Wildlife Funding at Risk

elk, fwp, hunting

Save Pittman-Robertson.

Just when you think our elected officials can’t neglect their constituents more, they come up with something new. This time, U.S. Representative Matt Rosendale has signed on as a co-sponsor to a real stinker of a bill, officially titled the Repeal Excise Tax on Unalienable Rights Now Act (RETURN, get it?), that would essentially eliminate our most important source of funding for wildlife and habitat management.

By way of background, the Federal Aid in Wildlife Restoration Act (commonly known as Pittman-Robertson, or P-R, after its initial sponsors), passed Congress in 1937; it provides for a 10% excise tax on firearms, ammunition, and archery equipment. In 1950, Congress passed a similar tax on recreational angling equipment (Dingell-Johnson). These revenues are distributed to state wildlife agencies and provide most of the funding for many of them. No money is siphoned off to various black holes of wasted taxpayer dollars. Since inception, this legislation has received overwhelming support from hunters and anglers, even though they’re the ones paying the taxes. Last year, these two laws raised $1.5 billion for fish and wildlife—much of it for acquisition of new habitat.

RETURN is the brainchild of Georgia Representative Andrew Cloyd, who asserts that P-R “infringes on Americans’ ability to exercise their Second Amendment rights”—a dubious claim, given the widespread gun ownership in this country. Not to mention that overwhelming demand has caused ammunition shortages nationwide; short supply is the impediment to exercising one's Second Amendment rights, not prohibitive pricing. In addition to Rosendale, the list of co-sponsors includes other such notables as Gosar, Taylor-Greene, Gohmert, Cawthorn, Brooks, Gaetz, and Boebert.

Montana has received almost $2 billion from P-R in the past decade. This money has been instrumental in funding wildlife habitat projects, research projects, acquisitions, conservation easements, biologists' salaries, and aerial surveys.

Year

 

Amount

2022

 

$28,553,522

2021

 

$17,461,947

2020

 

$15,485,949

2019

 

$17,468,080

2018

 

$21,131,270

2017

 

$20,611,646

2016

 

$18,441,964

2015

 

$21,552,756

2014

 

$20,199,038

2013

 

$13,805,529

 

Passage of RETURN could cripple many state wildlife agencies, including ours. The time has come to inform Rosendale of how many hunters and anglers he represents, and remind him that they vote.


Write to Rep. Rosendale here and urge him to reconsider this attempt to gut the budgets of our state fish-and-wildlife agencies, including Montana's.