Experts cite a lack of access to hunting and fishing sites as one possible cause for a decline in outdoors involvements, particularly for hunting areas.
With all the talk and fears about falling off a financial fiscal cliff, proposals to impose an added conservation sales tax might raise more ire than approval right now.
Yet a report in the winter, 2013 edition of Pheasants Forever magazine outlines the accomplishments and advantages of collecting additional taxpayer funds that can be dedicated exclusively for conservation-specific programs: Land acquisition, soil and water management, access construction and upkeep, and many other outdoors programs.
David Murphy, Director of the Conservation Federation of Missouri, reports that Missouri’s ∂ of a cent conservation sales tax has resulted in many positive outcomes.
This tax, in place since 1976, currently generates about $100 million each year.
Funds from this tax generate more than $11 billion in annual economic activity.
During nearly 40 years of its existence, Missouri has acquired over one million acres of public land and has logged the highest rate of hunter recruitment in the nation.
Agricultural programs have furthered the largest decrease in soil erosion rates of any state in the nation. Soil retention and enrichment have benefited wildlife as well as commercial farming production.
For anglers and swimmers, Missouri has seen an increase in the number of lakes and rivers considered swimmable and fishable in the past 20 years.
Through all those years of taxation, Murphy notes that conservation sales tax funding has received widespread political support each time the tax came up for a reauthorization vote.
Outdoors enthusiasts across New York have discussed the Missouri plan a number of times over the years. Fred Neff of Baldwinsville, advocate for habitat/access improvement programs, said, “Imagine what we would have if we adopted this approach.”
Neff has been a staunch supporter of Conservation Fund projects and the enactment of a Habitat/Access stamp to be sold with sporting license sales. Proposals to enact legislation on an Habitat/Access bill have met with opposition, not only from the general public but also some pro-hunters.
Chuck Godfrey, president of the Erie County Federation of Sportsmen’s Clubs who is actively involved in Conservation Fund issues, said: “The state just really doesn’t set aside funds for hunter and angler access. It’s zero.” Godfrey noted that, if anything, the state’s land buyout programs either result in no additional access and sometimes a loss of recreational areas that could be opened to hunters and anglers.