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Policy Corner Brief: OCTOBER 2023

Policy Corner Brief: OCTOBER 2023

Policy Corner Brief: OCTOBER 2023

STORY BY
PHOTOGRAPHY BY

Policy Corner Brief: OCTOBER 2023

STORY BY
PHOTOGRAPHY BY
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MASSACHUSETTS HOUSE BILL 2771 SEEKS TO DOUBLE-DOWN ON AMMO TAXES

ARTICLE CONTACT: FRED BIRD

Why it Matters: On September 12, 2023, Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation’s (CSF) Northeastern States Assistant Manager, Fred Bird submitted a letter of opposition to the Joint Committee on Revenue regarding Massachusetts (MA) House Bill (HB) 2771 An Act Establishing an Excise Tax on Ammunition. HB 2771 is very likely to result in an unintended and consequential diminishment of the state’s conservation funding. The intended purpose of this bill – to fund grants through the community gun violence intervention and prevention program – is being pursued through an avenue that levies a significant tax on law-abiding sportsmen and women on products that are already taxed at the manufacturer level to provide the conservation funding necessary for the work of the Department of Fish and Game (DFG), from which all citizens of the state benefit.

Highlights:

  • Massachusetts’ sportsmen and women, the backbone of funding to the MA Department of Fish and Game (DFG), are being called upon to pay an additional excise tax on ammunition to fund gun violence programs.
  • In 2022 alone, Massachusetts’s sportsmen and women generated over $24 million dollars for conservation through revenue derived from license sales and excise taxes on sporting-related goods (including ammunition) in the unique “user pays – public benefits” structure known as the American System of Conservation Funding (ASCF).
  • Enacted in 1937, the Pittman-Robertson Act redirected previously existing manufacturer-level excise taxes on firearms and ammunition to a dedicated fund to be used specifically for wildlife conservation purposes. Once collected, the taxes are deposited into the Wildlife Restoration Account, which is administered by the United States Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS).
  • Under the Pittman-Robertson Act and per the Firearms and Ammunition Excise Tax, firearms and ammunition are subjected to a 10-11% excise tax.

HB 2771 will result in an unintended and consequential diminishment of the state’s conservation funding. For more than 85 years, sportsmen and women have been the primary funders of state-level conservation efforts in this state and are thus an important constituency that provides benefits for all Massachusetts residents. In 2022 alone, Massachusetts’s sportsmen and women generated over $24 million dollars for conservation through revenue derived from license sales and excise taxes on sporting-related goods (including ammunition) in the unique “user pays – public benefits” structure known as the American System of Conservation Funding (ASCF). The funds collected through this program are the lifeblood of state fish and wildlife agencies, including the DFG – the primary manager of Massachusetts’s fish and wildlife resources. Enacted in 1937, the Pittman-Robertson Act redirected previously existing manufacturer-level excise taxes on firearms and ammunition to a dedicated fund to be used specifically for wildlife conservation purposes. Once collected, the taxes are deposited into the Wildlife Restoration Account, which is administered by the United States Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS). Under the Pittman-Robertson Act and per the Firearms and Ammunition Excise Tax, firearms and ammunition are subjected to a 10-11% excise tax. By subjecting purchasers of firearms and ammunition to an additional tax beyond the sales tax and manufacturer-level excise taxes that are already paid, HB 2771 will likely curtail much-needed conservation dollars on which state fish and wildlife agencies rely.

CSF looks forward to working with the Massachusetts Sportsmen’s Caucus in opposing MA HB 2771 and protecting the sportsmen self-imposed funding mechanism that has long supported our state partners and conservation efforts that all citizens are the beneficiaries of.

States Involved: MA

 

 

THE WAR ON RACCOONS: RECENT EFFORTS AND OPPORTUNITIES TO ADDRESS MESOPREDATOR POPULATIONS

ARTICLE CONTACT: JAKE GOULDKENT KEENE

Why it Matters: The Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation (CSF) maintains that opportunities for sportsmen and women to harvest wildlife, subject to regulations and limitations established by state fish and wildlife management agencies, is one of the most effective tools for managing populations. Recently, due to challenges created by increased populations of mesopredators like raccoons, state agencies, farmer groups, and other stakeholders have been exploring opportunities to promote additional harvest of these species. Given the complexity of interactions between species, particularly between predators and prey, decisions regarding harvest opportunities for wildlife should be left to those best qualified to make these decisions.

  • Recently, mesopredators like raccoons have gained significant attention due to their predatory effects on both wild game species and farmed poultry.
  • In response, state agencies like the Iowa Department of Natural Resources and the Missouri Department of Conservation have instituted regulatory changes designed to promote increased harvest of raccoons.
  • Taking things even further, some state legislatures have introduced or, in the case of Iowa, passed legislation designed to promote additional harvest. However, these efforts can carry unintended consequences that sportsmen and women must consider.

Mesopredators like raccoons represent an interesting niche among American wildlife. Once lauded for the value of their furs, activities like trapping and raccoon hunting have experienced declining participation rates in recent decades. As a result, many mesopredator populations have increased throughout much of the Midwest, leading to increased predation rates on many game bird and waterfowl populations, as well as increased incidence of depredation on domestic fowl.

As a result, state agencies and conservation organizations have taken significant steps in recent years to promote opportunities for sportsmen and women to harvest mesopredators such as raccoons. In support of these efforts, CSF has recently advocated for increased harvest opportunities provided through regulatory changes in both Iowa and Missouri that are supported by state fish and wildlife agency experts. In Iowa, this included year-round trapping opportunities on private lands, while Missouri created an extended private lands trapping season for racoons, opossum, striped skunk, and coyotes from March 1 – April 14, and an early private lands racoon and opossum trapping season that begins in August, all with limited methods.

In addition to these agency-led efforts, state legislatures have entered the fray as it relates to promoting raccoon harvest. For example, legislators in Iowa passed House File 317 which allows a landowner or their agents to harvest, trap, or ensnare a fur-bearing animal, including racoons, on their property when it is for the purpose of protection of a person or private property. They also went a step further by allowing owners or tenants of agricultural property to capture, harvest, or temporarily possess fur-bearing animals without prior permission so long as the owner, in good faith, deems the animal to be a nuisance. Continuing with legislation aimed at promoting racoon harvest, legislators in the Cornhusker State introduced Legislative Bill 400, or the Nebraska Pheasant Restoration Act. In response to declining pheasant populations, LB 400 sought to create a bounty program for pheasant nest predators. LB 400, which CSF and partners opposed, did not pass.

With a renewed interest in mesopredator harvest comes an opportunity to introduce new hunters and trappers to our outdoor traditions. However, it is important that these opportunities be vetted by state fish and wildlife agencies to ensure that harvest is conducted in a manner supported by the best available science to ensure the sustainability of these pursuits. As such, CSF maintains that state fish and wildlife agencies are best equipped to utilize their local knowledge and professional training to make wildlife management decisions and encourages legislators to work with their state agency to address perceived issues with mesopredator populations. Likewise, we also encourage stakeholders to engage with sportsmen and women who, in addition to their contributions to the “user pays – public benefits” American System of Conservation Funding, can play a critical role in managing wildlife populations.

 

 

CSF CONTINUES WORK WITH CSC MEMBERS TO ADDRESS HUNTER EDUCATION ISSUE

ARTICLE CONTACT: TAYLOR SCHMITZ

Why it matters: In June 2022, Congress passed the Bipartisan Safer Communities Act (BSCA), which included language that prohibited training school personnel in the use of a “dangerous weapon”. Unfortunately, the BSCA is having the unintended consequence of limiting certain U.S. Department of Education funds from being used for important educational programs such as archery in schools, wilderness courses, school sponsored shooting teams, hunter education, and any other activities that utilize a “dangerous weapon”.

Highlights

  • The Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation (CSF) is continuing to work with Members of the Congressional Sportsmen’s Caucus (CSC) to address this issue in a bipartisan fashion.
  • Recently, CSC Member Sen. Jon Tester (MT) introduced a bipartisan bill known as Defending Hunters Education Act ( 2735), and CSC Member John Barrasso (WY) introduced a bill known as the Allowing for Recreational Resources for Outdoor Wellness (ARROW) Act (S. 2736).
  • Last week, CSC Member Rep. Mark Green’s bipartisan Protecting Hunting Heritage and Education Act (R. 5110) passed the House Education and Workforce Committee unanimously, a sign of the strong support to address this issue. Prior to the vote, CSF contacted many offices who serve on the Committee encouraging them to support America’s youth and vote “yes” on Congressman Green’s bill.

With Congress back from the August recess, CSF is continuing to work with members of the Congressional Sportsmen’s Caucus to quickly address the issues caused by the BSCA for students across the country who participate in many important outdoor enrichment programs.

In June 2022, the BSCA was signed into law, which included language that amended the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) to prohibit ESEA funds from being used for training school personnel in the use of a “dangerous weapon”, which is defined in federal statute as “a weapon, device, instrument, material, or substance, animate or inanimate, that is used for, or is readily capable of, causing death or serious bodily injury, except that such term does not include a pocket knife with a blade of less than 2½ inches in length”. This sweeping definition is impacting many programs that are foundational to our sporting heritage such as wilderness courses, archery in schools, hunter education, school sponsored shooting teams, etc. Unfortunately, because of the plain definition of “dangerous weapon”, the BSCA language is limiting the funding opportunities for the school programs that are critically important activities for America’s youth.

CSF is encouraged to see several bipartisan efforts in Congress that seek to address this issue. Specifically, CSF is very pleased to see Congressman Green’s bill pass its respective Committee of jurisdiction under a unanimous vote. CSF is currently working to secure cosponsors to the Senate efforts to quickly resolve this issue.

Given the strong momentum and leadership of Rep. Mark Green and Sens. Tester and Barrasso, CSF is hopeful that a legislative fix to amend the BSCA and restore Elementary and Secondary Education Act funds will be signed into law at some point in the near future.

 

 

CSC VICE-CHAIR REP. GRAVES’ DUCK STAMP MODERNIZATION ACT PASSES HOUSE ON STRONG VOTE

September 20, 2023 (Washington, D.C.) – Earlier today, the U.S. House of Representatives passed the Duck Stamp Modernization Act (H.R. 2872) on a voice vote, a sign of the unanimous support for the bill thanks to Congressional Sportsmen’s Caucus (CSC) leadership Vice-Chair Rep. Garret Graves (LA) and CSC Member Rep. Mike Thompson (CA). Prior to the House floor vote, the Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation (CSF) worked with the bill sponsors and key offices in the House to see that this bill was added to the House floor calendar.

The Duck Stamp Modernization Act will bring the Federal Duck Stamp process into the 21st century by providing that the electronic Federal Duck Stamp is valid for the entirety of the hunting season. Under current law, when a hunter purchases an electronic Federal Duck Stamp (e-stamp), the e-stamp is only valid for a period of 45 days to allow for the actual stamp to be mailed to the purchaser. Once the actual stamp is received by the e-stamp purchaser, the actual stamp must be signed by the respective hunter across the face of the stamp and be in the hunter’s possession while afield.

Specifically, this legislation will allow hunters who purchase a Federal Duck Stamp electronically to have the duck stamp on their smartphone while hunting without requiring the signed physical stamp to be on their person. To maintain the integrity of the Federal Duck Stamp, the bill requires that physical stamps will be mailed to those who purchased the e-stamp after the latest waterfowl season in the country has closed. Hunters will still be able to purchase the physical stamp from the U.S. Postal Service or from other locations that sell the physical stamp.

“A priority for CSF, we would like to extend our appreciation to Representative Graves and Representative Thompson for getting this important legislation passed in the House,” said Jeff Crane, President & CEO of the Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation.  “As technology continues to evolve, we must find ways to improve easier accessibility and opportunity for our sportsmen’s community as a whole and this legislation is a step in that direction.”

Signed into law in 1934, the Federal Duck Stamp has generated over $1.1 billion for wetlands conservation and helped conserve over 6 million acres of wetlands within the National Wildlife Refuge System. In 1934, there were roughly 635,000 stamps sold. Today, that number has grown to over 1.5 million stamp purchases, which generates more than $37.5 million for wetlands conservation. Importantly, approximately 98% of the Federal Duck Stamp purchase price is spent directly on the management and acquisition of wetlands to bolster habitat for wetland dependent species such as ducks, geese, shorebirds, fish, turtles, and countless others.

In July, the Senate unanimously passed the Senate companion bill led by CSC Leaders Co-Chairs Sens. John Boozman and Joe Manchin and Vice-Chairs Sens. Angus King and Roger Marshall. Although technically two different bills, given the strong vote in both chambers, CSF will continue to work this bill through the legislative process to see it signed into law.

 

 

CSF SUPPORTED HUNTER EDUCATION FIX SET TO RECEIVE VOTE IN HOUSE

September 25, 2023 (WASHINGTON, D.C.) – This week, it is expected that the U.S. House of Representatives will vote on the bipartisan Protecting Hunting Heritage and Education Act (H.R. 5110). Led by Congressional Sportsmen’s Caucus (CSC) Members Representatives Mark Green and Richard Hudson, H.R. 5110 will resolve the issues caused by the Bipartisan Safer Communities Act and its limitation on certain federal funds for archery in schools, hunter education, school sponsored shooting teams, wilderness classes, and other critical enrichment programs. Two weeks ago, the House Education and Workforce Committee passed H.R. 5110 on a unanimous vote, and the Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation (CSF) will be working in the coming days to ensure a strong vote on the House Floor.

In June 2022, the Bipartisan Safer Communities Act (BSCA) was signed into law, which included language that prohibited training school personnel in the use of a “dangerous weapon”. Unfortunately, because of the plain language of “dangerous weapon”, the BSCA prohibits Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) funds, a large federal funding program for schools, from being used for many important enrichment programs. When the BSCA was developed, the legislative intent for the “dangerous weapon” language was to prohibit ESEA funds from being used for training school resource officers and security personnel. However, the BSCA is having the unintended consequence of prohibiting ESEA funds for hunter education, school sponsored shooting teams, wilderness courses, and other important educational programs for students, even potentially culinary classes.

H.R. 5110 will amend the BSCA to make it clear that the intent of Congress was not to prohibit ESEA funds for the programs of interest to CSF. Specifically, the Protecting Hunting Heritage and Education Act will amend the BSCA by including language that the prohibition of ESEA funds shall not apply to “programs and that provide students with educational instruction or educational enrichment activities, such as archery, hunting, other shooting sports, or culinary arts”. The language in Rep. Green and Hudson’s bill is important because it explicitly states a number of programs and includes broader “educational enrichment activities” language that will capture the programs of interest to CSF.

“The Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation thanks Reps. Green and Hudson for their effort in leading the bipartisan Protecting Hunting Heritage and Education Act to ensure that important enrichment programs remain available to millions of students across the country that participate in sporting and outdoor education programs,” said CSF President and CEO Jeff Crane. “We are glad to see the House moving quickly on this important bill, and we look forward to a successful vote.”

Prior to the House vote, CSF will be working with Members of the Congressional Sportsmen’s Caucus to encourage support of H.R. 5110. CSF will keep the community updated as this legislation progresses.

 

 

CONSERVATION, ECONOMIC, AND CULTURAL CONTRIBUTIONS OF AMERICA’S 55 MILLION SPORTSMEN AND WOMEN RECOGNIZED BY PRESIDENT BIDEN AND 38 GOVERNORS

September 25, 2023 (Washington, D.C.) – On Saturday September 23, sportsmen and women across the United States were honored for their unique contributions to conservation, our nation’s economy, and our American way of life. Established by Congress in 1971 and first celebrated a year later, National Hunting and Fishing Day (NHFD) occurs the fourth Saturday of September and seeks to not only bring recognition, but also to encourage participation in hunting, fishing, recreational shooting, and trapping.

To raise awareness on how America’s sportsmen and women are the nation’s true conservationists, the Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation (CSF) worked with the Executive Office of the President and Governors across the country, including the 27 members of the nonpartisan Governors Sportsmen’s Caucus (GSC), to formally recognize National Hunting and Fishing Day. 38 states issued gubernatorial proclamations in addition to the President’s own proclamation, which noted that “Hunting and fishing are part of who we are as Americans — central to our history, heritage, and prosperity and ingrained in the soul of our Nation.”

For over 85 years, sportsmen and women have played a crucial role in funding conservation efforts in the United States through the American System of Conservation Funding (ASCF), a unique “user pays – public benefits” program of self-imposed fees and manufacturer-level excise taxes. The ASCF serves as the main funding mechanism for state fish and wildlife agencies, helping to fund their critical work of fish and wildlife management, habitat management and restoration, hunter education, hunter and angler access projects, and more. National Hunting & Fishing Day seeks to increase awareness of and participation in our favorite outdoor pursuits, while also celebrating the contributions made by America’s original conservationists – sportsmen and women.

“As the backbone of conservation, America’s 55 million sportsmen and women are more than deserving of the recognition that comes with National Hunting and Fishing Day,” said CSF President and CEO Jeff Crane. “Each proclamation is a testament to the sanctity of our time-honored traditions and the immense conservation, economic, and cultural value sportsmen and women provide for our society.”

National Hunting and Fishing Day remains the most prominent occasion for promoting America’s hunting and angling traditions, and the economic, conservation, and cultural benefits provided by sportsmen and women.

For more information on National Hunting and Fishing Day, please visit www.NHFDay.org, and for a list of  the proclamations that were issued this year please visit National Hunting and Fishing Day – Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation.

 

 

FIX TO HUNTER EDUCATION, ARCHERY IN SCHOOLS, A TOP CSF PRIORITY, HEADS TO PRESIDENT’S DESK

September 27, 2023 (Washington, D.C.) – Moments ago, the Senate unanimously passed the Protecting Hunting Heritage and Education Act (H.R. 5110), a bipartisan bill and a top priority for the Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation (CSF), which now heads to the President’s desk for signature. This bill will address the unintended consequences caused by the Bipartisan Safer Communities Act (BSCA) and its impact on federal funding for hunter education, archery in schools, wilderness courses, and many other important educational enrichment programs. The unanimous Senate passage of H.R. 5110 comes shortly after the House passed the bill Tuesday night on an impressive vote of 424 – 1.

The bipartisan H.R. 5110, led by Congressional Sportsmen’s Caucus (CSC) Members Reps. Mark Green and Richardson, will ensure that critical enrichment programs for millions of students are eligible to receive federal funding under the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) and will resolve the funding limitations under the BSCA.

For the last few months, CSF has been working with Leaders and Members of the CSC to see that a legislative fix to the BSCA moves quickly through Congress to restore ESEA funding for hunter education, wilderness courses, archery in schools, school sponsored shooting teams, and other critical enrichment programs for students across the nation. As a result of these efforts, Congress passed the Protecting Hunting Heritage and Education Act in swift fashion, a sign of the wide-spread support for these programs and CSF’s ability to advocate for meaningful legislation for sportsmen and women.

In June 2022, the BSCA was signed into law, which included language that amended the ESEA to these federal funds from being used for training school personnel in the use of a “dangerous weapon”, which is defined in federal statute as “a weapon, device, instrument, material, or substance, animate or inanimate, that is used for, or is readily capable of, causing death or serious bodily injury, except that such term does not include a pocket knife with a blade of less than 2½ inches in length”. This sweeping definition is impacting many programs that are foundational to our sporting heritage such as wilderness courses, archery in schools, hunter education, school sponsored shooting teams, etc. Unfortunately, because of the plain definition of “dangerous weapon”, the BSCA language is limiting the funding opportunities for the school programs that are critically important activities for America’s students.

“CSF extends our appreciation to CSC Members Reps. Green and Hudson for their commitment to sportsmen and women and the millions of students across the country that participate and cherish these important programs,” said CSF President and CEO Jeff Crane. “It is encouraging to see Congress move quickly to restore ESEA funding for these programs, a clear sign that hunting, fishing, and other sporting traditions remain a non-partisan issue.”

CSF thanks Reps. Green and Hudson for their leadership on H.R. 5110 and thanks all of the CSC Members who stepped in to resolve the BSCA issues through a legislative fix. We look forward to seeing this legislation signed into law by President Biden.

 

 

PRESIDENT BIDEN SIGNS INTO LAW CSF TOP PRIORITY, THE PROTECTING HUNTING HERITAGE AND EDUCATION ACT

October 6, 2023 (Washington, D.C.) – Moments ago, President Biden signed the bipartisan Protecting Hunting Heritage and Education Act (H.R. 5110) into law. Led by Congressional Sportsmen’s Caucus (CSC) Members Reps. Mark Green and Richard Hudson, this bill will ensure that certain federal funds remain available for hunter education, archery in schools, wilderness programs, and many other critical student enrichment programs.

The signing into law of H.R. 5110 marks a significant victory for the Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation (CSF), sportsmen and women, and millions of students across the country who participate in valuable outdoor recreation classes. Notably, this bill passed Congress with only one dissenting vote, and was signed into law in roughly two months after introduction, an impressive timeline given the challenging dynamics at play in Congress. This success is the result of the bipartisan Congressional Sportsmen’s Caucus and CSF’s ability to navigate difficult political dynamics to ensure victories for sportsmen and women across the country. This victory also demonstrates that our time-honored traditions of hunting, fishing, trapping, and recreational shooting are non-partisan pastimes that unite Americans from all walks of life. H.R. 5110 was complemented by two Senate companion bills, led by Sens. Tester (S. 2735) and Cornyn (S. 2828), that also sought to address this issue in a bipartisan manner.

“CSF offers our sincere appreciation to CSC Members Reps. Green and Hudson as well as Sens. Tester and Cornyn for spearheading this bipartisan effort to ensure that important enrichment and life skill programs in schools across the country remain eligible for federal funding,” said CSF President and CEO Jeff Crane. “As schools across the country are well under way, CSF would also like to thank President Biden for quickly signing H.R. 5110 into law.”

H.R. 5110 will ensure Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) funds, a significant federal funding program for schools across the country, are available to fund crucial development programs such as archery in schools, hunter education, school sponsored shooting teams, wilderness courses, among many other activities. Specifically, this legislation makes it clear that the Bipartisan Safer Communities Act does not undermine these longstanding valuable programs that build camaraderie, teach responsibility, and provide recreational opportunities for millions of students across the nation.

CSF would like to recognize all the Members of the Congressional Sportsmen’s Caucus who stepped up in a rapid fashion to fix this legislation in a bipartisan manner, including Reps. Green and Hudson, CSC Senate Leaders Sens. Manchin, Boozman, King, and Marshall, and CSC Members Sens. Tester, Cornyn, and Tillis.

 

 

FWS ANNOUNCES STRONG PROGRESS ON HUNTING PERMITS, CSF EXPECTS MORE SIGNIFICANT PROGRESS IN 2024

ARTICLE CONTACT: TAYLOR SCHMITZ

Why it Matters: Scientifically driven and regulated hunting is the linchpin of conservation both domestically in the United States and across the world. A permitting process is part of ensuring sustainable and healthy populations across the globe. Given the importance of hunting-conservation programs, permit determinations are often made on an application-by-application basis, which can require lengthy review processes. Recently, a backlog of permit applications has frustrated would-be international hunters. However, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is making impressive progress to move the permitting process in the right direction.

Highlights:

  • On October 6, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) announced the agency has made significant progress in the processing on hunting permits, a meaningful step in the right direction for sportsmen and women.
  • Recently, the Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation (CSF) and a number of CSF’s partners that are leaders across the globe in sporting-conservation issues have been meeting with FWS to encourage the processing of permits and to find opportunities to collectively work together to reduce the permit backlog.
  • Additionally, FWS stated that sporting-conservationists should expect to see “significant progress on permit application backlog in 2024”, a very encouraging sign for conservation and sportsmen and women.

On October 6, FWS announced important steps forward in the issue of conservation permits across the world. Specifically, FWS announced positive momentum for six different species across eight different countries, all of which will have a meaningful impact for sportsmen and women, host countries, and most importantly, conservation programs around the world.

The Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation looks forward to working with FWS to continue to move the permitting process in the right direction and bring more surety to the approval hunter for prospective international hunters.

 

 

LET THE KIDS PLAY. . . AND HUNT AND FISH

ARTICLE CONTACT: KENT KEENE

Why It Matters: After the Arkansas Legislature passed a bill to create a discounted resident Youth Lifetime Combination License during the 2023 Legislative Session, a limited number are officially for sale across the Natural State. This discounted license will provide parents and legal guardians the opportunity to invest in their child’s lifetime future as a sportsman or sportswoman. As the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission weighs a proposal to increase the availability of this license, the Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation (CSF) celebrates its availability and potential to increase hunter and angler recruitment among the next generation.

  • After the concept was passed by the Arkansas Legislature earlier this year, a limited number of resident-only Youth Lifetime Combination Licenses are now available for Arkansas residents under the age of 11.
  • Youth Lifetime Licenses represent a unique opportunity to invest in a lifetime of outdoor pursuits for the next generation of sportsmen and sportswomen.
  • In addition to the new availability of this license, the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission is accepting comments on proposed regulatory amendments that would increase the number of these licenses that are available each year from 500 to 1,000.

After the concept was passed by the Legislature in the spring and signed into law by Governor Sanders, the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission (AGFC) is now officially selling the new, resident-only, discounted Youth Lifetime Combination License available for children under the age of 11. As previously reported, the creation of this license, which was supported by the Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation and championed by Arkansas Legislative Sportsmen’s Caucus Co-Chair and NASC Executive Council Secretary Representative Jeff Wardlaw, represents a cost-effective opportunity for parents and guardians to invest in the next generation of sportsmen and sportswomen.

Parents and guardians interested in purchasing one of these licenses will need to visit AGFC’s headquarters in Little Rock or their nearest AGFC Regional Office to submit an application. According to recent conversations with AGFC representatives, resident adults seeking to purchase this license for their child will need their driver license and the recipient youth’s birth certificate and social security number to create a customer identification number and apply for the license. At this time, only 500 of these discounted combination licenses may be sold each year.

During a special virtual meeting of the AGFC last week, Commissioners heard a proposal to increase the number of these licenses that are available for purchase each year from 500 to 1,000. Sportsmen and women interested in weighing in on this proposal may do so by submitting comments to AGFC through October 30, 2023.

States Involved: AR

 

 

CSF CELEBRATES TEMPORARY VICTORY IN PROTECTING $190 MILLION IN CONSERVATION FUNDING IN PENNSYLVANIA – BUT THE FIGHT IS NOT OVER.

ARTICLE CONTACT: KALEIGH LEAGER

Why It Matters: The previously amended version of House Bill 1300 sought to transfer $150,000,000 from the Pennsylvania Game Commission (PGC), which would have also jeopardized around $40,000,000 in federal conservation dollars for the state; a potential total combined revenue loss of more than $190,000,000 for conservation funding. The PGC has been tasked with managing the Commonwealth’s wildlife resources for Pennsylvanians for more than 100 years. The Game Commission does not receive any General Fund appropriations and is almost primarily funded by hunting and furtaker license sales. The fund is supplemented by State Game Lands resource extractions and federal excise taxes on sporting arms and ammunition. More than half of the Game Fund’s annual revenue comes from license sales. License fee increases cannot be implemented without approval of the General Assembly; increases historically occur every 10 years.

Highlights:

  • House Bill 1300 (a State Appropriations Bill), was amended by the Senate to include the transfer of $150,000,000 derived from gas and oil leases on State Game Lands (purchased with revenue derived from license sales and Wildlife Restoration Funds) from the Game Commission Fund to the Clean Streams Fund. The amended version of the bill was introduced and passed by the Senate on August 30, 2023 (29-18).
  • Pennsylvania’s Game Commission (PGC) received $41,067,392 in Federal funding in FY2023 from the Pittman-Robertson Wildlife Restoration Grant Fund Program. The passage and enactment of the previously written House Bill 1300 would likely declare Pennsylvania ineligible to receive future PR-Wildlife Restoration Program funding.
  • House Bill 1300 was amended in the House Rules Committee on October 4, 2023, to remove the transfer of $150M from the Game Fund. The newly amended version is headed to the Senate Rules & Executive Nominations Committee for concurrence; a hearing has not yet been scheduled.
  • CSF was in contact with the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, Governor’s Shapiro’s office, PA Legislative Sportsmen’s Caucus, in addition to signing onto a joint letter of opposition with other conservation organizations and submitted a letter to the Senate Rules & Executive Nominations Committee urging concurrence of removing the transfer of Game Funds.

The American System of Conservation Funding (ASCF) represents a unique “user pay – public benefit” funding cycle that has proven most effective at supporting professional fish and wildlife management in the U.S.  This “Cycle of Success” starts with the funding provided by hunters, recreational shooters, anglers, and boaters.  The funds collected through the excise taxes paid on their equipment purchases and through their purchase of hunting and fishing licenses are the primary source of support for state fish and wildlife agencies.  The state agencies then use these funds to manage fish and wildlife populations and provide public access to these resources.  Improved hunting, recreational shooting, angling, and boating opportunities results in expanded equipment purchases, which provides a growing source of funds for future fish and wildlife management.

The U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service submitted a letter to the PGC informing them of the fiscal consequences that are tied to the passage of the previously amended HB 1300. Another blow to the state’s funding resources for wildlife management and the hunting, fishing, and trapping community will come from the ineligibility to receive funding from the Pittman-Robertson Wildlife Restoration Act’s Fund Program. The PGC has worked to manage and protect wildlife and their habitats while promoting hunting and trapping for the current and future generations since 1895.

The Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation (CSF) was heavily engaged in this fight from the time the Senate amended the bill to jeopardize conservation funding, thought today. Along with engaging a wide-array of conservation partners in a community-wide effort, CSF also worked with both state and federal agency staff, worked with the Pennsylvania Legislative Sportsmen’s Caucus Co-Chairs encouraging a legislative fix, and contacted the Governor’s Office to express the warranted concerns over transferring vital conservation dollars out of the Game Fund.  The PA Sportsmen & Women Policy Workgroup, whose membership includes CSF and other Non-Government Organizations focused on conservation, also submitted a letter  to the Pennsylvania State Legislature and Governor Shapiro’s Office opposing the transfer of conservation dollars out of the Game Fund.

Although the protection of $190 million in critical conservation funding is a notable victory, the fight is not yet over. The work now becomes trying to keep the bill clean without the troubling language being amended back in as the bill now returns to the Senate for concurrence. CSF has already submitted a letter to the Senate Rules & Executive Nominations Committee requesting concurrence with the House’s newly amended bill, and will continue to engage on this critical issue throughout the remainder of the legislative process.

Further updates on this topic may be made available when possible.

States Involved: PA

 

 

GOVERNOR NEWSOM SIGNS CALIFORNIA FIREARM AND AMMUNITION TAX BILL INTO LAW

ARTICLE CONTACT: KEELY HOPKINS

Why It Matters: California’s law-abiding hunters and recreational shooters have long played a vital role in funding conservation through various wildlife management efforts throughout the state. Under the American System of Conservation Funding (ASCF), a unique “user pays — public benefits” program, California’s sportsmen and women generate tens of millions of dollars each year for the California Department of Fish & Wildlife. These funds are generated through license sales and an 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:

  • On September 26, Assembly Bill 28 (AB 28), which will impose an 11% tax on all firearm and ammunition sales in the state, was signed into law by California Governor Newsom and will take effect on July 1, 2024.
  • AB 28 is inherently different from the excise taxes levied on firearms and ammunition through the Pittman-Robertson Act, which are placed on manufacturers, rather than taxing an individual’s right to purchase a firearm or ammunition.
  • The Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation (CSF) actively opposed this misguided policy since it was first introduced in 2021 and was on the ground in Sacramento throughout the 2023 legislative session to advocate against AB 28.

After three years of strong oppositional efforts from the hunting conservation community, Assembly Bill 28 has been signed into law by Governor Newsom. Once implemented, AB 28 will impose an 11% tax on all firearm and ammunition sales in the state. The bill was allegedly designed to “mirror” the excise tax paid under the Pittman-Robertson Act, but AB 28 is inherently different because this tax is not placed on manufacturers, but instead taxes an individual’s right to purchase a firearm or ammunition.

The Firearm and Ammunition Tax Bill, originally AB 1223, was first introduced during the 2021 legislative session. The bill was defeated on the floor, however proponents used procedural maneuvers to add an “urgency clause” to the legislation, which exempted the bill from regular deadlines and rules and allowed the bill to be carried over to the 2022 session. Having not received a floor vote by the January 31, 2022 deadline, the proposal should have been defeated for the biennial session, yet proponents once again maneuvered their proposal forward by commandeering AB 1227 through a “gut and amend” tactic. The bill ultimately failed to pass in 2022, but unfortunately garnered the requisite support to pass the legislature this year.

Each year, California’s sportsmen and women contribute tens of millions of dollars to the California Department of Fish and Wildlife, providing vital revenue to help carry out their mission of managing the state’s diverse fish and wildlife and the habitats upon which they depend. These funds are generated through fishing and hunting license sales, and through the purchase of sporting-related goods. Under the Pittman-Robertson Act, firearms and ammunition purchased by California’s hunters and recreational shooters are already taxed at the manufacturer-level through a 10-11% excise tax, which in turn funds a large portion of the state’s wildlife management, research, and other conservation efforts. AB 28 will now place an additional tax on top of these existing taxes, thereby driving up the costs of these goods, reducing their sales, and in turn, reducing the conservation funding from which all California residents benefit.

The Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation has actively opposed the Firearm and Ammunition Tax since it was first introduced in 2021 and was on the ground in Sacramento to advocate against this misguided policy during the 2023 legislative session. CSF’s Western States & Firearm Policy Manager Keely Hopkins and California’s Hunting and Conservation Coalition President Bill Gaines recently joined CSF’s Fred Bird on The Sportsmen’s Voice Podcast for an in depth look at the harmful effects of this bill. Be sure to tune in on all main streaming services to listen to Episode 4 of The Sportsmen’s Voice Podcast for more information about AB 28.

States Involved: CA

 

 

NEW HAMPSHIRE BILL WOULD POTENTIALLY JEOPARDIZE PITTMAN-ROBERTSON ELIGIBILITY

ARTICLE CONTACT: FRED BIRD

Why It Matters: On September 29, 2023, the Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation (CSF) submitted testimony in opposition to New Hampshire House Bill 512 (HB 512) – An Act Exempting Firearms Manufactured in New Hampshire from Federal Laws and Regulations. HB 512, if passed, is very likely to result in an unintended and consequential diminishment to the state’s conservation funding. While the removal of taxes sounds good to many, the exemption of these items from the Firearms and Ammunition Excise Tax collected through Pittman-Robertson would likely put a significant portion of New Hampshire’s Fish & Game Department’s funding in jeopardy.

Highlights:

  • With the passage of Pittman-Robertson, today’s American System of Conservation Funding was created. In addition to redirecting excise taxes to conservation purposes, the bill also permanently linked state license fee revenue to conservation and set in place specific criteria that states must adhere to in order to maintain their eligibility to receive funds.
  • In 2022 alone, the New Hampshire Fish and Game Department received $24.5 million dollars for conservation through this System.
  • By removing firearms in New Hampshire from federal taxation through the Wildlife Restoration program, it is very likely that the USFWS will determine that the New Hampshire Fish and Game Department is no longer eligible to receive Wildlife Restoration funds.
  • On October 4, 2023, the House Committee on Criminal Justice and Public Safety held a hearing on HB 512 and unanimously voted, Inexpedient to Legislate (ITL), shelving the Bill for now.
  • With HB 512 voted ITL, at least $7.16 million has been saved for New Hampshire’s agency, conservation, the state’s sportsmen and women, and the public at large.

For more than 85 years, sportsmen and women have been the primary funders of state-level conservation efforts in New Hampshire and are thus an important constituency that provide benefits for all New Hampshire residents. Enacted in 1937, the Pittman-Robertson Act redirected previously existing manufacturer-level excise taxes on firearms and ammunition to a dedicated fund to be used specifically for wildlife conservation purposes. Once collected, the taxes are deposited into the Wildlife Restoration Account, which is administered by the United States Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS), who then apportion funds to all state fish and wildlife agencies for conservation purposes. Under the Pittman-Robertson Act and per the Firearms and Ammunition Excise Tax, firearms and ammunition are subjected to a 10-11% excise tax.

Of primary concern with HB 512 is the language in section 159-F:2 Prohibitions (I.) that states, “Notwithstanding any other law to the contrary, a personal firearm, a firearm accessory, or ammunition that is manufactured commercially or privately in New Hampshire and that remains within the state of New Hampshire shall not be subject to federal law or taxation, or federal regulation, including registration, under the authority of Congress to regulate interstate commerce.” By removing firearms in New Hampshire from federal taxation through the Wildlife Restoration program, it is very likely that the USFWS will determine that the New Hampshire Fish and Game Department is no longer eligible to receive Wildlife Restoration funds.

After the October 4th unanimous vote to ITL, HB 512 has yet another hearing scheduled for November 9, 2023, with the House Criminal Justice and Public Safety Committee at 11:00 a.m. and can be watched here.

CSF looks forward to working with our New Hampshire Legislative Sportsmen’s Caucus in opposing HB 512 and other proposals that would negatively impact critical conservation funding in the Granite State.

States Involved: NH

 

 

FINAL ’23 – ’24 HUNT FISH RULE STILL PENDING, CSF’S CONCERNS REMAIN

ARTICLE CONTACT: TAYLOR SCHMITZ

Why It Matters:  Historically, the Hunt Fish Rule has been an effort to promote access for sportsmen and women. While the most recent proposed Hunt Fish Rule does seek to expand access, the Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation (CSF) remains concerned about efforts to restrict the use of lead ammunition and fishing tackle in certain National Wildlife Refuge Units across the country. Furthermore, removing Sunday hunting restrictions is critical to providing access parity among public land user groups, and also in the furtherance of hunter recruitment, retention, and reactivation efforts.

Highlights:

  • For years, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) has conducted an effort known as the Hunt Fish Rule to improve access for sportsmen and women across the country within the National Wildlife Refuge System.
  • CSF has encouraged FWS to maintain access for sportsmen and women not only through physical access, but also method of take, such as lead ammunition and tackle.
  • In a surprising move, the Service proposed to forbid hunter access on two National Wildlife Refuges on Sundays despite Sunday hunting restrictions being Blue Laws with no basis in wildlife management. While many states and the U.S. Forest Service have expanded Sunday hunting opportunities in recent years, CSF was disappointed to see the Service’s proposal, which is biased against hunters, that would forbid hunter access to two NWRs on Sundays.

With the proposed 2023 – 2024 Hunt Fish Rule set to be finalized soon, the Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation remains concerned about certain aspects of the proposal.

Specifically, CSF is disappointed to see the Hunt Fish Rule proposes to prohibit the use of lead ammunition and fishing tackle within select NWR’s across the country. Restrictions concerning lead ammunition and fishing tackle need to be supported by science-based data that demonstrates a negative fish and wildlife population impact within a specific unit of land or water. If substantiated scientific data determines a causational relationship between the use of traditional ammunition or fishing tackle and local fish and wildlife population health, states already have the inherent ability and resources necessary to quickly implement regulations on methods of take.

Additionally, CSF urged the Service to withdraw their proposals to prohibit Sunday hunting on two National Wildlife Refuges (NWR) in Virginia. In 2022, the Commonwealth of Virginia repealed the state law prohibiting Sunday hunting on public lands, and the Service opened Sunday hunting on Wallops Island National Wildlife Refuge. This year, however, the Service proposed to prohibit Sunday hunting on the Chincoteague NWR and the Eastern Shore of Virginia NWR. No additional Sunday hunting expansions were proposed. CSF pointed out that the proposed Sunday hunting prohibitions are contrary to President Biden’s directive in Section 214 of Executive Order 14008 to “improve access to recreation” and the goal, agreed to by the DOI as a signatory to the Interagency MOU on Promoting Equitable Access to Nature in Nature-Deprived Communities, to “expand equitable access to… green and blue spaces.”

CSF further encouraged the Service to consider opening Sunday hunting on refuges in all states, including Virginia, where Sunday hunting is not prohibited by state law. While many states have rolled back Sunday hunting prohibitions in recent years, the Service has largely not followed suit. Based on current law in states mostly along the Eastern Seaboard, the Service currently has the ability to allow Sunday hunting on 43 additional refuges (13 in Virginia alone) in nine states which would provide seven-day hunting access on 990,434 acres.

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

MASSACHUSETTS HOUSE BILL 2771 SEEKS TO DOUBLE-DOWN ON AMMO TAXES

ARTICLE CONTACT: FRED BIRD

Why it Matters: On September 12, 2023, Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation’s (CSF) Northeastern States Assistant Manager, Fred Bird submitted a letter of opposition to the Joint Committee on Revenue regarding Massachusetts (MA) House Bill (HB) 2771 An Act Establishing an Excise Tax on Ammunition. HB 2771 is very likely to result in an unintended and consequential diminishment of the state’s conservation funding. The intended purpose of this bill – to fund grants through the community gun violence intervention and prevention program – is being pursued through an avenue that levies a significant tax on law-abiding sportsmen and women on products that are already taxed at the manufacturer level to provide the conservation funding necessary for the work of the Department of Fish and Game (DFG), from which all citizens of the state benefit.

Highlights:

  • Massachusetts’ sportsmen and women, the backbone of funding to the MA Department of Fish and Game (DFG), are being called upon to pay an additional excise tax on ammunition to fund gun violence programs.
  • In 2022 alone, Massachusetts’s sportsmen and women generated over $24 million dollars for conservation through revenue derived from license sales and excise taxes on sporting-related goods (including ammunition) in the unique “user pays – public benefits” structure known as the American System of Conservation Funding (ASCF).
  • Enacted in 1937, the Pittman-Robertson Act redirected previously existing manufacturer-level excise taxes on firearms and ammunition to a dedicated fund to be used specifically for wildlife conservation purposes. Once collected, the taxes are deposited into the Wildlife Restoration Account, which is administered by the United States Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS).
  • Under the Pittman-Robertson Act and per the Firearms and Ammunition Excise Tax, firearms and ammunition are subjected to a 10-11% excise tax.

HB 2771 will result in an unintended and consequential diminishment of the state’s conservation funding. For more than 85 years, sportsmen and women have been the primary funders of state-level conservation efforts in this state and are thus an important constituency that provides benefits for all Massachusetts residents. In 2022 alone, Massachusetts’s sportsmen and women generated over $24 million dollars for conservation through revenue derived from license sales and excise taxes on sporting-related goods (including ammunition) in the unique “user pays – public benefits” structure known as the American System of Conservation Funding (ASCF). The funds collected through this program are the lifeblood of state fish and wildlife agencies, including the DFG – the primary manager of Massachusetts’s fish and wildlife resources. Enacted in 1937, the Pittman-Robertson Act redirected previously existing manufacturer-level excise taxes on firearms and ammunition to a dedicated fund to be used specifically for wildlife conservation purposes. Once collected, the taxes are deposited into the Wildlife Restoration Account, which is administered by the United States Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS). Under the Pittman-Robertson Act and per the Firearms and Ammunition Excise Tax, firearms and ammunition are subjected to a 10-11% excise tax. By subjecting purchasers of firearms and ammunition to an additional tax beyond the sales tax and manufacturer-level excise taxes that are already paid, HB 2771 will likely curtail much-needed conservation dollars on which state fish and wildlife agencies rely.

CSF looks forward to working with the Massachusetts Sportsmen’s Caucus in opposing MA HB 2771 and protecting the sportsmen self-imposed funding mechanism that has long supported our state partners and conservation efforts that all citizens are the beneficiaries of.

States Involved: MA

 

 

THE WAR ON RACCOONS: RECENT EFFORTS AND OPPORTUNITIES TO ADDRESS MESOPREDATOR POPULATIONS

ARTICLE CONTACT: JAKE GOULDKENT KEENE

Why it Matters: The Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation (CSF) maintains that opportunities for sportsmen and women to harvest wildlife, subject to regulations and limitations established by state fish and wildlife management agencies, is one of the most effective tools for managing populations. Recently, due to challenges created by increased populations of mesopredators like raccoons, state agencies, farmer groups, and other stakeholders have been exploring opportunities to promote additional harvest of these species. Given the complexity of interactions between species, particularly between predators and prey, decisions regarding harvest opportunities for wildlife should be left to those best qualified to make these decisions.

  • Recently, mesopredators like raccoons have gained significant attention due to their predatory effects on both wild game species and farmed poultry.
  • In response, state agencies like the Iowa Department of Natural Resources and the Missouri Department of Conservation have instituted regulatory changes designed to promote increased harvest of raccoons.
  • Taking things even further, some state legislatures have introduced or, in the case of Iowa, passed legislation designed to promote additional harvest. However, these efforts can carry unintended consequences that sportsmen and women must consider.

Mesopredators like raccoons represent an interesting niche among American wildlife. Once lauded for the value of their furs, activities like trapping and raccoon hunting have experienced declining participation rates in recent decades. As a result, many mesopredator populations have increased throughout much of the Midwest, leading to increased predation rates on many game bird and waterfowl populations, as well as increased incidence of depredation on domestic fowl.

As a result, state agencies and conservation organizations have taken significant steps in recent years to promote opportunities for sportsmen and women to harvest mesopredators such as raccoons. In support of these efforts, CSF has recently advocated for increased harvest opportunities provided through regulatory changes in both Iowa and Missouri that are supported by state fish and wildlife agency experts. In Iowa, this included year-round trapping opportunities on private lands, while Missouri created an extended private lands trapping season for racoons, opossum, striped skunk, and coyotes from March 1 – April 14, and an early private lands racoon and opossum trapping season that begins in August, all with limited methods.

In addition to these agency-led efforts, state legislatures have entered the fray as it relates to promoting raccoon harvest. For example, legislators in Iowa passed House File 317 which allows a landowner or their agents to harvest, trap, or ensnare a fur-bearing animal, including racoons, on their property when it is for the purpose of protection of a person or private property. They also went a step further by allowing owners or tenants of agricultural property to capture, harvest, or temporarily possess fur-bearing animals without prior permission so long as the owner, in good faith, deems the animal to be a nuisance. Continuing with legislation aimed at promoting racoon harvest, legislators in the Cornhusker State introduced Legislative Bill 400, or the Nebraska Pheasant Restoration Act. In response to declining pheasant populations, LB 400 sought to create a bounty program for pheasant nest predators. LB 400, which CSF and partners opposed, did not pass.

With a renewed interest in mesopredator harvest comes an opportunity to introduce new hunters and trappers to our outdoor traditions. However, it is important that these opportunities be vetted by state fish and wildlife agencies to ensure that harvest is conducted in a manner supported by the best available science to ensure the sustainability of these pursuits. As such, CSF maintains that state fish and wildlife agencies are best equipped to utilize their local knowledge and professional training to make wildlife management decisions and encourages legislators to work with their state agency to address perceived issues with mesopredator populations. Likewise, we also encourage stakeholders to engage with sportsmen and women who, in addition to their contributions to the “user pays – public benefits” American System of Conservation Funding, can play a critical role in managing wildlife populations.

 

 

CSF CONTINUES WORK WITH CSC MEMBERS TO ADDRESS HUNTER EDUCATION ISSUE

ARTICLE CONTACT: TAYLOR SCHMITZ

Why it matters: In June 2022, Congress passed the Bipartisan Safer Communities Act (BSCA), which included language that prohibited training school personnel in the use of a “dangerous weapon”. Unfortunately, the BSCA is having the unintended consequence of limiting certain U.S. Department of Education funds from being used for important educational programs such as archery in schools, wilderness courses, school sponsored shooting teams, hunter education, and any other activities that utilize a “dangerous weapon”.

Highlights

  • The Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation (CSF) is continuing to work with Members of the Congressional Sportsmen’s Caucus (CSC) to address this issue in a bipartisan fashion.
  • Recently, CSC Member Sen. Jon Tester (MT) introduced a bipartisan bill known as Defending Hunters Education Act ( 2735), and CSC Member John Barrasso (WY) introduced a bill known as the Allowing for Recreational Resources for Outdoor Wellness (ARROW) Act (S. 2736).
  • Last week, CSC Member Rep. Mark Green’s bipartisan Protecting Hunting Heritage and Education Act (R. 5110) passed the House Education and Workforce Committee unanimously, a sign of the strong support to address this issue. Prior to the vote, CSF contacted many offices who serve on the Committee encouraging them to support America’s youth and vote “yes” on Congressman Green’s bill.

With Congress back from the August recess, CSF is continuing to work with members of the Congressional Sportsmen’s Caucus to quickly address the issues caused by the BSCA for students across the country who participate in many important outdoor enrichment programs.

In June 2022, the BSCA was signed into law, which included language that amended the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) to prohibit ESEA funds from being used for training school personnel in the use of a “dangerous weapon”, which is defined in federal statute as “a weapon, device, instrument, material, or substance, animate or inanimate, that is used for, or is readily capable of, causing death or serious bodily injury, except that such term does not include a pocket knife with a blade of less than 2½ inches in length”. This sweeping definition is impacting many programs that are foundational to our sporting heritage such as wilderness courses, archery in schools, hunter education, school sponsored shooting teams, etc. Unfortunately, because of the plain definition of “dangerous weapon”, the BSCA language is limiting the funding opportunities for the school programs that are critically important activities for America’s youth.

CSF is encouraged to see several bipartisan efforts in Congress that seek to address this issue. Specifically, CSF is very pleased to see Congressman Green’s bill pass its respective Committee of jurisdiction under a unanimous vote. CSF is currently working to secure cosponsors to the Senate efforts to quickly resolve this issue.

Given the strong momentum and leadership of Rep. Mark Green and Sens. Tester and Barrasso, CSF is hopeful that a legislative fix to amend the BSCA and restore Elementary and Secondary Education Act funds will be signed into law at some point in the near future.

 

 

CSC VICE-CHAIR REP. GRAVES’ DUCK STAMP MODERNIZATION ACT PASSES HOUSE ON STRONG VOTE

September 20, 2023 (Washington, D.C.) – Earlier today, the U.S. House of Representatives passed the Duck Stamp Modernization Act (H.R. 2872) on a voice vote, a sign of the unanimous support for the bill thanks to Congressional Sportsmen’s Caucus (CSC) leadership Vice-Chair Rep. Garret Graves (LA) and CSC Member Rep. Mike Thompson (CA). Prior to the House floor vote, the Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation (CSF) worked with the bill sponsors and key offices in the House to see that this bill was added to the House floor calendar.

The Duck Stamp Modernization Act will bring the Federal Duck Stamp process into the 21st century by providing that the electronic Federal Duck Stamp is valid for the entirety of the hunting season. Under current law, when a hunter purchases an electronic Federal Duck Stamp (e-stamp), the e-stamp is only valid for a period of 45 days to allow for the actual stamp to be mailed to the purchaser. Once the actual stamp is received by the e-stamp purchaser, the actual stamp must be signed by the respective hunter across the face of the stamp and be in the hunter’s possession while afield.

Specifically, this legislation will allow hunters who purchase a Federal Duck Stamp electronically to have the duck stamp on their smartphone while hunting without requiring the signed physical stamp to be on their person. To maintain the integrity of the Federal Duck Stamp, the bill requires that physical stamps will be mailed to those who purchased the e-stamp after the latest waterfowl season in the country has closed. Hunters will still be able to purchase the physical stamp from the U.S. Postal Service or from other locations that sell the physical stamp.

“A priority for CSF, we would like to extend our appreciation to Representative Graves and Representative Thompson for getting this important legislation passed in the House,” said Jeff Crane, President & CEO of the Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation.  “As technology continues to evolve, we must find ways to improve easier accessibility and opportunity for our sportsmen’s community as a whole and this legislation is a step in that direction.”

Signed into law in 1934, the Federal Duck Stamp has generated over $1.1 billion for wetlands conservation and helped conserve over 6 million acres of wetlands within the National Wildlife Refuge System. In 1934, there were roughly 635,000 stamps sold. Today, that number has grown to over 1.5 million stamp purchases, which generates more than $37.5 million for wetlands conservation. Importantly, approximately 98% of the Federal Duck Stamp purchase price is spent directly on the management and acquisition of wetlands to bolster habitat for wetland dependent species such as ducks, geese, shorebirds, fish, turtles, and countless others.

In July, the Senate unanimously passed the Senate companion bill led by CSC Leaders Co-Chairs Sens. John Boozman and Joe Manchin and Vice-Chairs Sens. Angus King and Roger Marshall. Although technically two different bills, given the strong vote in both chambers, CSF will continue to work this bill through the legislative process to see it signed into law.

 

 

CSF SUPPORTED HUNTER EDUCATION FIX SET TO RECEIVE VOTE IN HOUSE

September 25, 2023 (WASHINGTON, D.C.) – This week, it is expected that the U.S. House of Representatives will vote on the bipartisan Protecting Hunting Heritage and Education Act (H.R. 5110). Led by Congressional Sportsmen’s Caucus (CSC) Members Representatives Mark Green and Richard Hudson, H.R. 5110 will resolve the issues caused by the Bipartisan Safer Communities Act and its limitation on certain federal funds for archery in schools, hunter education, school sponsored shooting teams, wilderness classes, and other critical enrichment programs. Two weeks ago, the House Education and Workforce Committee passed H.R. 5110 on a unanimous vote, and the Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation (CSF) will be working in the coming days to ensure a strong vote on the House Floor.

In June 2022, the Bipartisan Safer Communities Act (BSCA) was signed into law, which included language that prohibited training school personnel in the use of a “dangerous weapon”. Unfortunately, because of the plain language of “dangerous weapon”, the BSCA prohibits Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) funds, a large federal funding program for schools, from being used for many important enrichment programs. When the BSCA was developed, the legislative intent for the “dangerous weapon” language was to prohibit ESEA funds from being used for training school resource officers and security personnel. However, the BSCA is having the unintended consequence of prohibiting ESEA funds for hunter education, school sponsored shooting teams, wilderness courses, and other important educational programs for students, even potentially culinary classes.

H.R. 5110 will amend the BSCA to make it clear that the intent of Congress was not to prohibit ESEA funds for the programs of interest to CSF. Specifically, the Protecting Hunting Heritage and Education Act will amend the BSCA by including language that the prohibition of ESEA funds shall not apply to “programs and that provide students with educational instruction or educational enrichment activities, such as archery, hunting, other shooting sports, or culinary arts”. The language in Rep. Green and Hudson’s bill is important because it explicitly states a number of programs and includes broader “educational enrichment activities” language that will capture the programs of interest to CSF.

“The Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation thanks Reps. Green and Hudson for their effort in leading the bipartisan Protecting Hunting Heritage and Education Act to ensure that important enrichment programs remain available to millions of students across the country that participate in sporting and outdoor education programs,” said CSF President and CEO Jeff Crane. “We are glad to see the House moving quickly on this important bill, and we look forward to a successful vote.”

Prior to the House vote, CSF will be working with Members of the Congressional Sportsmen’s Caucus to encourage support of H.R. 5110. CSF will keep the community updated as this legislation progresses.

 

 

CONSERVATION, ECONOMIC, AND CULTURAL CONTRIBUTIONS OF AMERICA’S 55 MILLION SPORTSMEN AND WOMEN RECOGNIZED BY PRESIDENT BIDEN AND 38 GOVERNORS

September 25, 2023 (Washington, D.C.) – On Saturday September 23, sportsmen and women across the United States were honored for their unique contributions to conservation, our nation’s economy, and our American way of life. Established by Congress in 1971 and first celebrated a year later, National Hunting and Fishing Day (NHFD) occurs the fourth Saturday of September and seeks to not only bring recognition, but also to encourage participation in hunting, fishing, recreational shooting, and trapping.

To raise awareness on how America’s sportsmen and women are the nation’s true conservationists, the Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation (CSF) worked with the Executive Office of the President and Governors across the country, including the 27 members of the nonpartisan Governors Sportsmen’s Caucus (GSC), to formally recognize National Hunting and Fishing Day. 38 states issued gubernatorial proclamations in addition to the President’s own proclamation, which noted that “Hunting and fishing are part of who we are as Americans — central to our history, heritage, and prosperity and ingrained in the soul of our Nation.”

For over 85 years, sportsmen and women have played a crucial role in funding conservation efforts in the United States through the American System of Conservation Funding (ASCF), a unique “user pays – public benefits” program of self-imposed fees and manufacturer-level excise taxes. The ASCF serves as the main funding mechanism for state fish and wildlife agencies, helping to fund their critical work of fish and wildlife management, habitat management and restoration, hunter education, hunter and angler access projects, and more. National Hunting & Fishing Day seeks to increase awareness of and participation in our favorite outdoor pursuits, while also celebrating the contributions made by America’s original conservationists – sportsmen and women.

“As the backbone of conservation, America’s 55 million sportsmen and women are more than deserving of the recognition that comes with National Hunting and Fishing Day,” said CSF President and CEO Jeff Crane. “Each proclamation is a testament to the sanctity of our time-honored traditions and the immense conservation, economic, and cultural value sportsmen and women provide for our society.”

National Hunting and Fishing Day remains the most prominent occasion for promoting America’s hunting and angling traditions, and the economic, conservation, and cultural benefits provided by sportsmen and women.

For more information on National Hunting and Fishing Day, please visit www.NHFDay.org, and for a list of  the proclamations that were issued this year please visit National Hunting and Fishing Day – Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation.

 

 

FIX TO HUNTER EDUCATION, ARCHERY IN SCHOOLS, A TOP CSF PRIORITY, HEADS TO PRESIDENT’S DESK

September 27, 2023 (Washington, D.C.) – Moments ago, the Senate unanimously passed the Protecting Hunting Heritage and Education Act (H.R. 5110), a bipartisan bill and a top priority for the Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation (CSF), which now heads to the President’s desk for signature. This bill will address the unintended consequences caused by the Bipartisan Safer Communities Act (BSCA) and its impact on federal funding for hunter education, archery in schools, wilderness courses, and many other important educational enrichment programs. The unanimous Senate passage of H.R. 5110 comes shortly after the House passed the bill Tuesday night on an impressive vote of 424 – 1.

The bipartisan H.R. 5110, led by Congressional Sportsmen’s Caucus (CSC) Members Reps. Mark Green and Richardson, will ensure that critical enrichment programs for millions of students are eligible to receive federal funding under the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) and will resolve the funding limitations under the BSCA.

For the last few months, CSF has been working with Leaders and Members of the CSC to see that a legislative fix to the BSCA moves quickly through Congress to restore ESEA funding for hunter education, wilderness courses, archery in schools, school sponsored shooting teams, and other critical enrichment programs for students across the nation. As a result of these efforts, Congress passed the Protecting Hunting Heritage and Education Act in swift fashion, a sign of the wide-spread support for these programs and CSF’s ability to advocate for meaningful legislation for sportsmen and women.

In June 2022, the BSCA was signed into law, which included language that amended the ESEA to these federal funds from being used for training school personnel in the use of a “dangerous weapon”, which is defined in federal statute as “a weapon, device, instrument, material, or substance, animate or inanimate, that is used for, or is readily capable of, causing death or serious bodily injury, except that such term does not include a pocket knife with a blade of less than 2½ inches in length”. This sweeping definition is impacting many programs that are foundational to our sporting heritage such as wilderness courses, archery in schools, hunter education, school sponsored shooting teams, etc. Unfortunately, because of the plain definition of “dangerous weapon”, the BSCA language is limiting the funding opportunities for the school programs that are critically important activities for America’s students.

“CSF extends our appreciation to CSC Members Reps. Green and Hudson for their commitment to sportsmen and women and the millions of students across the country that participate and cherish these important programs,” said CSF President and CEO Jeff Crane. “It is encouraging to see Congress move quickly to restore ESEA funding for these programs, a clear sign that hunting, fishing, and other sporting traditions remain a non-partisan issue.”

CSF thanks Reps. Green and Hudson for their leadership on H.R. 5110 and thanks all of the CSC Members who stepped in to resolve the BSCA issues through a legislative fix. We look forward to seeing this legislation signed into law by President Biden.

 

 

PRESIDENT BIDEN SIGNS INTO LAW CSF TOP PRIORITY, THE PROTECTING HUNTING HERITAGE AND EDUCATION ACT

October 6, 2023 (Washington, D.C.) – Moments ago, President Biden signed the bipartisan Protecting Hunting Heritage and Education Act (H.R. 5110) into law. Led by Congressional Sportsmen’s Caucus (CSC) Members Reps. Mark Green and Richard Hudson, this bill will ensure that certain federal funds remain available for hunter education, archery in schools, wilderness programs, and many other critical student enrichment programs.

The signing into law of H.R. 5110 marks a significant victory for the Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation (CSF), sportsmen and women, and millions of students across the country who participate in valuable outdoor recreation classes. Notably, this bill passed Congress with only one dissenting vote, and was signed into law in roughly two months after introduction, an impressive timeline given the challenging dynamics at play in Congress. This success is the result of the bipartisan Congressional Sportsmen’s Caucus and CSF’s ability to navigate difficult political dynamics to ensure victories for sportsmen and women across the country. This victory also demonstrates that our time-honored traditions of hunting, fishing, trapping, and recreational shooting are non-partisan pastimes that unite Americans from all walks of life. H.R. 5110 was complemented by two Senate companion bills, led by Sens. Tester (S. 2735) and Cornyn (S. 2828), that also sought to address this issue in a bipartisan manner.

“CSF offers our sincere appreciation to CSC Members Reps. Green and Hudson as well as Sens. Tester and Cornyn for spearheading this bipartisan effort to ensure that important enrichment and life skill programs in schools across the country remain eligible for federal funding,” said CSF President and CEO Jeff Crane. “As schools across the country are well under way, CSF would also like to thank President Biden for quickly signing H.R. 5110 into law.”

H.R. 5110 will ensure Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) funds, a significant federal funding program for schools across the country, are available to fund crucial development programs such as archery in schools, hunter education, school sponsored shooting teams, wilderness courses, among many other activities. Specifically, this legislation makes it clear that the Bipartisan Safer Communities Act does not undermine these longstanding valuable programs that build camaraderie, teach responsibility, and provide recreational opportunities for millions of students across the nation.

CSF would like to recognize all the Members of the Congressional Sportsmen’s Caucus who stepped up in a rapid fashion to fix this legislation in a bipartisan manner, including Reps. Green and Hudson, CSC Senate Leaders Sens. Manchin, Boozman, King, and Marshall, and CSC Members Sens. Tester, Cornyn, and Tillis.

 

 

FWS ANNOUNCES STRONG PROGRESS ON HUNTING PERMITS, CSF EXPECTS MORE SIGNIFICANT PROGRESS IN 2024

ARTICLE CONTACT: TAYLOR SCHMITZ

Why it Matters: Scientifically driven and regulated hunting is the linchpin of conservation both domestically in the United States and across the world. A permitting process is part of ensuring sustainable and healthy populations across the globe. Given the importance of hunting-conservation programs, permit determinations are often made on an application-by-application basis, which can require lengthy review processes. Recently, a backlog of permit applications has frustrated would-be international hunters. However, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is making impressive progress to move the permitting process in the right direction.

Highlights:

  • On October 6, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) announced the agency has made significant progress in the processing on hunting permits, a meaningful step in the right direction for sportsmen and women.
  • Recently, the Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation (CSF) and a number of CSF’s partners that are leaders across the globe in sporting-conservation issues have been meeting with FWS to encourage the processing of permits and to find opportunities to collectively work together to reduce the permit backlog.
  • Additionally, FWS stated that sporting-conservationists should expect to see “significant progress on permit application backlog in 2024”, a very encouraging sign for conservation and sportsmen and women.

On October 6, FWS announced important steps forward in the issue of conservation permits across the world. Specifically, FWS announced positive momentum for six different species across eight different countries, all of which will have a meaningful impact for sportsmen and women, host countries, and most importantly, conservation programs around the world.

The Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation looks forward to working with FWS to continue to move the permitting process in the right direction and bring more surety to the approval hunter for prospective international hunters.

 

 

LET THE KIDS PLAY. . . AND HUNT AND FISH

ARTICLE CONTACT: KENT KEENE

Why It Matters: After the Arkansas Legislature passed a bill to create a discounted resident Youth Lifetime Combination License during the 2023 Legislative Session, a limited number are officially for sale across the Natural State. This discounted license will provide parents and legal guardians the opportunity to invest in their child’s lifetime future as a sportsman or sportswoman. As the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission weighs a proposal to increase the availability of this license, the Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation (CSF) celebrates its availability and potential to increase hunter and angler recruitment among the next generation.

  • After the concept was passed by the Arkansas Legislature earlier this year, a limited number of resident-only Youth Lifetime Combination Licenses are now available for Arkansas residents under the age of 11.
  • Youth Lifetime Licenses represent a unique opportunity to invest in a lifetime of outdoor pursuits for the next generation of sportsmen and sportswomen.
  • In addition to the new availability of this license, the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission is accepting comments on proposed regulatory amendments that would increase the number of these licenses that are available each year from 500 to 1,000.

After the concept was passed by the Legislature in the spring and signed into law by Governor Sanders, the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission (AGFC) is now officially selling the new, resident-only, discounted Youth Lifetime Combination License available for children under the age of 11. As previously reported, the creation of this license, which was supported by the Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation and championed by Arkansas Legislative Sportsmen’s Caucus Co-Chair and NASC Executive Council Secretary Representative Jeff Wardlaw, represents a cost-effective opportunity for parents and guardians to invest in the next generation of sportsmen and sportswomen.

Parents and guardians interested in purchasing one of these licenses will need to visit AGFC’s headquarters in Little Rock or their nearest AGFC Regional Office to submit an application. According to recent conversations with AGFC representatives, resident adults seeking to purchase this license for their child will need their driver license and the recipient youth’s birth certificate and social security number to create a customer identification number and apply for the license. At this time, only 500 of these discounted combination licenses may be sold each year.

During a special virtual meeting of the AGFC last week, Commissioners heard a proposal to increase the number of these licenses that are available for purchase each year from 500 to 1,000. Sportsmen and women interested in weighing in on this proposal may do so by submitting comments to AGFC through October 30, 2023.

States Involved: AR

 

 

CSF CELEBRATES TEMPORARY VICTORY IN PROTECTING $190 MILLION IN CONSERVATION FUNDING IN PENNSYLVANIA – BUT THE FIGHT IS NOT OVER.

ARTICLE CONTACT: KALEIGH LEAGER

Why It Matters: The previously amended version of House Bill 1300 sought to transfer $150,000,000 from the Pennsylvania Game Commission (PGC), which would have also jeopardized around $40,000,000 in federal conservation dollars for the state; a potential total combined revenue loss of more than $190,000,000 for conservation funding. The PGC has been tasked with managing the Commonwealth’s wildlife resources for Pennsylvanians for more than 100 years. The Game Commission does not receive any General Fund appropriations and is almost primarily funded by hunting and furtaker license sales. The fund is supplemented by State Game Lands resource extractions and federal excise taxes on sporting arms and ammunition. More than half of the Game Fund’s annual revenue comes from license sales. License fee increases cannot be implemented without approval of the General Assembly; increases historically occur every 10 years.

Highlights:

  • House Bill 1300 (a State Appropriations Bill), was amended by the Senate to include the transfer of $150,000,000 derived from gas and oil leases on State Game Lands (purchased with revenue derived from license sales and Wildlife Restoration Funds) from the Game Commission Fund to the Clean Streams Fund. The amended version of the bill was introduced and passed by the Senate on August 30, 2023 (29-18).
  • Pennsylvania’s Game Commission (PGC) received $41,067,392 in Federal funding in FY2023 from the Pittman-Robertson Wildlife Restoration Grant Fund Program. The passage and enactment of the previously written House Bill 1300 would likely declare Pennsylvania ineligible to receive future PR-Wildlife Restoration Program funding.
  • House Bill 1300 was amended in the House Rules Committee on October 4, 2023, to remove the transfer of $150M from the Game Fund. The newly amended version is headed to the Senate Rules & Executive Nominations Committee for concurrence; a hearing has not yet been scheduled.
  • CSF was in contact with the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, Governor’s Shapiro’s office, PA Legislative Sportsmen’s Caucus, in addition to signing onto a joint letter of opposition with other conservation organizations and submitted a letter to the Senate Rules & Executive Nominations Committee urging concurrence of removing the transfer of Game Funds.

The American System of Conservation Funding (ASCF) represents a unique “user pay – public benefit” funding cycle that has proven most effective at supporting professional fish and wildlife management in the U.S.  This “Cycle of Success” starts with the funding provided by hunters, recreational shooters, anglers, and boaters.  The funds collected through the excise taxes paid on their equipment purchases and through their purchase of hunting and fishing licenses are the primary source of support for state fish and wildlife agencies.  The state agencies then use these funds to manage fish and wildlife populations and provide public access to these resources.  Improved hunting, recreational shooting, angling, and boating opportunities results in expanded equipment purchases, which provides a growing source of funds for future fish and wildlife management.

The U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service submitted a letter to the PGC informing them of the fiscal consequences that are tied to the passage of the previously amended HB 1300. Another blow to the state’s funding resources for wildlife management and the hunting, fishing, and trapping community will come from the ineligibility to receive funding from the Pittman-Robertson Wildlife Restoration Act’s Fund Program. The PGC has worked to manage and protect wildlife and their habitats while promoting hunting and trapping for the current and future generations since 1895.

The Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation (CSF) was heavily engaged in this fight from the time the Senate amended the bill to jeopardize conservation funding, thought today. Along with engaging a wide-array of conservation partners in a community-wide effort, CSF also worked with both state and federal agency staff, worked with the Pennsylvania Legislative Sportsmen’s Caucus Co-Chairs encouraging a legislative fix, and contacted the Governor’s Office to express the warranted concerns over transferring vital conservation dollars out of the Game Fund.  The PA Sportsmen & Women Policy Workgroup, whose membership includes CSF and other Non-Government Organizations focused on conservation, also submitted a letter  to the Pennsylvania State Legislature and Governor Shapiro’s Office opposing the transfer of conservation dollars out of the Game Fund.

Although the protection of $190 million in critical conservation funding is a notable victory, the fight is not yet over. The work now becomes trying to keep the bill clean without the troubling language being amended back in as the bill now returns to the Senate for concurrence. CSF has already submitted a letter to the Senate Rules & Executive Nominations Committee requesting concurrence with the House’s newly amended bill, and will continue to engage on this critical issue throughout the remainder of the legislative process.

Further updates on this topic may be made available when possible.

States Involved: PA

 

 

GOVERNOR NEWSOM SIGNS CALIFORNIA FIREARM AND AMMUNITION TAX BILL INTO LAW

ARTICLE CONTACT: KEELY HOPKINS

Why It Matters: California’s law-abiding hunters and recreational shooters have long played a vital role in funding conservation through various wildlife management efforts throughout the state. Under the American System of Conservation Funding (ASCF), a unique “user pays — public benefits” program, California’s sportsmen and women generate tens of millions of dollars each year for the California Department of Fish & Wildlife. These funds are generated through license sales and an 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:

  • On September 26, Assembly Bill 28 (AB 28), which will impose an 11% tax on all firearm and ammunition sales in the state, was signed into law by California Governor Newsom and will take effect on July 1, 2024.
  • AB 28 is inherently different from the excise taxes levied on firearms and ammunition through the Pittman-Robertson Act, which are placed on manufacturers, rather than taxing an individual’s right to purchase a firearm or ammunition.
  • The Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation (CSF) actively opposed this misguided policy since it was first introduced in 2021 and was on the ground in Sacramento throughout the 2023 legislative session to advocate against AB 28.

After three years of strong oppositional efforts from the hunting conservation community, Assembly Bill 28 has been signed into law by Governor Newsom. Once implemented, AB 28 will impose an 11% tax on all firearm and ammunition sales in the state. The bill was allegedly designed to “mirror” the excise tax paid under the Pittman-Robertson Act, but AB 28 is inherently different because this tax is not placed on manufacturers, but instead taxes an individual’s right to purchase a firearm or ammunition.

The Firearm and Ammunition Tax Bill, originally AB 1223, was first introduced during the 2021 legislative session. The bill was defeated on the floor, however proponents used procedural maneuvers to add an “urgency clause” to the legislation, which exempted the bill from regular deadlines and rules and allowed the bill to be carried over to the 2022 session. Having not received a floor vote by the January 31, 2022 deadline, the proposal should have been defeated for the biennial session, yet proponents once again maneuvered their proposal forward by commandeering AB 1227 through a “gut and amend” tactic. The bill ultimately failed to pass in 2022, but unfortunately garnered the requisite support to pass the legislature this year.

Each year, California’s sportsmen and women contribute tens of millions of dollars to the California Department of Fish and Wildlife, providing vital revenue to help carry out their mission of managing the state’s diverse fish and wildlife and the habitats upon which they depend. These funds are generated through fishing and hunting license sales, and through the purchase of sporting-related goods. Under the Pittman-Robertson Act, firearms and ammunition purchased by California’s hunters and recreational shooters are already taxed at the manufacturer-level through a 10-11% excise tax, which in turn funds a large portion of the state’s wildlife management, research, and other conservation efforts. AB 28 will now place an additional tax on top of these existing taxes, thereby driving up the costs of these goods, reducing their sales, and in turn, reducing the conservation funding from which all California residents benefit.

The Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation has actively opposed the Firearm and Ammunition Tax since it was first introduced in 2021 and was on the ground in Sacramento to advocate against this misguided policy during the 2023 legislative session. CSF’s Western States & Firearm Policy Manager Keely Hopkins and California’s Hunting and Conservation Coalition President Bill Gaines recently joined CSF’s Fred Bird on The Sportsmen’s Voice Podcast for an in depth look at the harmful effects of this bill. Be sure to tune in on all main streaming services to listen to Episode 4 of The Sportsmen’s Voice Podcast for more information about AB 28.

States Involved: CA

 

 

NEW HAMPSHIRE BILL WOULD POTENTIALLY JEOPARDIZE PITTMAN-ROBERTSON ELIGIBILITY

ARTICLE CONTACT: FRED BIRD

Why It Matters: On September 29, 2023, the Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation (CSF) submitted testimony in opposition to New Hampshire House Bill 512 (HB 512) – An Act Exempting Firearms Manufactured in New Hampshire from Federal Laws and Regulations. HB 512, if passed, is very likely to result in an unintended and consequential diminishment to the state’s conservation funding. While the removal of taxes sounds good to many, the exemption of these items from the Firearms and Ammunition Excise Tax collected through Pittman-Robertson would likely put a significant portion of New Hampshire’s Fish & Game Department’s funding in jeopardy.

Highlights:

  • With the passage of Pittman-Robertson, today’s American System of Conservation Funding was created. In addition to redirecting excise taxes to conservation purposes, the bill also permanently linked state license fee revenue to conservation and set in place specific criteria that states must adhere to in order to maintain their eligibility to receive funds.
  • In 2022 alone, the New Hampshire Fish and Game Department received $24.5 million dollars for conservation through this System.
  • By removing firearms in New Hampshire from federal taxation through the Wildlife Restoration program, it is very likely that the USFWS will determine that the New Hampshire Fish and Game Department is no longer eligible to receive Wildlife Restoration funds.
  • On October 4, 2023, the House Committee on Criminal Justice and Public Safety held a hearing on HB 512 and unanimously voted, Inexpedient to Legislate (ITL), shelving the Bill for now.
  • With HB 512 voted ITL, at least $7.16 million has been saved for New Hampshire’s agency, conservation, the state’s sportsmen and women, and the public at large.

For more than 85 years, sportsmen and women have been the primary funders of state-level conservation efforts in New Hampshire and are thus an important constituency that provide benefits for all New Hampshire residents. Enacted in 1937, the Pittman-Robertson Act redirected previously existing manufacturer-level excise taxes on firearms and ammunition to a dedicated fund to be used specifically for wildlife conservation purposes. Once collected, the taxes are deposited into the Wildlife Restoration Account, which is administered by the United States Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS), who then apportion funds to all state fish and wildlife agencies for conservation purposes. Under the Pittman-Robertson Act and per the Firearms and Ammunition Excise Tax, firearms and ammunition are subjected to a 10-11% excise tax.

Of primary concern with HB 512 is the language in section 159-F:2 Prohibitions (I.) that states, “Notwithstanding any other law to the contrary, a personal firearm, a firearm accessory, or ammunition that is manufactured commercially or privately in New Hampshire and that remains within the state of New Hampshire shall not be subject to federal law or taxation, or federal regulation, including registration, under the authority of Congress to regulate interstate commerce.” By removing firearms in New Hampshire from federal taxation through the Wildlife Restoration program, it is very likely that the USFWS will determine that the New Hampshire Fish and Game Department is no longer eligible to receive Wildlife Restoration funds.

After the October 4th unanimous vote to ITL, HB 512 has yet another hearing scheduled for November 9, 2023, with the House Criminal Justice and Public Safety Committee at 11:00 a.m. and can be watched here.

CSF looks forward to working with our New Hampshire Legislative Sportsmen’s Caucus in opposing HB 512 and other proposals that would negatively impact critical conservation funding in the Granite State.

States Involved: NH

 

 

FINAL ’23 – ’24 HUNT FISH RULE STILL PENDING, CSF’S CONCERNS REMAIN

ARTICLE CONTACT: TAYLOR SCHMITZ

Why It Matters:  Historically, the Hunt Fish Rule has been an effort to promote access for sportsmen and women. While the most recent proposed Hunt Fish Rule does seek to expand access, the Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation (CSF) remains concerned about efforts to restrict the use of lead ammunition and fishing tackle in certain National Wildlife Refuge Units across the country. Furthermore, removing Sunday hunting restrictions is critical to providing access parity among public land user groups, and also in the furtherance of hunter recruitment, retention, and reactivation efforts.

Highlights:

  • For years, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) has conducted an effort known as the Hunt Fish Rule to improve access for sportsmen and women across the country within the National Wildlife Refuge System.
  • CSF has encouraged FWS to maintain access for sportsmen and women not only through physical access, but also method of take, such as lead ammunition and tackle.
  • In a surprising move, the Service proposed to forbid hunter access on two National Wildlife Refuges on Sundays despite Sunday hunting restrictions being Blue Laws with no basis in wildlife management. While many states and the U.S. Forest Service have expanded Sunday hunting opportunities in recent years, CSF was disappointed to see the Service’s proposal, which is biased against hunters, that would forbid hunter access to two NWRs on Sundays.

With the proposed 2023 – 2024 Hunt Fish Rule set to be finalized soon, the Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation remains concerned about certain aspects of the proposal.

Specifically, CSF is disappointed to see the Hunt Fish Rule proposes to prohibit the use of lead ammunition and fishing tackle within select NWR’s across the country. Restrictions concerning lead ammunition and fishing tackle need to be supported by science-based data that demonstrates a negative fish and wildlife population impact within a specific unit of land or water. If substantiated scientific data determines a causational relationship between the use of traditional ammunition or fishing tackle and local fish and wildlife population health, states already have the inherent ability and resources necessary to quickly implement regulations on methods of take.

Additionally, CSF urged the Service to withdraw their proposals to prohibit Sunday hunting on two National Wildlife Refuges (NWR) in Virginia. In 2022, the Commonwealth of Virginia repealed the state law prohibiting Sunday hunting on public lands, and the Service opened Sunday hunting on Wallops Island National Wildlife Refuge. This year, however, the Service proposed to prohibit Sunday hunting on the Chincoteague NWR and the Eastern Shore of Virginia NWR. No additional Sunday hunting expansions were proposed. CSF pointed out that the proposed Sunday hunting prohibitions are contrary to President Biden’s directive in Section 214 of Executive Order 14008 to “improve access to recreation” and the goal, agreed to by the DOI as a signatory to the Interagency MOU on Promoting Equitable Access to Nature in Nature-Deprived Communities, to “expand equitable access to… green and blue spaces.”

CSF further encouraged the Service to consider opening Sunday hunting on refuges in all states, including Virginia, where Sunday hunting is not prohibited by state law. While many states have rolled back Sunday hunting prohibitions in recent years, the Service has largely not followed suit. Based on current law in states mostly along the Eastern Seaboard, the Service currently has the ability to allow Sunday hunting on 43 additional refuges (13 in Virginia alone) in nine states which would provide seven-day hunting access on 990,434 acres.

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