Published since 1946
2018 Fish and Wildlife Business Summit Scheduled for Late August in Springfield, MO; Focus on Communicating the American System of Conservation Funding
The 2018 Fish and Wildlife Business Summit will be held August 27-29, 2018 at the White River Conference Center, adjacent to the Bass Pro Shops Wonders of Wildlife Museum in Springfield, Missouri. For the past 12 years, partners from state and federal wildlife agencies, industry, and conservation organizations have gathered annually to “sharpen the saw” on the excise tax program that provides a major source of funding for wildlife conservation. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s Wildlife and Sport Fish Restoration Program is responsible for the collection and disbursement of federal excise taxes (FET) paid by industry and delivered to state fish and wildlife agencies for conservation programs.
Since the early 1900s, fish and wildlife conservation in America has been supported, driven, and funded by sportsmen and women who purchase hunting and angling related products. Collectively, these funds have contributed more than $19 billion in conservation funding to state fish and wildlife agencies. These vital revenue streams help fund programs that provide the public with opportunities for fish and wildlife-associated recreation, recreational shooting, and boating. However, the security and stability of the FET is not guaranteed. It depends, not only on the participation of the public, through the purchase of licenses, permits, and taxable equipment, but also on the relationships and partnerships among the manufacturers and retailers paying the FET, the state fish and wildlife agencies, and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
Over the past 80 years, the relationships that developed to promote conservation in our country have ebbed and flowed due to numerous extraneous factors, including changing leadership, political climates, market pressures, customer demographics, and participation trends. The constants that have allowed us to weather external pressures to changes in the FET program are largely based on the long-standing personal and professional relationships built among our partners. Annually, the FET program contributes more than $1 billion to the more than $4 billion in direct expenditures for fish and wildlife-associated conservation and recreation in our country.
Today’s media-savvy public is arguably more informed now than at any time in our past. However, they remain largely ignorant of the differences between the principles of conservation and preservation, the role each of those principles played in the founding and development of our country, and more importantly, the economic engine that supports our conservation efforts and our communities. This American System of Conservation Funding is truly a “user-pay, public benefit” for our country. But, although this system annually creates more than $145 billion in economic impact and tens of thousands of jobs, it is a system that the general public, our customers, and in many cases, our partners, know little about.
Our challenge at this year’s Summit is focused on telling the story of conservation in our country. In the past decade, we have examined the issue and have delineated the several obstacles that must be overcome before we can truly spread the word of conservation as a collaborative endeavor – requiring customers, manufacturers, retailers, state agencies, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and conservation non-profits to all do their part. These obstacles include the following:
- Our American System of Conservation Funding is poorly understood by hunters, anglers, boaters, and recreational shooters. Our community has failed to create a consistent, understandable, and captivating story that would create a shared sense of recognition and pride-in-ownership.
- The American System of Conservation Funding is largely unknown to the general public, the same people that will ultimately decide the fate and future of conservation in our country.
- Our overall messaging has fallen short of explaining the importance of long-term, stable funding in helping to secure the North American Model of Fish and Wildlife Conservation.
- Agency personnel have a poor understanding of the origin, source, and industry sacrifice of the major funding streams created by the FET.
- Industry personnel have a poor understanding of how FET dollars directly support the profitability of their businesses by helping to fund fish and wildlife conservation in our country.
- Angling and hunting participation continues to decline, which affects license purchases and therefore impacts both the amount and distribution of FET dollars for conservation programs.
In order to continue to sustain the conservation of our wildlife resources and the outdoor-associated recreation upon which our community depends, we must communicate much more effectively about the American System of Conservation Funding with targeted internal and external stakeholders and the public. We can no longer afford to communicate only periodically, haphazardly, and inconsistently. To be most effective, we need to bring together the major FET partners (Industry, State Agencies and USFWS) to attack this communications challenge with a science-based, market research-driven approach. By working to examine and overcome these obstacles, the participants in this year’s Summit hope to achieve the following outcomes:
- Key target audiences hear and understand our conservation story – what has been accomplished, what we are doing today, and what the future holds.
- A broader understanding and appreciation for our successes, failures, challenges, and needs.
- A course set to make conservation relevant in our country once again – a responsibility of citizenship as Theodore Roosevelt once preached.
- Achieve dedicated conservation funding for all wildlife in our country.
- A society that supports and insists on sustaining our American System of Conservation Funding – at the local, state, federal, and international levels.
- Educate key segments of the American public to help deflect an ideology that offers alternatives that may look good on paper but will result in long-term devastating results for the wildlife we all cherish.