Wildlife Work in the Crosshairs

Image by
Isla Friebe

How legislatures are going after a meaningful conservation tool. 

As we all know, our elected officials have a nasty habit of neglecting their constituents. This time, U.S. Representative Matt Rosendale has signed on to the Repeal Excise Tax on Unalienable Rights Now Act (RETURN), that would essentially eliminate our most important source of funding for wildlife and habitat management.

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, including Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks. 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.

Passage of RETURN could cripple the nation’s state wildlife agencies, including ours.

RETURN is the brainchild—or rather, demon child—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 and overwhelming demand that has caused ammunition shortages nationwide.

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

Passage of RETURN could cripple the nation’s state wildlife agencies, including ours. Write to Rep. Rosendale at rosendale.house.gov and urge him to reconsider this attempt to gut the budgets of our state fish-and-wildlife agencies.