Recently, the Massachusetts Division of Fisheries and Wildlife (DFW) has asked the sporting community to support a drastic increase in license fees. In their proposal, most license fees would double and stamps, such as waterfowl stamps, would quadruple. The rationale behind these enormous increases is that the DFW has not had any increases since 1996.
In the past, GOAL has supported modest increases to licensing fees, as the management of our resources sometimes requires such increases. We even supported the creation of the Wildlands Conservation Stamp to help safeguard the lands we hold so dear. However, this dramatic increase request comes at a rather troubling time. It is GOAL’s opinion that before we agree to any further fee increases some serious issues need to be addressed.
Some history. For nearly fifty years, Gun Owners’ Action League (GOAL) has been among the leading organizations that has been fighting to fund and protect the DFW from political influences. We often get questions from our own members as to why GOAL gets involved in wildlife management. The simple answer is this: it is your money.
Since the 1930’s, gun owners have been footing the majority of the bill for state level wildlife management through a federal program called the Federal Aid in Wildlife Restoration Act (formerly the Pittman-Robertson Act). Through this program, gun owners pay a 10 – 11% excise tax at the manufacturer level on new guns, ammunition, and other items. Those funds are then distributed to the state level fish & wildlife agencies through a formula and then partially matched with money from the sale of licenses. Since the majority of DFW funding comes from gun owners, GOAL has always sought to make sure the money is spent only on professional wildlife management-and not political hackery.
So, in keeping with our historic guardianship of your money, before GOAL can support such drastic increases, we believe their needs to be much more discussion about the future of the agency and here are problems that need to be addressed:
- The DFW’s recent foray into creating regulations in regard to coyote hunting was a purely political process, pushed by anti-hunters who would, if possible, put an outright ban on hunting altogether. This regulation and the process that spawned it, represented a sea change in how DFW operates where the voices of the sporting (the very people who fund the agency) were seemingly completely ignored.
- For decades, our community has treated the DFW differently from the overall state bureaucracy. Historically, we were proud to fund and protect the agency, but recent events have shown that it may no longer be worthy of our protection. In fact, it may be to our community’s benefit to start treating the DFW like they are just part of the overall bureaucracy.
- Although the gun owning and sporting communities have all but completely funded professional wildlife management in Massachusetts, we receive little, or no, respect or recognition for it. In the last few decades our communities have all but been ignored by the Legislature and the Governor’s office. In fact, these entities have actually become increasingly hostile to our overly generous people and priorities.
- There is a national discussion taking place because the current system (The Federal Aid in Wildlife Restoration Act) is beginning to fail. It is certainly not due to a lack of gun and ammunition sales-quite to the contrary. The problem is the declining sale of hunting licenses-especially in states like the Commonwealth, where gun owners and the sporting community face outright social bigotry from their own government. This being the case, why would we be so quick to agree to bail out a government the seems to hate us?
- Specifically regarding the Legislature, the sporting community gets no respect and no recognition for the work and funding we provide. In the past, even our efforts to make simple changes in the law to allow for things like legalizing crossbows for general hunting purposes, are summarily shut down without regard for our countless hours of advocacy work.
- During this COVID-19 period, we have also experienced our government targeting our industry, by specifically and intentionally shut down firearm retailers and access to mandatory training including hunter education. These deliberate attacks were not from a grateful government, but rather a hateful and spiteful one. Given this attitude toward us, why would we agree to feed the beast even more?