Author: Cassie Scott
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s goals align closely with the ATA’s efforts to engage new archers and expand bowhunting and archery nationwide. This mutual interest forms the foundation of a growing partnership.
The USFWS is part of the U.S. Department of the Interior and, working with state wildlife agencies, is responsible for managing fish, wildlife and their habitats across the nation. This federal agency is one of the ATA’s longtime government members.
To gain perspective on this partnership, we spoke with Greg Sheehan, principal deputy director of the USFWS and former director of the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources.
Sheehan said the ATA supports USFWS efforts to promote hunting and shooting sports. “When I look at the work the ATA does to promote these recreational activities, it’s clear archery is a gateway to introducing folks to the outdoors,” Sheehan said. “Our shared vision for archery’s future makes this a great partnership.”
This partnership includes a five-point effort for promoting archery and bowhunting.
The IRS collects those FETs and sends the money to the USFWS for redistribution to state wildlife agencies. States must use that money for habitat restoration, hunter education, wildlife research, public-access programs and other high-priority conservation projects specified by the act. Photo Credit: John Hafner.
1. A Cycle of Success with Federal Excise Taxes
ATA-member companies that manufacture arrow shafts, bows with draw weights 30 pounds or more, or accessories that attach to a bow must pay federal excises taxes on the equipment’s first sale. Those taxes are reserved for funding the Wildlife Restoration Act, more commonly called the Pittman-Robertson Act.
The IRS collects those FETs and sends the money to the USFWS for redistribution to state wildlife agencies. States must use that money for habitat restoration, hunter education, wildlife research, public-access programs and other high-priority conservation projects specified by the act. This “user-pays, user-benefits” cycle secures customers for ATA members, and the future of archery and bowhunting, by funding scientific wildlife-management programs.
“The absolute and most critical item we address through the ATA partnership is Pittman-Robertson funding,” Sheehan said. “We rely on that money to help states deliver wildlife conservation and expand shooting ranges. It’s a wonderful circle that builds on itself when we all come together to support the outdoor industry.”
2. Forster Represents ATA, Industry
The 18-member council was established in January to advise U.S. Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke and Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue on policies for managing the nation’s wildlife and diverse habitats. Forster and the other advisers will examine ways agencies can partner with public and private sectors to benefit hunting, shooting sports and wildlife resources nationwide. Forster’s seat on the council allows the ATA to work with the USFWS and other industry leaders to make archery a national priority.
“The [Trump] administration is incredibly supportive of hunting and shooting sports,” Sheehan said. “That’s why we created a new council and asked Dan and many others to serve. Having representation from the archery industry is important. Dan’s passionate about the topic, and can help inform Secretary Zinke of what issues ATA can address.”
Archery Academies teach attendees about all types of archery equipment and basic archery-instruction techniques. Photo Credit: ATA.
3. Train USFWS Staff to Teach Archery
ATA staff teach “Archery as an Outreach Tool” programs to USFWS employees at the agency’s National Conservation Center in Shepherdstown, West Virginia.
This Archery Academy teaches attendees about all types of archery equipment and basic archery-instruction techniques. USFWS staffers can earn USA Archery Level 2 archery-instructor certification, which enables them to teach introductory archery classes, and to use those lessons to further develop students’ archery and bowhunting skills. Attendees often receive instruction and teaching materials for Explore Archery, Explore Bowhunting and Explore Bowfishing programs. They can then use those materials to teach archery skills at national wildlife refuges and other federal facilities.
Sheehan said these educational opportunities are vital to USFWS employees because many of them participate in archery, and are “committed to sharing that passion with others.” He said USFWS employees who teach archery classes also provide countless recruiting opportunities.
4. Expanding R3 Programs
The ATA, USFWS, National Shooting Sports Foundation, Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies and others recently signed a memorandum of understanding to recruit, retain and reactivate hunters and recreational shooters. The groups signed the agreement at the three-day National R3 Symposium in Lincoln, Nebraska, in late May.
The agreement recognizes the need to boost participation in archery and other shooting sports, and views R3 collaborations and partnerships as the best path to success. The memorandum’s goal is to target new and lapsed hunters, anglers, target shooters and other outdoor recreationists. By engaging these potential participants, retailers and manufacturers can attract more customers and boost FET funding for state wildlife agencies.
Although the ATA, USFWS and other groups are promoting R3 activities, Sheehan said the R3 movement can’t succeed without strong grassroots help.
“The best way we connect with citizens is at the local level,” Sheehan said. “We need individuals who run archery shops, or who help with archery competitions and events, to help us recruit archers and teach them that this is a positive form of recreation.”
Sheehan hopes ATA members and their customers help the USFWS with R3 programs nationwide. Click here to get involved.
The USFWS is part of the U.S. Department of the Interior and, working with state wildlife agencies, is responsible for managing fish, wildlife and their habitats across the nation. Photo Credit: John Hafner.
5. Expand Recreation on National Wildlife Refuges
The USFWS recognizes that the ATA and other organizations promote hunting and shooting sports. These efforts support outdoor activities and send customers to national wildlife refuges. To increase access to those and other public lands, Secretary Zinke has proposed opening over 248,000 additional acres to hunting and fishing at 30 NWRs.
“Many ATA members have wonderful ranges in their stores or communities, but we also know many of those archers seek hunting opportunities and access to places to hunt,” Sheehan said. He thinks if the USFWS opens more wildlife refuges to hunting, people will be “inspired and excited” to participate because they’ll have a place to go and wildlife to pursue. And if that generates new participants, the outdoor industry benefits from the cycle of success.
Sheehan encourages people to comment favorably on Zinke’s proposal at regulations.gov by June 28.
“Hunting is a priority use of the National Wildlife Refuge System’s 566 refuges. It is a monumental proposal to offer 248,000 acres of additional refuge lands for hunter and angler access this year,” Sheehan said. “We need the public to demonstrate their support for this new access and opportunities. I’d love to see ATA members comment and share their thoughts about these proposals.”