Published since 1946
Strengthening State/Industry Partnerships
Many state fish and wildlife agencies know how important it is to develop and maintain strong relationships with industry partners – particularly those partners who contribute 10 or 11 percent of their sales to the Wildlife and Sport Fish Restoration Funds. However, there is one action that agency leadership and staff might consider when trying to build and/or strengthen these relationships. Credited to Jim Curcuruto with the National Shooting Sports Foundation (NSSF), this activity is becoming known as “Partner with a Payer” and there are some great examples where it has been successful over the past year.
The idea is simple: identify industry partners in the state and invite them to “get their hands dirty” doing some everyday agency activities. These are not ribbon cuttings or grand openings – although those are great ways to build partnerships and express appreciation – these should be the activities biologists and area managers do on a daily basis, such as fish sampling projects, wildlife population work, working with landowners on access projects, etc. These activities are the ones that may appear to be “routine,” but they are very interesting to those who work in the business of hunting, fishing, shooting, and boating. It is likely that industry partners know the agency is the ultimate recipient of their excise tax dollars, but most probably do not know how those dollars are spent. Taking them out to show them can strengthen the agency/industry relationship.
It is likely that industry partners know the agency is the ultimate recipient of their excise tax dollars, but most probably do not know how those dollars are spent. Taking them out to show them can strengthen the agency/industry relationship.
A great example of how this can work happened recently in Connecticut. The CT Department of Energy and Environmental Protection (DEEP), with the assistance of the Northeast Region of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS), connected with the NSSF and Thompson/Center Firearms and invited them to accompany agency biologists collecting biological data from denning black bears. Thompson/Center Firearms developed an excellent video to document the event. The bottom line for the CT DEEP is that they strengthened their partnership with an excise tax payer and got some informative video developed and distributed that tells the story of the American System of Conservation Funding. Special thanks for this example is due to the folks at CT DEEP (Rick Jacobson) and the Northeast Region of the FWS (Tom Decker) who arranged the venture.
In another example, the Mississippi Department of Natural Resources (DNR) is constructing a public-access shooting range on the Charles Ray Nix Wildlife Management Area in the northern part of the state (Panola County). Winchester Ammunition, which has a manufacturing facility nearby in Oxford, is partnering with the state on this project.
Agencies can take the partnership a step further and arrange for the industry to reciprocate by taking agency leadership into their facilities for a day. An example of this also comes from the NSSF and Northeast Region of the FWS (with the leadership of Tom Decker). They worked with the Mossberg Factory in Connecticut and arranged for the FWS Grant Coordinators to tour the manufacturing facility to get a better understanding where the excise taxes originate.
Partnering with industries that pay excise taxes into the Wildlife and Sport Fish Restoration Funds can yield some exciting results. The bottom line is that for a relatively minor inconvenience during daily work activities and a small commitment of time, there is an opportunity to develop strong relationships with important partners and possibly some quality media coverage – not to mention the personal friendships that will likely develop.
Agencies that are interested in taking on this opportunity, can connect Mitch King, 303-585-0377, (with assistance from the industry associations - NSSF, ATA, ASA and NMMA) for help connecting with industry partners in your state. Alternatively, the Wildlife Management Institute industry website includes a list of companies by state.
One last thing – if your agency has done something similar, or decides to take advantage of this opportunity, let Mitch know about your venture in order to learn more from the experiences.