Hunters Resources

Teaming With Wildlife

The proposed Teaming With Wildlife bill that would authorize the collection of a special excise tax on the sale of outdoor equipment is expected to generate $390 million dollars per year in non-game funds. It is to be used “primarily” for non-game purposes. That is more than twice the funds currently being generated by the Pittman-Robertson (P-R) program, which authorizes the collection of a special excise tax on the sale of firearms and ammunition. The highest annual revenue ever generated by the P-R program was approximately $225 million just after the Brady Bill was passed. It is back down to approximately $175 million per year.

Teaming With Wildlife: More Reasons Emerge to Beware Non-Game Tax

Who will really fund the Teaming With Wildlife Proposal? At this point, most sportsmen know the Teaming With Wildlife” proposal, now in draft form, would create a fund primarily for non-game wildlife conservation by taxing binoculars, camping gear, ATV’s, birdseed and the like. It is modeled after the 11 percent Pittman-Robertson tax on firearms and ammunition that is the source of many grants for a vast array of conservation projects. Although it was not introduced this session of Congress as expected, it is probably inevitable that it will be in the future. The Final 1996 National Survey of Fishing, Hunting and Wildlife Associated Recreation was published in late November. It provides important insight into who is really going to pay the proposed tax that is to be used to fund the $390 million per annum in primarily non-game grants. The survey demonstrates that sportsmen will pay a substantial part of the proposed excise tax, for they spend as much or more on the equipment to be taxed as do so-called Wildlife Watchers. Unless protections are built into the proposal to assure that animal extremists can’t get grants to attack and eliminate hunting, then sportsmen may end up being taxed to finance a war being waged against them. The National Rifle Association (NRA), Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation and Safari Club International (SCI) are the principal organizations urging that protections be built into the proposal. I am eager to put Conservation Force on the record in support of those protections as well, especially after analyzing certain expenditure patterns pointed up by the 1996 Final Survey. Let’s start with expenditures for “equipment” such as “Binoculars and spotting scopes.” Wildlife Watchers weigh in with $113 “per average spender.” while the average hunting spender weighs in with annual expenditure for “binoculars, field glasses, telescopes, etc.” of $115 - or $2 more. In other words, the average hunting spender is going to pay more than the average Wildlife Watcher for taxes on those items. This does not include the “telescopic sights” category which is an additional $197 per average hunting spender per year. The average expenditure by fishing spenders for those same items was $90. It’s worth noting here that Hunters and Fishermen combined comprise 39.7 million individuals, according to the survey, while Wildlife Watching participants comprise 62.9 million. However, the “trend” for “sportsmen,” (hunters and fishermen) is “increasing” while the trend for Wildlife Watchers has been significantly declining throughout all periods surveyed (beginning 1980), indicating that sportsmen are going to shoulder even more of the tax in an absolute sense with the passage of time. Another significant statistic is the fact that 68 percent of hunters and 65 percent of fishermen are also reported to be Wildlife Watchers, which means that they could theoretically be taxed twice to fund grants attacking or eliminating hunting and fishing. Approximately 26 million sportsmen participated in “Wildlife Watching Activities” in 1996, of which 9.5 million were Hunters and 23 million Fishermen.... But let’s get back to expenditure patterns with a category entitled “equipment.” Seems the average expenditure per Wildlife Watcher spender for “Day packs, carrying cases and special clothing” was $106; compare that to “auxiliary equipment” such as “special fishing, hunting clothing, rubber boots, waders and foul weather gear” and you’ll find that the average hunting spender weighs in with $136 and the average fishing spender with $98. In other words, hunters pay $30 more for clothing likely to be taxed. Moving on to “special equipment” such as “Travel or Tent Trailer, pickup, camper, van, motor home,” the average Wildlife Watcher spent an average of $8,508 while average hunting and fishing spenders spent $11,483 for the exact same itemized equipment. Less than .5 percent of Wildlife Watchers even purchase off-the-road vehicles compared to the numerous fishermen and hunters who average $6,475 per spender for “Trail bikes, dune buggies, 4 x 4 vehicles, four-wheelers, snowmobiles.” Because there are so few “spenders” in the Wildlife Watchers category for those items, the total amount expended on that equipment by sportsmen is $13 billion per annum but the total for all Wildlife Watchers is only $2.25 billion. If those items were taxed, then sportsmen would in fact be paying five times more than Wildlife Watchers in absolute figures. One animal extremist group wrote every state agency that this new Teaming With Wildlife excise tax would eliminate the purse-strings importance of sportsmen to state wildlife agencies. The Antis were wrong again. Without the equipment expenditures of sportsmen, even the Teaming With Wildlife draft proposal would generate far less for non-game conservation. Those expenditures would die with the death of the sporting way of life from which they spring.

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2015 Conservation Force

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