America the Beautiful Initiative
A letter was sent to Deb Haaland, Secretary, Department of the Interior, to express our optimism for the Administration’s interest in recognizing the continuum of science-based conservation as it develops the American Conservation and Stewardship Atlas and the inclusion of many of the priorities shared by hunters and anglers in the “Conserving and Restoring America the Beautiful 2021” report released in May 2021. HSC looks forward to working with the Administration to advance these priorities as part of the America the Beautiful Initiative.
Federal Excise Tax Slippage Engagement
Federal excise taxes collected under the Wildlife and Sportfish Restoration Programs from archery, sportfishing, and firearms industries are the foundational funding source for state fish and wildlife agencies that support conservation initiatives across the United States. Last year alone, these excise taxes generated roughly $1.5 billion in conservation funding and are extremely important to the entire conservation community. There is a potential avoidance of paying the required federal excise tax (FET) on fishing and archery equipment, coming into the United States, from foreign manufacturers and distributors. Such “leakages” threaten the financial underpinning of the North American Model of Wildlife Conservation by providing an unfair advantage to foreign-based manufacturers selling in US markets made convenient through internet marketplace facilitators because of an antiquated tax collection model. The total unpaid tax projected across all taxable archery and fishing tackle sales, not being paid as a result of sales by overseas vendors directly to U.S. consumers via online marketplaces, is estimated at $17.2 million per year, and growing. If this loophole is not addressed expeditiously, the situation will worsen and may lead to an erosion of support for the excise tax program from the fishing and archery industries and will continue to negatively impact conservation investments across the country. HSC urges the Senate Committee on Finance and the House Ways & Means Committee to explore this excise tax slippage issue and identify a fix that will serve to protect this critical funding source and ensure that federal excise taxes collected under the wildlife and sportfish restoration programs are fair and equitable to American manufacturers. HSC strongly supports immediate and corrective action and stands ready to work in collaboration with these committees and our industry partners in seeking a legislative solution that will have a long-lasting positive effect on conservation, hunting, angling, associated businesses, and the American citizenry.
Hunting and Wildlife Conservation Council Charter Renewal
Correspondence was relayed to Tom Vilsack, Secretary, U.S. Department of Agriculture and Deb Haaland, Secretary, Department of the Interior, to express gratitude for the renewal of the Hunting and Wildlife Conservation Council (HWCC) Federal Advisory Committee. Renewal of the HWCC demonstrates the Administration’s continued support for America’s 55 million sportsmen and women and recognizes the significant role that hunters and recreational shooters maintain in conservation.
Center for Biological Diversity v. U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service – Potential Settlement
HSC was a party included in a letter to Martha Williams, Director, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service related to court filings in litigation, that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) is engaged in settlement discussions with the Center for Biological Diversity (CBD). The lawsuit arises from the 2020 expansion of hunting and fishing on over 2.3 million acres of National Wildlife Refuges across the country. The plaintiff alleges that the Service violated the Endangered Species Act (ESA) and National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), because additional hunting and fishing on these public lands poses a threat to endangered species through potential lead poisoning from ammunition and tackle. Several of the challenged hunting opportunities were requested by state wildlife agencies and intended to manage overly abundant or invasive species. The letter requests that the Service reject any settlement of pending litigation that would undermine or reduce the expansion of hunting and fishing opportunities on National Wildlife Refuges. Any settlement would be inconsistent with the Service’s responsibilities under the National Wildlife Refuge System Improvement Act of 1997 (Improvement Act). The Improvement Act directs the Service to prioritize the expansion of hunting and fishing on refuges. The letter concludes with a strong urging that the Service cease settlement discussions with CBD, vigorously oppose their baseless lawsuit, and defend the lawful and appropriate expansion of hunting and fishing on over 2.3 million acres of National Wildlife Refuges across the country.
Gray Wolf Delisting
A letter was sent to Deb Haaland, Secretary, Department of the Interior to request that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service appeal the February 10, 2022, decision from the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California vacating the 2020 rule removing the gray wolf from the Endangered Species Act (ESA) lists of endangered and threatened species. The Court’s decision misinterprets the ESA and creates a situation in which recovered species are prevented from being delisted even when the best available science determines that delisting is consistent with the ESA. HSC requested that the Secretary uphold Congress’ express intention for the ESA to recover species “to the point at which the measures provided pursuant to this Act are no longer necessary,” and appeal this erroneous decision.
HSC Weighs In On Wild Horse and Burro Management
Houston Safari Club joined other conservation organizations in supporting recent commitments by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) to gather 22,000 wild horses and burros across the Western range in 2022. HSC views the BLM’s actions and commitments in 2022 as a crucial step forward and encourage the BLM to prioritize significant gathers and fertility control in future years. This includes proposing significant funding for these efforts in the President’s Fiscal Year 2023 and future budgets. Unbranded and unclaimed free-roaming horses and burros are nonnative, feral livestock that lack natural predators and can have significant detrimental impacts on native ecosystems and wildlife habitat. There are an estimated 86,000 wild horses and burros on BLM and national forest lands, exceeding the agencies’ own appropriate management Levels by more than 320 percent. Wildlife habitat is declining in quality across many areas in the West due to the explosion of wild horse and burro populations, impacts that are being exacerbated by warmer and drier conditions as well as nonnative invasive plants. Native species are being negatively impacted across much of their range. Mule deer, for example, have declined in many areas over the past three decades while horse and burro populations have increased annually by 15 to 20 percent.
H.R. 5608, the Chronic Wasting Disease Research and Management Act
HSC, in conjunction with thirty other conservation organizations, issued a letter to Debbie Stabenow, Chairwoman, U.S. Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition & Forestry and John Boozman, Ranking Member, U.S. Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition & Forestry, requesting that the Committee take up and pass H.R. 5608, the Chronic Wasting Disease Research and Management Act. Years of bicameral, bipartisan interest has now culminated in H.R. 5608, which moved quickly through the House last year on voice vote in committee and an overwhelming 393-33 floor vote. This bill is the result of a partnership between Congressman Ron Kind and Congressman Glenn Thompson, who merged the several bills introduced in both chambers of the 116th Congress. Those bills, including bills sponsored by Senators Tester, Hoeven, and Hyde-Smith, sought the common purpose of joining Federal support with the ongoing efforts of states and tribes for the essential tasks of research and management. H.R. 5608 complements Senator Barrasso’s bill on CWD last Congress that was enacted in the America’s Conservation Enhancement Act. That measure established a federal Chronic Wasting Disease Task Force supported by research into how CWD is transmitted.