In the 1970s, amendments created a 10% tax on handguns and their ammunition and accessories as well as an 11% tax on archery equipment. It was also mandated that half of the money from each of those new taxes must be used to educate and train hunters through the creation and maintenance of hunter safety classes and shooting/target ranges.
This piece of legislation has provided states with funding for research and projects that would have been unaffordable otherwise. According to a U.S. Fish and Wildlife Services web page that was updated in January 2010, over two billion dollars of federal aid has been generated through this program, which in turn means that states have kept up their 25% contributions with over 500 million dollars. The habitat acquisition and improvement made possible by this money has allowed some species with large ranges such as American black bears, elk, cougars, and others, to expand those ranges beyond where they were found prior to the implementation of the act. Important game populations such as white-tailed deer and several Galliformes have also had a chance to recover and expand their populations. While these populations have increased, they remain tied to hunting of most species due to the funding stream. By developing a conservation funding stream, free of hunters control, we can direct funding for species that allows predators the chance at truly creating balance on our Western public lands, and stops the insanity of destroying wolf packs and others that prey on cattle that graze without range riders or any real oversight, often in the heart of wolf or predator country.
Today in America, we are facing ever-increasing shortfalls and cuts in spending. The ability to buy more public or state lands is decreasing. Enforcement on public lands is often represented by one Law Enforcement personal per 2 million acres of land, a joke. When going back to educate representatives, the first question always asked is “where do sportsmen stand?” So the answer while not fun, may be as follows.
First add a 2% fee to the cost of outdoor equipment-tents, sleeping bags, stoves, saddles, Gore-Tex jackets, boots, and even GPS units.
That would translate into a powerful amount of money, money that would be specifically earmarked with stipulations that it could not be used in any other way except, for habitat purchases, improvement, wildlife reintroduction and enforcement, that would distributed across all 50 states. The $20.00 fee would be used by the states for the same purposes.
This would create both major changes on the land and in the Halls of congress with the new clout such funding would generate, helping to move crucial wilderness bills and establishing new Wildlife Refuges and allowing the National Park Service to perhaps create its first Grassland National Park.
No one enjoys paying more, but as sportsmen have proved thru Pittman-Robertson and with the use of Duck Stamps, paying your way, leads to more protection and the ability to help influence future protections. It’s time we pay or have more control over the fate of our public lands.