50th Anniversary of the National Hunting and Fishing
Anniversaries are always a good time to take stock. September 24, 2022 marks the 50th anniversary of National Hunting and Fishing Day. If it weren’t for two major conservation laws, there wouldn’t be much to celebrate outdoors today.
That Conservation Act (Pittman-Robertson) became law in 1937, requiring manufacturers of firearms and ammunition to levy excise taxes on select goods to fund maintenance. Congress added archery gear to the mix 50 years ago. That Sport Fishing Restoration Act (Dingell-Johnson) did the same for tackle that came out in the 1950’s. The two laws combined have done more for conservation, fishing, and hunting than meets the eye.
In 1937, the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources placed directly from the Pittman-Robertson Fund on the ground in what is now the Ogden Bay Waterfowl Management Area in the Great Salt Lake. This piece of public land offers a tremendous amount of waterfowl habitat – and public hunting opportunities. The bar was set high from the start, and a cascade of successes have followed over the years.
Earlier this year, Pittman-Robertson funds funded the acquisition of the 84-square-mile L-Bar Ranch in northern New Mexico, which enlarged and quadrupled the New Mexico Department of Game and Fish’s Marquez Wildlife Management Area — public land where Rocky Mountain Elk , mule deer and Merriam’s wild turkey abound.
Between these bookend land purchases, Pittman-Robertson has provided the funds for state fish and wildlife agencies to protect delta wetlands in Mississippi, bayou in Arkansas, flooded timber in New York, prairie potholes and pheasant fields on the Great Plains, deer, grouse , and Midwest Squirrel Forests, all public wildlife management areas. A total of 36 million acres of wildlife habitat statewide, nearly the size of Iowa, are managed by state fish and wildlife agencies for wildlife and public access.
Just a few decades ago, white-tailed deer were not such a common sight. Not true today. And consider this: moose have returned to several eastern states, Kentucky, Tennessee, Pennsylvania, Michigan, Wisconsin and Arkansas. Virginia is hosting its first moose hunt next month — the first moose season in modern times.
If you’re keen on punching holes in paper with a small bore gun, practicing your bow drawing, shooting clay pigeons, or aiming your rifle for your next big game hunt, public shooting ranges are available from Alaska to Florida. Over the last three years, more than 850 series have been designed, built or operated with support from Pittman-Robertson. A new line opened in Fairbanks last month and the newest is celebrating its grand opening in Palm Beach, Florida next week.
On the fisheries side, Dingell-Johnson provides the resources necessary for the day-to-day operations of fisheries management in government agencies. Biologists need boats and fuel and nets and special equipment to do their job of assessing and managing fish populations in the wild.
The work in the fish hatchery is labour-intensive; In 2021 alone, 321 state fish farms released a billion fish from more than 75 species of sport fish into public waters.
Let’s break down the hatchery further: 30 states farm largemouth bass; 23 states farm pike, pike and musk; 32 states breed walleye and suckers; 41 states farm rainbow, brook, brook, lake, golden, and cutthroat trout; 21 states farm and stock white bass and striped bass. Dingell-johnson pays for all this work.
And let’s not forget boating and fishing access. Dingell-johnson has funded 9,000 boat launches across the country. Other access projects are less conspicuous, such as The largest event in competitive fishing, the Bassmaster Classic often centers on boat ramps paid for by Dingell-Johnson funds and maintained and operated by state wildlife agencies.
The 85-year partnership between state wildlife agencies, the US Fish and Wildlife Service, and the industry has made major conservation victories that make National Hunting and Fish Day all the more meaningful. The hardware of fishing and the main tools of hunting and target shooting are the currency of conservation. That year, Pittman-Robertson had $1.1 billion available and Dingell-Johnson $399 million.
I encourage you to take someone new or reconnect with friends and family, fish and hunt. Introduce them to the workings of nature—and reacquaint themselves with the innocent wonders that manifest themselves in the eddies of a stream or in the orange capillaries of the first light breaking in the deer park.