GUEST COLUMN: Preserving the Great Outdoors
The holiday season is a special time when Georgians can come together to enjoy good food, footballand spend time with family and friends. It’s also a time to enjoy the great outdoors. Growing up in South Georgia instilled in me a passion for the outdoors and a desire to ensure that future generations have the opportunity to share that same feeling.
Many of my fondest memories involve hunting and fishing in our beautiful country. However, decades of population relocation to urban areas has made it more difficult for many Americans to regularly participate in sportsmen’s activities. Unfortunately, this decline in outdoor recreation has also had a negative impact on our country’s wildlife conservation funds.
Enacted in 1937, the Pittman-Robertson 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.
As the base of hunters and recreational shooters has diminished across the country, so have Pittman-Robertson Wildlife Conservation funds. To address this, I have introduced H.R. 2591, Modernizing the Pittman-Robertson Fund for Tomorrow’s Needs Act of 2017. Without increasing existing user fees or taxes, this bill would give state fish and wildlife agencies more say in how they can use their allotted Pittman-Robertson funds.
Think about our country in 1937... now think about our country today. In order to reach younger generations and introduce them to the opportunities that sportsman activities provide, we must modernize the ways in which we can use our limited resources to recruit and retain outdoorsmen and women, all while protecting our public lands and waters.
My bill would remove the existing prohibition on Pittman-Robertson funds being used for “public relations” and permit fish and wildlife agencies to use these funds for the construction, operation, and maintenance of public ranges.
By expanding the ways in which Pittman-Robertson funds can be used, Georgia 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 would also cap the percentage of funds that can be used for public relations and recruitment.
It is my hope that by passing the Modernizing the Pittman-Robertson Fund for Tomorrow’s Needs Act of 2017, we can bring new generations into the sportsman community and ensure that our wildlife resources in South Georgia are protected for years to come.
I wish you and your loved ones a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!
In God We Trust,
Congressman Austin Scott, R-Tifton, represents Georgia’s Eighth Congressional District. He serves as the House vice chairman of the Congressional Sportsmen’s Caucus.