The Commission will be holding five public hearings to focus on potentially extending the time that bears can be taken with the aid of unprocessed food as bait to the entire open season. Additionally, the hearing held in Whiteville will focus on moving the black bear hunting seasons in Brunswick and Columbus counties to the second Monday in November to January 1. The District 9 hearing is scheduled for Tuesday, April 9th at Haywood Community College in Clyde. If you live in District 8 it is April 6th at Western Piedmont Community College in Morganton. Both meetings start at 7 p.m. I am assuming this is being done to allow more bear to be harvested based on our burgeoning population. If that’s the case, the Commission should also implement an Archery Only bear season in late September and early October. We know a lot of archery deer hunters who could tag a bear while on the deer stand..
We had more news coming out of our nation’s capital last week that bears watching by hunters and shooters. I mentioned earlier the SHARE act reinforcing hunting and fishing on public lands. We also have a Blue Ribbon Commission recommending energy funds from public land be given to the states for wildlife habitat. Now leaders of the Senate Congressional Sportsmen’s Caucus (CSC) yesterday introduced the Modernizing the Pittman-Robertson Fund for Tomorrow’s Needs Act in the U.S. Senate, legislation that will improve the current funding system for wildlife conservation.
Introduced by CSC Members Co-Chairs Jim Risch (ID) and Senator Joe Manchin (WV), with original cosponsors CSC Vice-Chairs Senator Deb Fischer (NE) and Senator Heidi Heitkamp (ND), this proposed legislation will update the Pittman-Robertson Wildlife Restoration Act of 1937, clarifying that one of the purposes of the legislation is to “extend financial and technical support to the states for promotion of hunting and recreational shooting.” More specifically, this legislation will allocate a portion of the Pittman-Robertson Fund towards hunter recruitment and retention through national outreach and marketing campaigns, as well as providing education and mentoring to new hunters and recreational shooters.
“By introducing this legislation, Congressional Sportsmen’s Caucus leadership has taken an important step in advancing our nation’s hunting heritage and furthering the successful state-based conservation efforts,” said Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation President Jeff Crane. “Although sportsmen and women’s contributions fund wildlife conservation throughout the country, it is a ‘user pays – public benefits’ program, and recruiting new hunters not only shows Americans the great outdoors, it allows wildlife and their habitat to be conserved in the future.” The excise taxes paid by hunters and recreational shooters which forms the basis of the Pittman-Robertson fund, support a variety of wildlife conservation efforts.
“This legislation is important because it will strengthen efforts to educate and recruit hunters and recreational shooters in our country” said Senator Risch. “Whether for the purpose of putting food on the table, for game management purposes, or for passing a tradition down to other generations, hunting and shooting sports are important for many reasons. This update to the Pittman-Robertson Fund will provide state agencies the tools they need to provide and enhance recreational opportunities for all Americans who enjoy the outdoors.”
I must admit this sounds commendable, but like most things out of Washington, the devil is in the details. Pittman-Robertson has worked well for eighty years now. It does so primarily because the Act’s authors fenced the funds from the excise tax to only be used as intended. If this bill simply designates some funds within the current Act for hunter recruitment I’m all for it. But if there is any opportunity for Congress to stick their hands in the cookie jar and use Pittman-Robertson funds for anything other than it was originally designed we must oppose this bill. It will bear watching as it goes through the legislative sausage maker where it can be amended to allow that to happen. We will keep our radar on and let you know if we see anything amiss.