Field Trialers -- Consider This Our Wake-up Call!by Geoffrey English
If you have not heard about the Pittman-Robertson Act, and the abuses taking place within the United States Fish and Wildlife Services (USFWS), pay attention, our sport is under attack and the “wolf is in sheep’s clothing”.
Without both public and private land, our sport would not exist.
Photo by: Author
For those of you that are not familiar with the Pittman-Robertson Act, the act was established in 1937, to manage monies derived from federal excise taxes paid on the purchase of firearms, ammunition, fishing equipment, etc. By law, these funds are to be allocated to state wildlife agencies for the acquisition and maintenance of state land and wildlife restoration projects. Since its inception, the United States Fish and Wildlife Service has been responsible for managing more than $3.4 billion accumulated in the Pittman-Robertson Trust Fund. Sounds good, doesn’t it? In theory, the Act seems to benefit the sportsmen and preserve the future of our sport, much the way hunting license proceeds do.
Under this act, an event can be barred from these public use areas if it meets a simple “acid test”:
- If an event destroys habitat or interferes with habitat restoration,
- Disrupts or destroys wildlife on these areas,
- Interferes with other public use on these areas,
- Requires additional facilities or habitat changes
Recently, the United States Fish and Wildlife Service has cloaked the sheep’s garments and has attacked our sport undetected. A handful of regional USFWS bureaucrats have attempted to establish a ban on field trials held on land acquired and/or maintained by Pittman-Robertson funds, sighting that such activities meet the acid test above.
On July 19, 2000, in a written statement before the U.S. Senate, Environment & Public Works Committee, by Thomas Honecker and The Pittman-Robertson Working Group refuted this claim stating, “…trialing is intimately connected to hunting, that trialing supports the training of dogs in a manner that assures conservation of game while hunting. It shows that all of the funding to support P-R grounds comes from taxes and fees paid by hunters, and that trialers are these same people. It also shows that, despite being a traditional use, trialing takes place on only a very small part of the available P-R grounds. Lastly, it shows that while habitat damage has been alleged to arise from trialing, none has actually been demonstrated or documented. We thus believe that action to prohibit trialing on P-R grounds has no basis, that trialing is not at all an incompatible use.”
Since 1937, when President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed into law the Act sponsored by Senator Key Pittman of Nevada and Representative A. Willis Robertson of Virginia, field trailing and dog tests have been an accepted use of land acquired and maintained with Pittman-Robertson funds. However, in December of 1999, the USFWS forced the cancellation of field trials and dog tests on four properties in Michigan by threatening to withhold $5.5 million (annually) in funds allocated to the state if the state did not go along with the ban on field trials. These actions border on EXTORTION!