Rep. Austin Scott Bill to Modernize Wildlife Conservation Funding, Get More Americans Outdoors Passes House
WASHINGTON, D.C. – Congressman Austin Scott (GA-08), House Vice-Chairman of the Congressional Sportsmen’s Caucus, today released the following statement upon the House of Representatives passing his bipartisan legislation to modernize the Pittman-Robertson Wildlife Restoration Act (PR), which collects an excise tax on sporting goods sales to fund wildlife conservation projects:
“With a national decline in outdoor recreational activities, Pittman-Robertson funds are shrinking and our state and local habitats are suffering, which is why I have been fighting to give states more flexibility in how they use their PR funds and hopefully attract more Americans to the outdoors in the process,” said Rep. Scott. “I am very pleased the House passed my PR modernization bill, and I thank Chairman Rob Bishop for his commitment to this legislation as well as to sportsmen and women across the country. As this bill heads to be considered in the Senate, I will keep pressing until our decades-old wildlife conservation funding model receives the critical updates it deserves.”
Enacted in 1937, the Pittman-Robertson Wildlife Restoration Act provides federal aid to states for management and restoration of wildlife areas. Specifically, through a system of “user pay/public benefits,” Pittman-Robertson uses proceeds from an existing federal excise tax on firearms, ammunition, and archery equipment to fund wildlife conservation and hunter education grants for state and territorial fish and wildlife agencies. However, decades of migration to urban and suburban centers have made it more difficult for the public to participate in sportsmen’s activities. As the national base of sportsmen and women declines, so do PR wildlife conservation funds.
Rep. Scott’s bill, Modernizing the Pittman-Robertson Fund for Tomorrow's Needs Act (H.R. 2591), would remove the existing prohibition on Pittman-Robertson funds being used for “public relations” while also permitting fish and wildlife agencies to use PR funds for the construction, operation, and maintenance of public ranges. By expanding the ways in which PR funds can be used, sportsmen and women will see their tax dollars at work as state fish and wildlife agencies will be permitted to use modern forms of technology, such as social media and television spots, to recruit and retain both hunters and recreational shooters. To ensure that conservation remains the primary focus of Pittman-Robertson, the legislation caps the percentage of funds that can be used for public relations and recruitment.
In addition to providing new avenues for which to apportion Pittman-Robertson funds, this legislation will establish new hunter recruitment and recreational shooter recruitment grants that promote a national hunting and shooting sport recruitment program available to states under PR, further conserving the user-pay funding of wildlife conservation.