PA Senate Action Diverts Game Fund Money, Puts Federal Wildlife Funding At Risk

Originally Posted June 18, 2024

Posted by Pennsylvania BHA | September 07, 2023

The Pennsylvania Chapter of Backcountry Hunters & Anglers is disappointed in the actions taken in the State Senate August 30, 2023 when a last-minute amendment was added to HB 1300 that if enacted, would transfer $150 million from the Game Fund. This proposal was made with little advance notice, was attached to a broad appropriations bill and passed through the Senate in one day. You can view the vote here.

This action sets a dangerous precedent for future legislative sessions and violates the trust of the nearly one million hunters in Pennsylvania who have paid into the Game Fund either directly through license fees or indirectly through the excise tax on hunting and shooting supplies known as the Pittman-Robertson fund with the understanding that those monies will be deposited in the Game Fund and be used for the benefit of the Commonwealth’s wildlife, wildlife habitats and the administration of the agency responsible for them, the Pennsylvania Game Commission (PGC).

The PGC functions entirely without General Fund or tax dollars. If future legislators follow suit and conduct further raids on the fund, it will result in immense damage to the Commission’s ability to carry out its mission, as the Game Fund is earmarked for wildlife conservation and administration of the Commission and is the PGC’s sole source of funds.

This action sets a dangerous precedent for future legislative sessions and violates the trust of the nearly one million hunters in Pennsylvania who have paid into the Game Fund either directly through license fees or indirectly through the excise tax on hunting and shooting supplies known as the Pittman-Robertson fund..
Another result of this action is the possibility that Pennsylvania could become ineligible to receive federal Pittman-Robertson funds.

Click Here to see a letter from the US Fish & Wildlife Service about the diversion of funds HB1300 creates.

Pittman-Robertson funds are derived from a federal excise tax on hunting and shooting equipment. PR funds are collected by the federal government and disbursed to the states as matching grant money to state wildlife agencies. In 2023 Pennsylvania received nearly $42 million in funding from this program. Mainly due to the large number of hunters in Pennsylvania, it ranks third among the 50 states in the amount of money received each year. The shooting and hunting industry and its customers — shooters and hunters — proudly pay into the fund to support wildlife, the North American Model of Conservation and our hunting heritage.

Eligibility for these federal funds is dependent on revenue derived from the state sale of hunting and fishing licenses being controlled by the state agency and used only for administration of the state fish and wildlife agency; which includes only the functions required to manage the agency and the wildlife-related resources for which the agency has authority under state law.

Any diversion of these funds could render the state ineligible for PR funds (See Sections 80.10, 80.11, 80.20 of the Federal code HERE ). As stated in the amendment to HB 1300, the dollars being targeted for diversion from the Game Fund are from revenue derived from oil and gas leases on state game lands. Those dollars are inextricably linked with hunter license fee dollars. Hunter license fees were used to purchase these lands. Therefore, any ensuing revenue would likely be considered under the category of hunting license fee revenue.

If passed into law, this amendment would not only dispossess Pennsylvania of a functioning wildlife agency able to manage its own finances, it would also deprive the hunters in our state of conservation funding they have already paid for.

You might also be interested in…