Late-season action on Capitol Hill approved changes to the Pittman-Robertson Act to let state wildlife agencies use federal funding to promote hunting, but the U.S. Senate soon after slashed funding to $2.5 million for managing chronic wasting disease in wild deer and elk.
Dan Forster, vice president and chief conservation officer of the Archery Trade Association, said those mixed results aren’t unusual. Yes, the ATA was disappointed the Senate slashed $10 million for CWD funding that the House of Representatives had OK’d, and split the remaining $5 million between state wildlife agencies and the captive-cervid (farm deer and elk) industry. He said, however, that the ATA and its conservation partners will keep working to boost CWD research and monitoring, much as it kept pushing the Pittman-Robertson Modernization Bill after Congress failed to approve it in previous years.
“I just remind myself and ATA members that passing legislation is usually a slog; a marathon,” Forster said. “It’s seldom easy. It takes time. It’s frustrating, but we won’t give up.”
R3 programs are able to receive more funding for their programs. Photo Credit: ATA
The good news is that state wildlife agencies can now get more funding for their popular R3 programs, which recruit, retain and reactivate hunters. Forster said P-R Modernization legislation originated in 2016, but was delayed two years by procedural matters. It looked like it would pass a year ago, but then the House majority party changed from Republicans to Democrats in November 2018, and the government shut down in late December 2018 through much of January 2019.
The effort paid off in December, and President Trump signed it into law shortly before Christmas. Forster said this update to the P-R Act does not affect how the IRS levies federal-excise taxes on archery manufacturers. It simply gives wildlife agencies more flexibility in how they spend money they receive from FET revenues.
“We’re now working with state agencies to get more money on the ground and into the field as quickly as possible to bolster hunting and shooting programs,” Forster said. “Until this legislation passed, agencies couldn’t use P-R money to promote R3 efforts. We’re now working with the Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies to accelerate the funding process. This is especially important to agencies that rely totally on license fees and P-R funding to run their programs.”
Forster, the ATA and its Board of Directors are also working with the IRS, U.S. Customs, and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to force online retailers to pay their fair FET shares when selling foreign-made archery products direct to consumers. U.S. manufacturers pay the FET up front when selling products to retailers and distributors. Meanwhile, some large online retailers and their offshore manufacturing partners avoid paying the FET.
“It’s a tax loophole that’s unfair to U.S.-based manufacturers, and it undercuts funding for conservation and hunting programs,” Forster said. “By selling direct to consumers, online retailers make consumers responsible for paying the FET, but there’s no system in place to collect what’s owed. That’s lost funding we need for managing wildlife, doing research, and promoting participation. We’re working with our members and partners to fully understand the problem, and how best to close those loopholes.”
The ATA will continue their CWD efforts. Photo Credit: ATA
Regarding the cuts to CWD research and monitoring, Forster said the ATA will continue to work with the National Deer Alliance and Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership to secure greater long-term commitments to fighting the always-fatal disease. The federal government ceased providing CWD aid to state wildlife agencies in 2011, which greatly curtailed studies, surveillance work, and testing of hunter-killed deer, elk and moose.
“Nick Pinizzotto (NDA’s CEO and president) and Whit Fosburgh (TRCP CEO and president) put in a lot of time and effort testifying at hearings, and meeting one-on-one with lawmakers to help them understand the threats CWD poses to deer, elk, hunters and hunting manufacturers,” Forster said. “We cannot ignore this issue.”
Fosburgh agrees. “Chronic wasting disease is a symptom of a systematic failure to invest in conservation,” he told lawmakers in December. “That is why America’s hunters and anglers so fervently hope that (you) will help address the CWD crisis.”
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