ATTACKING HUNTING AT ITS ROOTS

Photo from C.A.S.H. archives:, A poor victim of management for
hunting.

As there’s no bureau tied to the profits of the tobacco industry, the government is able to protect the public.

Over the long time that hunting has been my focus, I’ve considered multiple facets for stopping it.

As with many of us, it started with pointing out the obvious cruelty inherent in hunting.

That tack brought little response from those who can pass local ordinances or state laws.  Hunters assert that they stop the suffering by quickly ending the lives of animals who would otherwise die a slow death of starvation and disease. [That, in spite of the fact that hunters actually cause more starvation by forcing deer to run off their fat reserves in the fall, a critical time for retaining adipose tissue to sustain themselves during a long, hard winter.]

Then we pointed out the environmental and ecological impacts of creating habitat for game species, which are <1% of all species. That, too, brought little result.  The hunter/game management’s unfounded response was that whatever habitat modifications were made benefitted all wildlife.

The ecological argument that the gene pool is affected by taking the healthiest bucks with the largest antlers, leaving the weaker males to procreate was also met with indifference –  and a new hunting strategy:  “Quality Deer Management,”  whereby food and sex ratio conditions are made just right for growing bucks with large antlers.

GETTING THE PUBLIC IN THE CITY TO CARE:

More recently, we started to focus on the fact that when firearms (revolvers or assault rifles) are used in urban crimes, the excise taxes on those weapons and ammunition ultimately pay into the Conservation Fund of the state to provide more hunting opportunity – more use of firearms.  We suggested that firearms excise taxes, at least from revolvers and assault rifles, pay for victims of firearm crimes.  For, regardless of the victim, regardless of the shooter, the firearms and ammunition money still go to the game agency to ensure more use of those products.  That, too, went no place as the response was that the Pittman Robertson Act was federal and would require congressional political will – and is therefore out of reach of state legislatures.

But, just what does this Act mandate?  In 1937, Franklin D. Roosevelt signed the bipartisan Pittman-Robertson Act into law.  It connected the funding for wildlife management to the firearms and ammunition industry by placing a federal excise tax on those products that would be apportioned to states.   The formula was this: The more hunting licenses a state sold, the greater its apportionment would be.  Another part of the equation is the area of the state.  Please see our article for more detail about the formula here: http://abolishsporthunting.org/journals/massacres/

The Pittman-Robertson Act is gracious in that it allows states to opt in or out of managing wildlife for a portion of the excise tax on firearms and ammo.  But, if they opt in, they must manage wildlife for hunting (unspoken: for the use of firearms).  Further, the state must match their P-R apportionment by contributing $1 for every $3 received.  States claim that the $1 match comes from hunting license fees.  Of course, state bureaus are provided with all overhead expenses for which any private enterprise would have to pay, and that funding comes from the taxpayer.  It’s clear that our wildlife is being managed for a private enterprise, primarily firearms and ammo, and, since 1972,  bows and arrows.  Additionally, there are cooperating bureaus that receive General Funds and serve the purposes of game management in part, such as forest, land, and water management bureaus.

Should a state choose not to manage wildlife in this fashion, it would not get a penny from the excise tax.  In 1937, the states all opted in, as something was needed to counter the free-for-all of market hunting. 

Without any thought about what this meant for wild animals, it all seemed ideal during a period in time (the Great Depression) when economic considerations prevailed (as they still do).

Not too long before this era of Covid-19, we came across a NYS 2012 audit of the Conservation Fund titled: Conservation Fund – Sources and Uses of Funds.  You can view it here:

https://osc.state.ny.us/audits/allaudits/093014/12s134.pdf .  It seems to be the most recent.  Please see the chart below that appears on page 8 of the audit.  It’s obvious that millions of dollars of General Funds (taxes from taxpayers) were, and likely still are, contributing to wildlife management for hunting (firearms use).

The statement above the table reads:

As shown in Table 4 below, for these three State fiscal years, the Department expended more than $112 million; $109 million; and $120 million, respectively, on Program activities. These efforts were supported by several sources including the Fund, the State’s General Fund, etc.

It suddenly becomes clear that we can, in fact, act at a state level by simply withholding General Funds from wildlife management bureaus connected to the firearms industry.  It would take only the will of the state legislature and the governor! (Of course it’s not easy, but it’s far easier than working at a federal level!)

THE PUBLIC’S TAXES ARE BEING USED FOR WILDLIFE MANAGEMENT CONNECTED TO THE FIREARMS INDUSTRY

What needs to be revealed is how NYS General Funds are used by the Bureau of Wildlife and cooperating bureaus.  Legislators need greater detail about the Bureau of Wildlife’s income sources and expenditures.  That inquiry will take political will.  What’s crystal clear from the 2012 audit is that General Funds are used.  Is it for creating or restoring habitat that increases wildlife populations for future killing, or for direct efforts by setting seasons, manipulating sex ratios, or moving wildlife from place to place? An example of that is when managers move beavers into areas for wetland creation to benefit waterfowl hunting.

A starting point is a detailed audit of the funding sources and expenditures of all bureaus associated with the Bureau of Wildlife.  There’s no doubt that there is internal accounting, but it is not made public.

IT IS POLITICALLY DIFFICULT FOR LEGISLATORS TO MAKE INQUIRIES

Wildlife Watch encouraged one legislative aide to inquire about the budget of the DEC’s wildlife management division, and she received this glib response:

For more information on the program, go to:

https://www.fws.gov/laws/lawsdigest/FAWILD.HTML

https://history.house.gov/HistoricalHighlight/Detail/36582

In the above link it reads: While the Wildlife Restoration Act signaled a new step in conservation, its attempt to manage natural resources with public money fell squarely within New Deal thinking. .. the new act encouraged cooperation between federal and state officials, and the hunting public.

The P-R Act is deceptively dubbed the Federal Aid in Wildlife Restoration (Pittman-Robertson) Act. So, the glorification of a terrifying act was sent back to the staffer in response!  It was intimidating, maybe confusing, but I hope not impressive.

Prior to the NYS budget approval, the League of Humane Voters® of New York (LOHV®-NY), sent a letter to the Committee Chair of Finance in the NYS Senate requesting that General Funds not be provided to any bureau that is connected with the firearms industry.   Please see page 7 in this issue.

Wildlife management, thanks to the Pittman-Robertson Act, is an air-tight, circular economy that is in effect a private enterprise serving the firearms industry at the expense of wild animals and the general public.

Photo © Jim Robertson

As there’s no bureau tied to the profits of the tobacco industry, the government is able to protect the public.

As hunters are nationally less than 5% of the population (and less than 3% in NYS), it’s extraordinary that state government has a dedicated bureau entirely devoted to providing hunters with wild animal targets.  Clearly, the purpose is to get firearms and ammunition purchased (as well as bows and arrows).

THE NYS WILDLIFE MANAGEMENT BUREAU SIPHONS FROM THE GENERAL FUND

YET CONTRIBUTES NOTHING TO IT

Consider this: the other two major industries that carry federal excise taxes are alcohol and tobacco, but unlike the firearms excise tax, which goes to wildlife management agencies at a federal and state level, the excise taxes on alcohol and tobacco go to the general fund where the money is used for the needs of the general public: education, housing, health, etc.

Just imagine if those products instead had their own divisions of government whose sole purpose was to promote the use of the product, it would go like this:

A bureau would be created that would be dedicated to encouraging the use of alcohol or tobacco for socializing, relaxation, or whatever it takes to motivate drinking and smoking.  All monies collected by these bureaus would have to be used for the single purpose of generating more sales of the product.  General Fund money from the state could flow into the bureaus, but not a penny of the excise tax could be used for the general public.

How long do you think that would be tolerated?  Yet, that’s the modus operandi of the bureau of wildlife that manages wild animals to be victims of the firearms industry.  We need to demand from our state legislatures that our general funds (your taxes and mine) no longer be used to support bureaus that serve the firearms industry.

It can be done!

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Committee to Abolish Sport Hunting / C.A.S.H.
P.O. Box 562
New Paltz, NY 12561
845/256-1400