Conference presentation by Patricia Allen, AFWA Communications Director
Notes by Susan Warner, Director of Public Affairs, Vermont Fish & Wildlife Dept.
The Blue Ribbon Panel met in Missouri during 2015 to discuss next steps in securing long-term sustainable funding for state fish and wildlife agencies. They reviewed the history of funding wildlife conservation from 1937’s Pittman-Robertson Act to 2001’s State Wildlife Action Plans to cover 12,000 species of greatest conservation need, including 1950’s Dingell-Johnson and Wallop-Breaux for sport fishing. To date there has been a large discrepancy between how sportfish/game species conservation has been funded versus State Wildlife Grants. The dilemma facing the panel was how can we sustainably fund ALL fish and wildlife conservation efforts, especially with the dramatic decline in hunting and fishing participation over the last three decades?
The panel is led by John Morris, founder of BassPro, and David Freudenthal, former governor of Wyoming. Twenty-six panelists come from Toyota, NRA, ranchers, Audubon, Yale professors, NGOs and Wildlife Management Institute. It’s a wide-ranging and distinguished group from a broad cross-section of industries and conservation groups.
On March 2 they released their recommendations, which can be found on Twitter at #funding4wildlife. The recommendations covered two questions:
- What is the funding target the recommendations will need to meet?
- A review of the SWAPs by Southwick & Assoc. and how much to fully implement them = $1.3 billion annually, or approximately $26 million per state.
- What are the funding options based on the criteria of:
- Sustainable for 10 years;
- Sufficiently achievable in 5 years and include outreach/education;
- Will not require state legislative action.
The panel considered an excise tax on outdoor recreation equipment, but support from business was lacking, and it would not bring in $1.3 billion. They also considered voluntary corporate giving such as 1 percent for the planet and felt it would not be sustainable, would fall short, and would compete with other conservation fund-raising efforts.
The third alternative considered was dedicating a portion of existing royalty payments on energy/mineral development projects paid to the federal government. This alternative would not only bring in sufficient funds, it would be relatively easy to earmark for fish and wildlife without draining the source.
The panel thus recommended to Congress:
- That it dedicate approximately 10 percent (or $1.3 billion) from energy/mineral development royalties be redirected to fish and wildlife conservation, particularly funding SWAPs. The funds will be administered through the USFWS similar to PR/DJ.
- To convene a working group to study the relevancy of state fish and wildlife agencies in the face of cultural changes and recommend how they can better serve all Americans.
Next steps: On July 6, HR5650 Recovering America’s Wildlife Act was introduced by Rep. Deb Dingell (D) of Michigan (descendant of original Dingell-Johnson sponsor) and Rep. Don Young (R) from Alaska. The panel is working to create bipartisan team of 10 Republicans and 10 Democrats to push this legislation through and make the funding recommendation a reality.
As for the relevancy study, Moroch Marketing, from Houston, will volunteer time and resources to develop messages for this initiative. They will work to condense our many messages into one big message that will resonate across all states. They will collaborate with the Joint Working Group from AFWA to develop a toolkit to get the message out. This campaign will get started this fall, but the big push will come after the election when the new administration and Congress are in session in 2017.