2016 Fish and Wildlife Business Summit Held in Richmond, Virginia

2016 Fish and Wildlife Business Summit Held in Richmond, Virginia

The Fish & Wildlife Business Summit recently concluded its 2016 meeting that was held in Richmond, Virginia. This annual gathering of state, federal, industry, and NGO leaders focuses on strengthening relationships to better implement the Wildlife and Sport Fish Restoration (WSFR) program. The summit is the result of a decade-long effort by state fish and wildlife and sporting industry leaders to improve communication among the partners of the WSFR program. The Wildlife Management Institute (WMI) facilitated the tenth annual meeting of the group.

"As federal excise tax contributions continue to perform at near record levels, it is vital that we continue to engage our industry partners to ensure that we are successfully servicing the needs of the outdoorsmen that contribute to the WSFR program through their purchases of firearms, ammunition, archery equipment, fishing tackle, and boat fuel," commented Jon Gassett, WMI's industry liaison and southeast region representative who coordinated the meeting. "It is vital that the industries that pay these taxes support this model, and that the agencies that receive the funds recognize the roles that those industries play."

At the annual meeting, the Summit attendees narrowed the focus of their collective efforts for the coming year. Several focal points warranted immediate attention:

  1. The increasing contribution of recreational shooters to the Pittman-Robertson (PR) Trust Fund and the need to service them.

    Customers acquiring firearms and ammunition for recreational shooting and personal protection continue to increase dramatically - and have for the past eight years. Although many hunters are also recreational shooters, the annual contribution to the PR Trust Fund from customers specific to those activities has eclipsed the numbers purchasing equipment for hunting purposes. However, even with the increased influx of money, states have been slow to plan, construct, and maintain adequate numbers of public shooting ranges to service these individuals. At the Summit, in-depth presentations and discussions were held to better inform states on the opportunities and challenges associated with the construction and maintenance of public ranges.

  2. Explaining the American Model for Conservation Funding.

    The public's understanding of conservation funding is still poorly understood at best.  Furthermore, the ability for states to use excise tax funding for "public relations," while at one time necessary, is now overly burdensome on the implementation of a branding and marketing campaign for the WSFR program that would allow states to educate the public. The continued decline in hunter and angler numbers necessitates the need for a concerted effort to stabilize public support for angling, boating, hunting, and recreational shooting by raising the awareness of how conservation is funded in our country. The Summit attendees agreed to focus on corrective language to allow states to collectively and individually dedicate part of their excise tax allocations to this marketing and brand awareness effort.

  3. Maintain the integrity of the WSFR Program through fairness of application of the tax and adequate administrative support.

    The Summit attendees continued to prioritize the need to assure the integrity of the WSFR program by ensuring that the laws are applied fairly and appropriately. The need for increasing funding for administrative support for the program was also a primary focus of discussion, and much progress was made in discussions among the states, industry, and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) on this issue.

  4. Promoting and facilitating an organic (state level) roll out of industry/state agency partnerships.

    Over the past 10 years, vast improvement has been made in building and strengthening relationships between state agencies and industry at the national level. At the Virginia meeting, the Summit attendees agreed to continue to prioritize the stepping down of this effort to the state and local levels. Developing relationships between individual state agency leadership and the excise tax paying industries in their states will undoubtedly pay benefits through mutual support on issues of importance to both entities.

The Fish and Wildlife Business Summit was hosted by Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries on the Department's 100

Anniversary. The FWS, Brandt Information Services, Bass Pro Shops, National Rifle Association, and Colonial Shooting Academy helped make the event possible with their generous sponsorships. (jg)
July 14, 2016