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Topic: Recreation     Department: Letters

Where there's a will, there's a way

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Paul Larmer's editor's note and the feature article by Greg Hanscom each present a valid point: The multibillion-dollar outdoor industry makes a minuscule contribution to conservation (HCN, 7/23/12, "The Hardest Climb").

But take a look on the other side of the fence: The Federal Aid in Wildlife Restoration Act, passed in 1938 in the middle of the Great Depression, put an 11 percent excise tax on sporting arms and ammunition. Collected at the manufacturers' level, the federal government apportioned these funds for state wildlife research and surveys, habitat acquisition and management, and related education. The hunting community and the firearms industry enthusiastically endorsed this concept.

In 1950, the parallel Federal Aid in Sport Fish Restoration Act passed, also with industry and angler support, placing an excise tax on sports fishing equipment. This money is dedicated to state management, conservation and restoration of fishery resources.

Since their inception, these two industry taxes have contributed more than $12 billion to conservation. However, neither of these programs directly supports species that are not hunted or fished. So in 1996, an attempt was made to pass another program to support conservation of all species. This Fish and Wildlife Diversity Funding Initiative program would be paid for with an excise tax of up to 5 percent on other outdoor products, raising about $350 million per year for general wildlife conservation, recreation support and education. It failed because of opposition from anti-tax groups and some members of the outdoor industry.

To paraphrase and build on what Paul Larmer wrote: Surely, this robust outdoor industry and its clientele can  -- and should -- do more to support conservation.

Warren Aney
Tigard, Oregon

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