and water provide significant recreational opportunities for America’s sportsmen and women. The America’s Outdoor Recreation Act recognizes the importance of federal public lands for sportsmen and women by seeking to increase public access, streamlining recreational permitting processes, modernizing public land visitation data, and conserving important water systems for anglers and boaters.

Highlights:

On Thursday, March 16, the America’s Outdoor Recreation Act was reintroduced in the Senate by Congressional Sportsmen’s Caucus (CSC) Co-Chair Sen. Joe Manchin and CSC Member Sen. John Barrasso. This legislation is strongly supported by the Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation.

The America’s Outdoor Recreation Act includes well over 30 provisions that seek to increase outdoor recreational opportunities, including hunting, fishing, and recreational shooting, by enhancing access, modernizing permitting processes, improving visitation data, and authorizing unique conservation measures.

One provision in particular that CSF is excited to see included is language that requires the U.S. Forest Service and the Bureau of Land Management to ensure that each of their respective districts has at least one public target shooting range. Not only does this provision recognize CSF’s efforts to promote recreational shooting, but it also recognizes the important role played by America’s 32 million recreational target shooters who are the backbone of state wildlife conservation funding.

The America’s Outdoor Recreation Act will also assist federal agencies in efforts to prevent the spread of aquatic invasive species, which pose a serious threat to native aquatic ecosystems and the economy. Once established, aquatic invasive species are difficult, if not impossible, to eradicate, and significant resources must be invested annually in population management. Preventing harmful introductions before they occur is the most effective means to avoid the risk aquatic nuisance species present.

Furthermore, this legislation includes language that will help improve future federal land agency planning decisions and would enhance user planning efforts. 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 Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation thanks CSC Co-Chair Sen. Manchin and CSC Member Sen. Barrasso for their continued leadership of the America’s Outdoor Recreation Act. CSF looks forward to seeing this legislation move quickly through the Energy and Natural Resources Committee.

 

THE CONGRESSIONAL SPORTSMEN’S FOUNDATION UNVEILS 2023 FARM BILL PRIORITIES

ARTICLE CONTACT: KENT KEENE,

Why It Matters: Generally reauthorized every five years, the United States Farm Bill represents one of the largest and most important pieces of legislation passed by Congress. Covering topics ranging from crop insurance to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (formerly known as Food Stamps), the Farm Bill’s provisions touch nearly all Americans in one way or another. For sportsmen and women, our nation’s original conservationists, the Farm Bill’s Conservation and Forestry Titles represent some of the greatest investments in fish, wildlife, and forest conservation in the world. In support of robust Conservation and Forestry Titles, the Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation (CSF) is proud to unveil our priorities for the 2023 Farm Bill.

Highlights:

  • With the 2018 Farm Bill set to expire at the end of September, Congress is already hard at work preparing priorities as it seeks to reauthorize the Farm Bill in 2023.
  • In support of robust investments in the Conservation and Forestry Titles, CSF is unveiling our priorities for fish and wildlife conservation for the 2023 Farm Bill.
  • In support of these priorities, CSF is working closely with members of the Congressional Sportsmen’s Caucus, mission partners, and other stakeholders to advance these priorities.

As the debate surrounding the 2023 Farm Bill continues, CSF is proud to release our priorities for the Farm Bill’s Conservation and Forestry Titles. These priorities are designed to elevate the sporting-conservation community’s voice in support of Farm Bill programs that support critical habitat management efforts for fish and wildlife and provide access for sportsmen and women throughout the country.

CSF’s priorities cover a wide range of programs and practices, each serving to improve habitat for fish and wildlife, and, in turn, opportunities for sportsmen and women. These include maximizing enrollment in the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP), the original Farm Bill conservation program. Currently enrolling acres through the latest general CRP signup period, CSF supports improvements designed to maximize enrollment in the program in a manner that compliments agricultural production across the country.

Similarly, and arguably most important to sportsmen and women, CSF and many partners within the sporting-conservation community are requesting that Congress triple investments in the Voluntary Public Access – Habitat Incentive Program (VPA-HIP). VPA-HIP allows state fish and wildlife agencies to leverage federal investments against state funds to create voluntary public access to private lands programs. Across the country, VPA-HIP supported programs are connecting hunters, anglers, and wildlife viewers with landowners who graciously open their property for public access in exchange for humble payments and habitat management assistance.

Within the Forestry Title, CSF’s priorities focus on the reauthorization of programs like Good Neighbor Authority (GNA) and Collaborative Forest Landscape Restoration Program (CLFRP) to ensure that the U.S. Forest Service retains the opportunity to work with engaged partners and allow our nation’s public and private forest resources continue to receive necessary management actions. Finally, CSF is taking the lead in supporting increased recognition for the role of the Farm Bill’s conservation programs in supporting the conservation of critical fisheries throughout the country. While much of the conversations surrounding the Farm Bill’s conservation programs center on direct, on-site impacts, CSF has led the development of a Fish in the Farm Bill Coalition to highlight that many of these programs carry important beyond-the-farm benefits that many tend to overlook.

While this preview provides just a snapshot of CSF’s priorities, it demonstrates both the depth and breadth of our leadership to benefit not only the conservation concepts most important to us as sportsmen and women, but also to support the farmers, ranchers, and forest landowners who implement these programs. Through their participation, these landowners are advancing their conservation legacy while supporting the overall sustainability and profitability of their agricultural or forestry system in a true win-win for everyone.

 

CSF Farm Bill Infographic

 

TROUBLESOME BILLS COULD IMPACT SPORTING DOG OWNERS IN FLORIDA

ARTICLE CONTACT: MARK LANCE,

Why It Matters: Do you have a canine sidekick that accompanies you during your outdoor pursuits? Whether it be a duck dog, deer dog, or a pack of rabbit chasing beagles, if you are a sportsman or woman in Florida that owns an intact female dog over the age of 6 months, then you should pay attention to SB 1492 and HB 1581, as these bills could require you to register with the state as a “breeder.” Here at the Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation (CSF), we are actively working with conservation partners in the Sunshine State to oppose this harmful legislation.

Highlights:

  • Hunting with dogs is a time-honored tradition that millions of sportsmen and women across the country enjoy.
  • SB 1492 and HB 1581 define a “breeding female dog” as any dog that has not been spayed and is more than 6 months of age, and they define any location in which an individual owns at least one “breeding female dog” as a “dog breeding facility.”
  • If an individual owns a dog that meets this definition, then they are subject to register as a breeder, pay unnecessary fees, and be subject to inspection.

While there is an exception for “private dog owners” that allows for one litter of puppies for “personal benefit,” the owner must prove that there was no intent to breed a dog and sell the litter. Additionally, if the dog in question has two litters in a year then the owner is required to register as a breeder no matter the situation.

Placing these unnecessary burdens on responsible dog owners disincentivizes these individuals from keeping dogs and would discourage prospective owners from obtaining a canine companion. Dogs are incredibly useful in hunting activities such as running, flushing, and retrieving game, and many individuals utilize dogs to track and recover wounded game.

Subjecting sportsmen and women to commercial dog breeding facility requirements threatens the sporting heritage of many Floridians. These sportsmen and women generated over $70 million for conservation funding through the American System of Conservation Funding in 2021 alone. They also support more than 99,880 jobs and contribute more than $10 billion to the state’s economy while engaged in their pursuits.

Dogs are incredibly important to our shared sporting heritage, and the Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation will continue to work with our conservation partners to oppose these troublesome bills and protect the time-honored traditions of sportsmen and women across the Sunshine State.

States Involved: FL

 

$1.6 BILLION OF SPORTSMEN AND WOMEN GENERATED FUNDING ANNOUNCED BY DOI

ARTICLE CONTACT: TAYLOR SCHMITZ,

Why It Matters: The funds that are being distributed by the Department of the Interior are generated entirely by sportsmen and women through the purchases of firearms, ammunition, fishing tackle, and motorboat fuel. For over 80 years, sportsmen and women have played an integral and unique role in providing the vast majority of conservation funding in the United States through a “user pays — public benefits” structure known as the “American System of Conservation Funding”. For most states, the combination of the Pittman-Robertson and Dingell-Johnson Acts, in addition to hunting and fishing license sales, accounts for 80% of state fish and wildlife agency revenue, but in some cases these programs account for 100% of agency budgets.

Highlights: 

  • Last week, the Department of the Interior announced the apportionment of more than $1.6 billion in funding that is generated on the backs of sportsmen and women through excise taxes on recreational shooting, hunting, fishing, and boating equipment.
  • This announcement marks back-to-back years of record-breaking funding generated under the Pittman-Robertson and Dingell-Johnson Acts – programs that are overwhelmingly supported by the industry manufacturers who pay these excise taxes.
  • The combination of Pittman-Robertson, Dingell-Johnson, and hunting and fishing license revenue has secured the hunting, recreational shooting, fishing, and boating community as the nation’s leading conservationists for over 85 years.
  • Specifically, the Pittman-Robertson Act generated $1.19 billion for FY23 while the Dingell-Johnson Act provided more than $424 million.

Last Friday, the Department of the Interior announced $1.6 billion of sportsmen-generated funding under the Pittman-Robertson (P-R) Act and the Dingell-Johnson (D-J) Act, delivering back-to-back years of record funding.

The Pittman-Robertson and Dingell-Johnson Acts are celebrated and unparalleled partnerships that support and bolster our hunting, recreational shooting, fishing, and boating heritage. Enacted in 1937 at the request of hunters and recreational shooters, the Pittman-Robertson Act directs manufacturer level and supported excise taxes on firearms, ammunition, and archery equipment to be used for wildlife conservation purposes, hunter education, and programs to increase access for hunting and target shooting. Last year, CSF led the development of a document that celebrates the 85th anniversary of the Pittman-Robertson Act, which was supported by more than 45 organizations, including the trade organizations who represent firearms, ammunition, and archery manufacturers.

Recognizing the success of P-R, in 1950, the Dingell-Johnson Act was enacted to establish a similar funding structure for to promote fishing and boating through excise taxes on fishing tackle and certain boating equipment. Since that time, P-R and D-J have served has the lifeblood of most state fish and wildlife agencies and continues to be heralded as the most successful conservation program in the world.

The Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation is excited to see back-to-back recording-breaking funding for state-based conservation and access programs. CSF thanks the industry manufacturers who provide the funding for P-R and D-J and herald the program for its unmatched success.

 

PUBLIC LANDS SUNDAY HUNTING RESOLUTION INTRODUCED IN SOUTH CAROLINA

ARTICLE CONTACT: JOHN CULCLASURE,

Why It Matters: Removing barriers to hunting participation, like Blue Laws with no basis in wildlife management that prohibit hunting on Sunday, is critical to supporting hunter recruitment, retention, and reactivation efforts and putting hunters on an equal access playing field with other public land user-groups that are not prohibited from engaging in their recreational pursuits on Sundays.

Highlights: 

  • On February 16, National Assembly of Sportsmen’s Caucuses Executive Council Member and South Carolina Legislative Sportsmen’s Caucus (Caucus) Co-Chair Representative Bobby Cox and Representative Travis Moore introduced Joint Resolution H. 3991 to convey support for opening Sunday hunting on Wildlife Management Areas (WMAs).
  • In 2022, Sunday hunting repeal legislation passed the House of Representatives but did not advance in the Senate.
  • South Carolina is the only Southern state where Sunday hunting on public lands is completely banned.

In 2021, the South Carolina South Carolina Department of Natural Resources (SCDNR) and Clemson University held a series of public meetings across the state and conducted an online survey to gauge public opening about opening Sunday hunting on WMAs. The report stated, “75% of participants were in favor of hunting on Sunday,” and online “responses were approximately 2:1 in favor of Sunday hunting on SCDNR WMAs.”

While Sunday hunting on private lands is legal in South Carolina, Sunday hunting on Wildlife Management Areas is prohibited by SCDNR Regulation 2.5North Carolina opened public lands Sunday hunting in 2021, and Virginia opened Sunday hunting on public lands in 2022. Maine, Massachusetts, and South Carolina are the only three states in the country that do not allow any Sunday hunting on public lands.

The Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation (CSF) and the broader sportsmen’s community strongly supported the 2022 bipartisan legislation. Moving forward,  CSF will continue to work with the Caucus and partners to advocate for expanding Sunday hunting opportunities for the sportsmen and women that support the acquisition and management of WMAs through the “user pays – public benefits” American System of Conservation Funding, yet ironically have less access to WMAs than any other user-group.

States Involved: SC

 

CSF SUBMITS COMMENTS IN SUPPORT OF DEDICATED CONSERVATION FUNDING IN MISSISSIPPI

ARTICLE CONTACT: MARK LANCE,

Why It Matters: HB 999 would establish a dedicated source of revenue for the Fund by dedicating sales tax on outdoor gear under the North American Industry Classification System Tax Code Section 451110. This added security in funding through 2025 would enhance the Fund’s capability to contribute to projects benefiting fish and wildlife, their habitats, and opportunities for sportsmen and women without the cloud of yearly appropriations hanging over it.

Highlights: 

CSF applauded the passage of HB 606 last year, which established the Fund, and the subsequent $10 million appropriation that was made by the legislature that provided invaluable seed money for the Fund to have the capacity to assist in conservation projects.  The establishment of the Mississippi Trust Fund has been a priority of the Caucus for many years. The Fund was the topic of interest at the Caucus’ 2021 Sporting Clays Classic and the Annual Caucus Fish Fry in 2022.

CSF’s letter stated, “By dedicating a percentage of the existing sales tax on sporting goods to conservation funding, the Trust Fund can improve its capability to capitalize on matching private conservation dollars as well as federal funds through various fish, wildlife, and natural resources conservation programs. This added security in funding would allow the Trust Fund to continue to work towards fulfilling its mission to improve wildlife habitat, enhance access to public lands, restore wetlands and improve water quality, support fish and wildlife conservation on working forests and farms, and promote hunting, fishing, recreational shooting, and other forms of outdoor recreation without the funding uncertainty that the Trust Fund currently faces through the annual appropriation process.”

The approach to redirect revenue generated from pre-existing sales tax would mirror similar steps taken in years past to establish the Georgia Outdoor Stewardship Fund which now generates upwards of $20 million per year for conservation projects.

CSF will continue to work alongside our in-state partners and the Caucus to establish a dedicated source of conservation funding in Mississippi to complement the “user pays – public benefits” structure of the American System of Conservation Funding.

States Involved: MS

 

SECOND YEAR OF EMPIRE-SIZED SUCCESS FOR NEW YORK’S MENTORED HUNTING PILOT PROGRAM

ARTICLE CONTACT: JOSEPH MULLIN,

Why It Matters: Beginning during the 2021-22 hunting season, a pilot program was implemented in New York, allowing counties to authorize mentored deer hunting for 12 and 13-year-olds. The overwhelming acceptance of this program brings New York’s hunting age in line with most other states in the country. The success of that first year was remarkable, as 9,859 12 and 13-year-old hunters harvested 1,564 deer. The following year, 9,416 12 and 13-year-old hunters saw a harvest of 1,824. The evidence is clear: the mentored youth hunting pilot program has proven itself to be safe and effective. The Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation has long advocated for making this program a permanent fixture within New York, and it played an instrumental role in making the past two years possible.               

Highlights:

  • For the second year in a row, New York’s pilot program authorizing mentored 12 and 13-year-old hunters to harvest deer with a crossbow, rifle, shotgun, or muzzleloader has proven itself to be an incredible success – both statistically and socially.
  • This pilot program began during the 2021-22 hunting season after a decade-long effort spearheaded by the New York Legislative Sportsmen’s Caucus, the New York Sportsmen’s Advisory Council, and the Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation (CSF). Prior to the passage of the authorizing legislation New York had the highest firearm deer hunting age in the nation at 14 years old.
  • In a report provided by the New York Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) to the State Senate and Assembly, the DEC made three recommendations for the pilot program, including the State “make permanent the authorization for 12- and 13-year-old hunters to hunt deer with a firearm and crossbow.”

Following the 2022-23 hunting season in the Empire State, the New York Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) reviewed the facts and figures for the pilot program authorizing mentored 12 and 13-year-old hunters to harvest deer with a crossbow or firearm in preparation for reporting back to the State Senate and Assembly on the program’s overall success. The results were simple, “The second year of the pilot has proven to be as successful, safe, and popular as the first.”

The total number of Deer Harvest Reports submitted to the DEC by 12 and 13-year-old hunters increased by over 14%, going from 1,564 during the 2021-22 season to 1,824 during the 2022-23 season. In addition to this, the DEC stated that “No hunting-related shooting incidents, violations, or license revocations involving 12- and 13-year-old hunters were reported/occurred during the first two years of the pilot program,” which is further emphasized by the DEC’s assertion that “youth hunters are the safest group of hunters.”

In its report back to the State Senate and Assembly, the DEC offered the same three recommendations this year as the last:

  1. Make permanent the authorization for 12- and 13-year-old hunters to hunt deer with a firearm and crossbow;
  2. Extend the authorization for 12- and 13-year-old hunters to hunt deer with a firearm or crossbow to all of New York State (subject to other provisions of ECL) and remove the requirement for counties to pass a local law opting-in; and
  3. Allow 12- and 13-year-old hunters to also hunt black bear with a firearm and crossbow.

As CSF has previously reported, coordinated efforts alongside the New York Legislative Sportsmen’s Caucus and New York Sportsmen’s Advisory Council (NYSAC) took nearly a decade to make this possible. CSF looks forward to continuing its crucial work alongside the Caucus and NYSAC towards securing a permanent authorization for 12 and 13-year-old hunters in New York.

States Involved: NY

 

CSF OPPOSES ILLINOIS BILL THAT WOULD PROHIBIT THE TRANSFER OF AMMUNITION

ARTICLE CONTACT: BOB MATTHEWS,

Why It Matters: Legislation that restricts sportsmen and women from sharing in the enjoyment of our outdoor pastimes are a threat to the longevity of hunting, fishing, recreational shooting, and trapping. The basic ability to exchange ammunition between fellow hunters and recreational shooters must be protected, and CSF will continue to oppose this bill.

Highlights: 

  • IL House Bill 1057 would prohibit the sale and transfer of firearm ammunition if the transferer does not possess a Federal Firearm License.
  • The bill would significantly restrict sportsmen and women from exchanging ammunition while hunting or recreational shooting.
  • The Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation (CSF) opposes HB 1057, which seek to limit sportsmen and women’s ability to enjoy and share our time-honored traditions of outdoor recreation.

Recently, CSF submitted testimony on Illinois House Bill 1057, which would prohibit the sale and transfer of firearm ammunition if the transferer does not hold a Federal Firearms License (FFL). This would mean that sportsmen and women not possessing an FFL would be unable to exchange ammunition afield or at a shooting range without committing a felony. This bill seeks to further restrict responsible gun owners in the Prairie State, following last session’s eleventh-hour passage of House Bill 5471, which prohibited the sale, transfer, and possession of semi-automatic firearms and standard capacity magazines.

Based on the language of this proposed bill, friends spending a day at their favorite shooting range would be unable to exchange ammunition with one another. Doing so would mean committing a felony, if for example you wanted to simply try out a friend’s new gun unless you purchased the ammunition needed for that gun yourself. The implications of this legislation are apparent and significant: hunters and recreational shooters would be barred from enjoying and sharing their favorite pastimes with others.

Illinois, like every state in the nation, relies on its hunters and recreational shooters to provide the funding needed to manage the state’s natural resources through the American System of Conservation Funding. It is widely recognized that recreational target shooters, whom per-capita spend even more money on firearms and ammunition than hunters, are the financial keystone for the ASCF. According to an estimate by the National Shooting Sports Foundation, “80 percent of Pittman-Robertson excise tax contributions are generated by sales attributed to recreational shooting.” Recognizing this, CSF supports opportunities for sportsmen and women to be able to borrow firearms and ammunition as a way to try new opportunities while potentially encouraging future purchases that would support this ASCF.

CSF is working to oppose this bill and protect the ability of Illinois’ many sportsmen and women to participate in their favorite outdoor activities without unnecessary restrictions and barriers.

States Involved: IL

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