Sportsmen’s Act of 2013-Update

The Sportsmen’s Act of 2012 became the Sportsmen’s Act of 2013 and may now become the Sportsmen’s Act of 2014 if recent events are any indication. The Sportsmen’s Act will not only impact your customers, it may also impact your business.

The Sportsmen’s Act of 2013 (S. 3525), which includes sixteen separate House and Senate bills, passed with flying colors through two procedural votes in the Senate in May by margins of 92-5 and 84-12. Many felt that with these two votes being so decidedly for it that it would easily pass with bi-partisan support when the entire Act was voted upon. Unfortunately for both your customers and the great outdoors the Sportsmen’s Act of 2013 was never voted upon due to an issue it creates with a 2011 budget agreement along with two issues some conservation groups have with the language regarding polar bears and lead usage.

The first issue the Act creates is over the increase in the cost of the Federal Migratory Bird Hunting and Conservation Stamps, commonly called duck stamps. The Act currently asks for an increase in cost from $15 to $25; this increase goes against the 2011 budget agreement that is in place to keep Congress from such price increases. A motion was called to waive this point and put the Act up for a vote. The motion failed by just ten votes and as such the Act was shelved until this sticking point could be agreed upon.

If the cost increase stands it would reduce the deficit by an estimated $5 million according to the Congressional Budget Office. This price increase is supported by dozens of groups who represent hunters and anglers who would all benefit from the price hike and are the ones who would pay the additional $10. Ninety-eight cents from every dollar of these stamps goes into protection and obtaining lands for the National Wildlife Refuge System – lands that these same hunters and anglers use to pursue their sports. These same hunters and anglers are your customers; with an increase in lands loss to hunt and fish in recent years being the main reason more abstain from participating in these sports, it could have proven to be a way to reverse this trend.

The conservation groups sighed in relief when this happened because of their two issues with the Act as it is currently written. Their first problem is that the Act would allow polar bears from Canada that were harvested before the U.S Fish and Wildlife Service listing of polar bears as a threatened species under the Endangered Species Act. The fear is that the Act would set a bad precedent for trafficking endangered and threatened species into the United States. Though the bears were harvested before the ruling, legally they are still unable to be delivered to their rightful owners. For many fishing tackle retailers this is a nonissue, but still a sticking point for the Sportsmen’s Act.

The final issue with the Act, and one that will impact you, the retailer, the most in the coming years is the usage of lead in both fishing and hunting. The current language in the Act denies the federal government, including the Environmental Protection Agency, the amount of lead that could be used in or near our nation’s waters. California, New Hampshire and Maine have already taken this issue upon themselves on a state level and have either banned or lessened the usage of lead in some manner or will in the coming months. As a retailer this can and will directly impact your business.

Lead is inexpensive, yet highly reliable in getting bait and lures down to where the big fish lurk. If lead is banned outright, what will anglers use? Yes there are lead substitutes but hunters have already discovered that these substitutes cost much more than lead itself. Will your customers be willing or able to pay for the increase in cost to fish if a lead ban is enacted?

The Sportsmen’s Act of 2012 may become the Act of 2013 or 2014, only time will tell. Some feel that the Act may be pushed through during this lame duck 113th Congress after a period of debate and refinement, if not it will be visited again next year. As a business owner it is key to remember that these 16 separate bills and programs it supports do not just protect our lands and wildlife, it also increases access to them by your customers. Outdoor recreationalists contributed $646 billion dollars into our economy last year alone. Your business saw a share of that $646 billion dollars, and if this Act passes that number could and will increase in the coming year.

What are your thoughts on the Sportsmen’s Act of 2013 and its failure to pass so far? Do you think its success or failure will have a direct impact on your business and customers? Share your thoughts with us and your fellow fishing tackle retailers on our Facebook page and on our LinkedIn group.