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A Need to Raise Hell


We’re in what we in the newsroom refer to as "the silly season" of an election year.   Just weeks before Election Day, you’ll see all manner of outrageous claims, conspiracy theories, and concocted shenanigans.  All are aimed at drawing attention to one candidate or another in a positive or negative light.    

I’ve learned to be careful about such things.   Occasionally I still slip and allow something which is way off course to misdirect my objectivity.  Therefore, I don’t want to sound too over the top when reacting to the story from last weekend about a possible sequestration of sportsman’s funds in Washington.

But Curtis Taylor, chief of Wildlife at DNR, says there’s nothing over-the-top about the story. 

"I don’t think it’s alarmist at all," he told me on WV Outdoors. "We’ve heard from a leading member of Congress that sportsmen needed to ‘raise hell.’"

All indications from those I know close to the fight say hell raising may be all that’s left for sportsmen and women to save the money they have personally ponied up for restoration of wildlife and fisheries in the United States.    The trust fund generated by the excise taxes on things like guns, ammo, fishing tackle, and other outdoor related products is in the neighborhood of $600 to $700 Million.   Taylor called it "spit in the bucket" compared to other federal funds which are being exempted from the sequestration.   He’s right.

Does the White House really thing taking $600 to $700 Million set aside for wildlife and fisheries is going to even scratch the surface of the most recent budget mark, let alone a $17 TRILLION dollar national debt?   

"I don’t think the White House cares about hunters and anglers," Taylor told me.

I think he’s right with that assessment too.  The White House hasn’t pretended to give two hoots and a holler about outdoor enthusiasts–especially hunters and anglers.  It’s an administration bereft of hunters and fishermen in positions of leadership.  It also seems to be one rife with anti-hunters and anti-fishermen.  

The money sitting in the fund in Washington‘s isn’t the federal government’s money to spend.  Frankly, it isn’t taxpayer’s money either.  The Pittman Robertson and Wallop Breaux acts were created at the REQUEST of hunters, anglers, and the related industries.   75-years ago there was a movement to turn the tide of rapidly eroding game and fish populations. The money belongs to everybody who buys hunting and fishing license or those taxed sporting goods.  It’s OUR money.  However, it’s spent to benefit everybody in the United States.  Whether you hunt or not, you’re still able to see deer and enjoy wildlife.   There is no license required to go for a walk on a state Wildlife Management Area.    People who wouldn’t dream of shooting a duck can feed them in the park because hunters and anglers paid for their restoration.

The money was willingly paid by sportsmen and gear companies to restore, protect, and manage our game and fish.   The results have been incredible.   Consider the number of deer, turkey, and bear we now have.   Consider the amount of trout which are stocked in waters you enjoy fishing.   Take a look at the attraction of bass fishing and how much it has grown over the years.   We argue over the merits of restoring elk in West Virginia, but the very fact it’s a topic of discussion is a tribute to the funds.   

Certainly, there is still work to do.   Grouse continue to struggle with a lack of habitat, but work continues to find ways to improve.   We have high mountain trout streams in need of restoration to improve natural reproduction of native trout.   In some cases deer numbers have grown too large.    However, all of this comes to a screeching halt if those funds are tied up. 

Taylor laid out what will initially be cut in just the first year of such action.   He says there is a desire to withhold the funds from the state for nine-years.  After nine-years there won’t be anything left to manage.

Withholding the money is a shot at sportsman.  It can (and will) be spun any number of ways, but in truth the money isn’t SPENT by the federal government as the sequestration language allows.  It’s HELD and REDISTRIBUTED to the states—but the state’s are the ones doing the spending.   Therefore, the sequestration of the PR/DJ funds isn’t legal and shouldn’t be allowed. 

Sportsmen and women may just have to "raise hell" with Congress to drive the point home.


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