That 78 year old bastard

The Pittman-Robertson Act turns 78 years old today, and this anniversary should have the whole non-consumptive, not hook and bullet, REI crowd a bit ashamed of themselves.


2 people and ~2000 dollars of gear in Grand Canyon National Park.

Short story long, back in the days of FDR a tax on firearms and ammunition, with the proceeds directed towards wildlife conservation, was passed into law. 20 years ago, an effort to pass a similar tax on hiking/biking/backpacking/climbing/etc got underway, only to fizzle into nothing a few years later. The complaints from the outdoor industry at the time are cringe-worthy.

I don’t buy what hunters often say of the REI crowd; that the lack of consumptive interaction with the landscape bars such folks categorically from certain types of knowledge.  Surely it’s true, but hunters with their often comically slow and shallow movement across the land, and their potentially puerile need to kill things to experience satisfaction, are open to censure at least as severe.

Pittman-Robertson probably wouldn’t be passed and signed today.  The complaints from hunters and the hunting industry would surely be the same as those I linked to in the above paragraph: the tax would be hidden from consumers, and the dollars would not be directed in a way broad enough to merit the range of people from whom the funds were taken.  The only possible response is to get over it.  Especially in a fire season like this one, US land agencies need all the help they can get, and a permanent and substantive contribution from those who use the land most often is the best way I can think to do it.

1% for the Planet and the like are good, but something broader and compulsory would be better.  It is past time.

2 responses to “That 78 year old bastard”

  1. “Another flaw with this proposal is that it taxes a broad spectrum of goods, but the funds are funneled into a narrow cause. This money, an estimated $350 million a year, would be given to state fish and wildlife agencies solely to fund the preservation of non-game wildlife. Let’s use footwear to illustrate the inappropriateness of this tax. A recent survey conducted by the footwear industry shows that up to 85 percent of outdoor footwear never makes it onto a trail. Of the 15 percent that does, an even more minute percentage does so with the primary purpose of watching non-game wildlife. Yet this is exclusively where the funding would go. Granted, most taxes in this country draw from a specific source and the money goes to a general fund, but given the huge needs and number of agencies and facilities involved in outdoor recreation (federal, state, and local; parks, refuges, recreation areas), it is difficult to argue that funding state fish and wildlife programs is the most effective way to provide recreational services to hikers, backpackers, climbers and paddlers. Supporters of this proposal have chosen for us a one-size-fits-all natural resource program that cannot possibly meet the needs of the diverse groups of users that would be affected by this tax.”

    For a moment, “what the hell did I just read?” came to mind.

    Then I remembered there are gun rights activists in the States who are lobbying to amend the Pittman-Robertson Act so the taxation does not apply to non-hunting firearms.

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