Author: Cassie Gasaway
State wildlife agencies are expanding their efforts to promote hunting since President Trump signed America’s Conservation Enhancement Act in December.
The act included a bill called “Modernizing the Pittman-Robertson Fund for Tomorrow’s Needs (H.R. 877).” Meanwhile, the ATA has been encouraging its members to boost their businesses by helping state wildlife agencies expedite recruitment, retention and reactivation programs. The act’s passage will enhance those efforts.
The Pittman-Robertson Act is a way to increase conservation funding. Photo Credit: John Hafner
The Pittman-Robertson Federal Aid in Wildlife Restoration Act was established in 1937 to pay for high-priority conservation initiatives such as habitat restoration, restocking programs, and public-land access and acquisitions. Hunters and target shooters were tasked with funding those projects through federal-excise taxes on firearms and ammunition sales. The act expanded in 1972 to include FET on most archery equipment.
The IRS collects the FET revenue from manufacturers, and sends the money to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to distribute to state wildlife agencies based on each state’s geographic size and hunter numbers.
The FET funds benefit wildlife, wild places, hunters and manufacturers. In fact, when Southwick Associates and Andrew Loftus Consulting analyzed the program for the Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies they found the FET on hunting and shooting gear delivered a 1,100% annual return on investment to manufacturers from 1970 to 2006.
But because P-R revenues were earmarked for conservation initiatives, states couldn’t use the money to promote or advertise hunting. Further, the original P-R Act let states build archery and shooting ranges only if the project involved a hunter-education program. In contrast, when Congress enacted the Dingell-Johnson Act in 1950 to manage and restore the nation’s fisheries, it let state agencies use D-J revenues to promote recreational fishing.
Those restrictions on P-R spending increasingly hampered state wildlife agencies the past three decades as the U.S. population shifted from rural regions to suburbs and metropolitan areas. That exodus from rural America reduced hunter numbers, which meant fewer hunting licenses and lower sales of FET-generating hunting and shooting equipment.
Meanwhile, the states couldn’t use FET revenues to promote hunting and boost hunter numbers through advertising and marketing. The P-R Modernization Act eliminated those restrictions. State agencies hope this new flexibility will increase the hunting population, improve business for hunting manufacturers and retailers—including ATA members—and thereby generate more conservation funding.
The New Law
State agencies can also now use P-R funds for recruitment, retention and reactivation—i.e., R3—programs. In addition, Congress rescinded range-building restrictions by passing the Target Marksmanship Act in 2019. The new law lets states build ranges even if their primary purpose is recreational target shooting with firearms or archery gear.
Congress hopes these changes spur states to craft more strategic plans for creating and supporting hunters and recreational shooters. In fact, the P-R Modernization Act earmarks $5 million from FET proceeds for the multistate grant program, which had been $3 million, to boost national and regional programs for recruiting hunters and recreational shooters. The Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies administer those funds to help states work with each other and partner organizations on national R3 plans.
To read the P-R Modernization Act text, click here and scroll to Title V, Section 501, on Page 1,682.
Additional funding will allow for more outdoor archery ranges to open and increase the opportunity for educational events. Photo Credit: Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources
Dan Forster, ATA’s vice president and chief conservation officer, said the changes greatly benefit the hunting and shooting communities, even though the FET funds go only to state wildlife agencies. The act provides no direct monetary benefit to ATA members, but its investments will eventually generate business for the entire industry.
“States are no longer handcuffed in how they try to increase participation in our sports,” Forster said. “You’ll likely see them strengthen existing R3 efforts in new and different ways by spending FET allotments more strategically.”
Forster foresees agencies building more recreational archery parks or ranges; and hosting more recruitment events, mentoring workshops, and field demonstrations. These changes will likely include urban and suburban areas to attract more people, and provide city dwellers more places to shoot archery.
He concedes that rural areas probably won’t see many changes. However, those who live in suburbs, metropolitan areas, or places with relatively few participants will likely see more activities and communications inviting them to hunt and shoot.
Forster urges ATA members to be patient, engaged and involved. “The decline in hunting participation happened over several decades,” he said. “It resulted from significant social changes. The solutions aren’t simple, but I’m confident these changes will help wildlife agencies and our industry increase participation.”
Your Role and Duties
Forster also encourages ATA members to get connected, share ideas, and spread the word.
“You don’t always have to reach into your pocket to help,” he said. “States need and welcome your ideas and participation to develop, promote and implement R3 activities.”
Forster recommends working with state-agency staff and partners, and attending stakeholder meetings to share ideas. Learn how you can contribute to R3 planning and activities. State agencies are eager to work with industry partners and private organizations, and now is a great time to start.
Likewise, ATA-member retailers can offer range space, equipment and service, either free of charge or at a discount, for state-coordinated events. And if you can’t help in person, stay connected to stay informed. Subscribe to state and national R3 newsletters, and browse your state agency’s website regularly.
By staying apprised, you can be your community’s information pipeline. Share mentoring information, equipment demonstrations, and instructional opportunities with your customers and community on your website and social media.
“State agencies are open to any way you can help,” Forster said. “ATA members have lots of knowledge, and can offer support on many levels.”
Contact your state’s R3 coordinator to discuss how you can get involved. You can also connect with many helpful people and groups in the archery industry. The ATA’s State Contacts page lists information for many industry partners, organizations and representatives. Click here to get redirected.
Questions? Please contact Dan Forster at firstname.lastname@example.org, or (866) 266-2776, ext. 128.