They're off the team

  Dear HCN,

Someone's getting some wires crossed about the Teaming With Wildlife proposal. One letter writer (HCN, 1/20/97) interpreted your article to find opposition only from the far left and the wacky right, while claiming off-highway vehicle producers supported it.

As far as we know, none of the off-highway vehicle manufacturers has taken a position on the issue. However, among the outdoor apparel industry and the major national recreational organizations, opposition seems pretty universal. The American Motorcyclist Association's opposition is based on the potential to include motorcycles and added costs for accessories and peripheral equipment used by motorcyclists (tents, sleeping bags, film, binoculars, etc.).

Under "Teaming," the state fish and game agencies that would receive the funds are notoriously averse to working with anyone outside of their community. These agencies have taken on massive acreage for management but almost never cooperate with recreation. The legislative proposals we've seen do not require such cooperative efforts and disguise the tax as a user fee on purchases of outdoor apparel and recreational equipment.

Generally, when you place a special tax on an identifiable group, they can reasonably expect some services in return. These taxes are broadly called user fees. We pay gas taxes and get roads, airline ticket taxes and get better radar systems, OHV sticker taxes and get riding areas. The "Teaming" proposal offers nothing in return for the taxes.

The fish and wildlife agencies do face increased mandates to provide more care to nongame species and should be on the hunt for new partners and funding sources. However, they should not package a tax, call it a user fee and continue to refuse to be responsive to the constituency they claim they've created. No matter how much the proponents of this proposal dress it up, this pig simply won't dance!

Eric J. Lundquist

Westerville, Ohio

The writer is a legislative affairs specialist for the American Motorcyclist Association.

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