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September 26, 2019

NSSF’s “Partner with a Payer” Initiative Builds Relations between the Firearms Industry and Wildlife Agencies

By Jim Curcuruto, NSSF Director, Research and Market Development

The National Shooting Sports Foundation®’s (NSSF®’s) mission to promote, protect and preserve hunting and the shooting sports matches up nicely with many other organizations that share the thought that getting folks hunting and target shooting is a good thing. NSSF has a long history of working with organizations such as the United States Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS), the Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies (AFWA), and state wildlife agencies to communicate the many benefits of these outdoor activities. Spending time outdoors, connecting with nature, and harvesting local, organic, and sustainable protein, are a few key benefits, but an often overlooked, and certainly under-communicated benefit, is the impact that excise taxes on firearms and ammunition have on conservation and wildlife populations.

Many in the firearms industry and the vast majority of the general population are unaware that more than $3.5 billion in excise taxes have been paid by manufactures of firearms and ammunition in just the past five years. These billions of dollars support a large percentage of state wildlife agency budgets, allowing those agencies to conduct wildlife restoration and habitat improvement projects, train tomorrow’s hunters, and develop and maintain public shooting facilities.

Video Courtesy of Colt Firearms.

Tom Decker, wildlife biologist at FWS notes, “Industry and agencies have been working towards similar goals for the past 80 years, but, for the most part, we’ve been working independently.” To bridge that gap and combine efforts towards achieving common goals, USFWS, state wildlife agencies, and NSSF worked together to pilot an initiative entitled Partner with a Payer.

The premise is to connect excise tax-paying manufacturers with their local wildlife agencies to share what each other does. Since the first pilot in 2016, there have been 15 Partner with a Payer events that have included staff from Smith & Wesson, Thompson/Center, Colt’s Manufacturing and Mossberg, among others, who have gone afield with staff from wildlife agencies in Connecticut, Massachusetts, Vermont, and Maryland. These “field days” offer manufacturers the chance to see firsthand how excise tax dollars are spent on conservation projects.

One such field day occurred during the Spring of 2019 when Rick Jacobson, chief of fisheries, forestry and wildlife with the Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection (CT DEEP), and a team of biologists hosted staff from Colt’s Manufacturing to conduct research on black bears in the state. The field day consisted of tracking down a collared sow in her den, tranquilizing her, taking her vitals, and checking the health of her three cubs.

Partner with a payer - Colt Employees with bear cubs
Colt Manufacturing staff on a black bear den research field day in Connecticut, a Partner with a Payer event arranged by NSSF.

Information collected from hundreds of these studies allows CT DEEP to better understand the health and reproductive status of Connecticut black bear population. The data shows a very healthy population that could sustain a controlled hunting season; legislation has since been introduced for such a season. Jacobson noted, “Funding for this research comes almost exclusively from excise taxes. This important funding source allows us to better manage wildlife populations, conduct habitat improvement, and conserve Connecticut’s vast natural resources.”

Paul Spitale, senior vice president of commercial business at Colt’s Manufacturing stated, “Working in this industry allows for a lot of great experiences, but getting out in the field and seeing firsthand how excise taxes are put to use towards conservation is a day my staff and I will never forget. We are very proud to be a part of this cycle in conservation and appreciate the hard work done by wildlife agencies. I can highly recommend other manufacturers get on board with such Partner with a Payer events.”

Partner with a payer - Colt Factory Tour
Partner with a Payer Colt’s Manufacturing tour with members from USFWS, AFWA, Connecticut DEEP, and NSSF.

In addition to field days, manufacturers such as Mossberg, Smith & Wesson and Colt Manufacturing have rolled out the red carpet and invited staff from state and federal wildlife agencies to tour their facilities. In July 2019, Colt’s Manufacturing hosted a dozen staff from USFWS, AFWA, CT DEEP, and NSSF to learn how those excise tax products are produced.

Paul Rauch, assistant director of the USFWS Wildlife and Sport Fish Restoration Program, noted, “The tour of Colt’s facility was an eye-opening experience. It was interesting to learn about the technology, skill, craft, and experience that goes into manufacturing firearms, and great to see the pride taken by American workers in creating these products.”

USFWS and NSSF have developed a plan to scale Partner with a Payer to a national level. A task force has been created that includes USFWS staff from eight U.S. regions to assist with the logistics of field days and factory tours. Excise tax-paying manufacturers and state wildlife agencies interested in participating in a Partner with a Payer field day or factory tour can contact Tom Decker or Jim Curcuruto

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Tags: Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies Colt excise tax Fish and Wildlife Service Mossberg Pittman-Robertson Smith & Wesson wildlife conservation wildlife populations

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