Pheasants Forever works for America’s wildlife and natural resources in in Washington D.C. and state capitols across the country. Pheasants Forever volunteers, members and staff work hand-in-hand with America’s farmers, ranchers and landowners to implement conservation and wildlife habitat projects that compliment working farms and ranches across the nation. We also work with our state and federal agency partners on public land to enhance wildlife habitat while providing hunting, fishing and recreational access.
This interconnected web of conservation on private and public lands, while working with state and federal agencies and conservation partners, is what makes the North American Model of Wildlife Conservation the best in the world.
It takes good habitat to produce abundant wildlife. It takes solid funding and sound national and state conservation policy to help shape those habitats on public and private lands. These policy efforts originate in Congress are approved by the White House. These policies create on-the-ground and in-the-dirt programs that are ultimately delivered to states, counties and communities across the country. State and federal agencies, conservation partners, and especially the volunteer grassroots efforts of our local PF/QF chapters, then make conservation happen.
A handful of federal legislation initiatives shape conservation and wildlife programs that direct billions of dollars and impact hundreds of millions of acres. These funding mechanisms help manage wildlife populations, provide hunting access, and ultimately shape our hunting experience on public and private lands.
Pheasants Forever’s Governmental Affairs team advocates for good conservation, wildlife and habitat policy. It’s hard work to help enact (or oppose) any type of legislation, reauthorize current programs, and appropriate funds to allow authorized programs to function as intended. That’s what we do for upland wildlife: We engage on these legislative priorities, often with a coalition of other conservation groups and partners.
You, as a Pheasants Forever grassroots member and supporter, are key to these efforts. When we ask, we need you to engage and advocate with your phone calls, emails or personalized letters to your legislators and our agency partners. Your voice matters, and often makes the difference in these efforts.
Together we can ensure that sound wildlife conservation practices persist, and that we can dig in and push back on legislation that threatens our wildlife and our hunting heritage.
Director of Governmental Affairs
Washington, D.C. Representative
The Farm Bill and its conservation components make an unmatched impact on our nation’s upland wildlife habitat and hunting access
1985 marks the beginning of the modern-day Farm Bill, also known as the Agriculture and/or Food Security Acts. Agricultural policy dates to the early 1900s, but true conservation policies only emerged in the 1930s in response to the Great Depression and related conservation issues from the Dust Bowl era. Soil stabilization, water quality and commodity price control were factors in the policymaking.
The 2018 Farm Bill authorizes approximately $30 billion in conservation funding through 2023.
The Farm Bill provides conservation funding and programs that reduce soil erosion, and improve water and air quality, while creating and enhancing wildlife habitat. The legislation also increases land that may be open for public hunting and fishing access. Farm Bill funding supports the United States Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), the U.S. Forest Service (USFS) and Farm Service Agency (FSA), three organizations that implement the full suite of Farm Bill conservation and land management programs. Each year, the suite of Farm Bill conservation programs impact 10’s of millions of acres.
Created as part of the 1985 Farm Bill, CRP provides approximately $2 billion each year for conservation on about 25 million acres. The 2018 Farm Bill increased the acreage cap from 24 million acres to 27 million. CRP offers a mix of programs that now range from 3- to 5-, 10-, 15- or 30-year contracts, depending on the type of practice. Examples include grassland, trees, windbreaks, field borders, stream buffers, pollinator plots, food plots and wetlands.
This new program for the prairie pothole states provides up to 50,000 acres and 3 to 5 years of rental payment on low-yielding soils.
This program created a 30-year option for practices that result in clean lakes, estuaries and rivers in the Chesapeake Bay and Great Lakes regions.
EQIP funding assures that at least 10 percent of its dollars are used for wildlife conservation practices. Programs within EQIP include the successful Working Lands for Wildlife (WLFW) program that showcases the Sage Grouse Initiative in the West, the Lesser Prairie Chicken Initiative in the Southern Great Plains, and eastern forest initiatives focused on improving habitat for bobwhite quail, the golden-winged warbler and other important wildlife.
The 2018 Farm Bill increased ACEP funding to $450 million per year. ACEP provides long-term and perpetual easements for farmland and critical habitat types. The Wetlands Reserve Easement Program is a key tool for long- term and perpetual easement, which often feature an upland grassland component or bottomland hardwood practice depending on region.
This program provides $50 million annually to state wildlife agencies to expand access and habitat improvement on private land for hunting, fishing and outdoor recreation. If you utilize walk-in hunting areas, thank VPA-HIP and that state’s game department.
RCPP provides $300 million per year to leverage local, state and other non-federal funding sources to create and enhance conservation and wildlife habitat on private lands.
CSP assists farmers, ranchers and landowners with existing conservation efforts while strengthening and enhancing their agriculture operation. Elements of CSP can improve grazing conditions, increase crop resiliency or develop wildlife habitat. This funding includes projects for private forestland owners for Timber Stand Improvements (TSI) and invasive vegetative species control.
With P-R, sportsmen and women voluntarily taxed themselves for better conservation practices that serve everyone, not just hunters and anglers
The Pittman-Robertson (P-R) Wildlife Restoration Act originally passed in 1937, and the related Dingell-Johnson (D-J) Sport Fish Restoration Act originally passed in 1950.
Federal P-R funds are generated through an 11 percent excise tax on all firearms, ammunition and archery equipment. P-R and D-J funding fluctuates depending on how much is produced and sold by hunting and fishing equipment manufacturers annually. $972 million was the allocation in fiscal year 2020. Conservation and wildlife projects typically must receive a 25 percent match from non-federal sources, such as financial or in-kind donations from organizations such as Pheasants Forever, or state fish and wildlife agencies (which primarily use revenue generated by state hunting, fishing and trapping license fees).
P-R and D-J provide a cornerstone of financial support to state agencies for wildlife management. The P-R program is administered by the USFWS in conjunction with the Dingell-Johnson (D-J) Sport Fish Restoration Act for sport fish restoration and management. P-R and D-J have provided more than $21 billion for wildlife and sport fish management, matched by more than $7.3 billion provided by individual states. P-R/D-J funds have supported:
Your public lands – and recreational access to them – depend on LWCF
The LWCF was originally passed in 1964.
LWCF is funded up $900 million annually, depending on appropriations. Each year, money from federal offshore oil and gas leases is deposited into a designated LWCF account. Congress must then appropriate these funds for their intended conservation and recreation benefits. It is worth noting that only once in LWCF’s 50-year-plus history has Congress appropriated the full $900 million; the rest of these funds have been diverted for other uses.
A portion of LWCF funds are dedicated to acquiring new federal lands, supporting public recreational access, helping conserve wildlife migration corridors and impacting important seasonal habitats. LWCF also provides matching grants for the planning, acquiring and developing public outdoor recreation areas and facilities by state and local governments. Since 1964 LWCF has:
Along with a coalition of conservation partners, Pheasants Forever worked with Congress on passing the John Dingell Jr. Conservation, Management and Recreation Act which permanently authorized LWCF. LWCF is now permanent law and doesn’t need periodic reauthorization. The 2020 LWCF appropriation was $495 million, which is the highest amount in 15 years but still below the $900 million target that we annually advocate for.
NAWCA acquires, restores, protects and creates wetlands, which are some of upland wildlife’s best friends
NAWCA was originally passed in 1989.
NAWCA is funded at about $75 million per year, depending on appropriations. Federal funds for NAWCA include a blend of general appropriations, federal account interest earned, some P-R funds, and Migratory Bird Treaty Act fines. NAWCA projects must provide at least a 1:1 match, meaning one dollar from a non-federal source must match up with every dollar of federal money allotted. Federal funds are often doubled or tripled at the local level.
NAWCA provides federal funding to leverage non-federal matching funds from state wildlife agencies and other non-profit and local conservation partners to protect, restore and manage wetland habitat for migratory birds and other wildlife. Anyone who has hunted a waterfowl area or wetland complex knows that pheasants and upland wildlife thrive in those environs! To date, NAWCA has:
Due to NAWCA’s wide range of benefits, Congress has consistently shown strong bipartisan support and the program has been included in every presidential budget request since the program’s beginning. Two companion bills have been introduced (NAWCA authorization through fiscal year 2024). This legislation will most likely be packaged with other bills. Look for legislative action alerts from Pheasants Forever and other conservation groups to help get NAWCA across the finish line.
RAWA would fund conservation efforts on wildlife species at risk
If passed, RAWA will provide $1.4 billion in dedicated annual funding to state wildlife agencies and tribes for conservation efforts focused on recovering wildlife species at risk.
RAWA will create a much-needed permanent dedicated funding source for state wildlife agencies. If passed, we will see large-scale habitat efforts enacted that benefit pheasants, quail and all wildlife.
The coalition of RAWA supporters (including Pheasants Forever and Quail Forever) has worked for several years to pass the legislation independently. We have also looked at opportunities to pass RAWA as part of a larger conservation package. RAWA will require new conservation funding dollars from the general treasury. New spending bills can be challenging to pass but can be done and are necessary for the advancement of species conservation.
MAPLands offers the potential to unlock millions of acres of public land to access for hunting, fishing and other recreation
MAPLand legislation was introduced in March of 2020.
For many of us, our outdoor pursuits take place on a combination of public and private lands. We often find it challenging to navigate the boundaries of lands in mixed ownership and to find the access points that get us to and from our public lands.
Many land management agencies’ records of access and easements across private lands are held on paper files at local offices. These records cannot be easily accessed or reviewed. The Forest Service (USFS) alone has an estimated 37,000 recorded easements, but only 5,000 have been digitized and uploaded to an electronic database. The MAPLand Act will standardize the digitization and accessibility of information regarding recreational access on millions of acres of federal public lands throughout the United States. The MAPLand Act would also require that federal land management agencies digitize recorded access easements held across private lands.
The MAPLand Act was recently instructed in Congress, and members are gaining awareness to its purpose and need. The more you let your legislator know you support the MAPLand Act, the better chance it has of creating access to your public lands.
Federal lands need maintenance and restoration, and ROPA aims to fund the backlog
ROPA legislation was introduced in February 2019.
ROPA’s goal is to provide resources for the billions of dollars needed to perform backlog maintenance on America’s federal lands, especially with our national parks and forests. From building maintenance to upgrading roads, maintenance funds are often cut back in budget negotiations. We need secure funding so that wildlife and natural resource management funding is not diverted away from our obligations to our public lands. ROPA would positively impact hunting, fishing and overall outdoor recreation access by improving roads, bridges and infrastructure.
There has been discussion in Congress about including ROPA in the Great American Outdoors Act package of bills along with LWCF.
7 concepts that anchor our continent’s approach to managing wildlife and wild places.
The North American Model of Wildlife Conservation is the world's most successful system of policies and laws to restore and safeguard fish and wildlife and their habitats through sound science and active management. We must go back to 1909, when commissioners representing Canada, Mexico and the United States convened the North American Conservation Congress, with President Theodore Roosevelt representing the U.S. The model operates on what have become seven interdependent principles:
Private ownership of wildlife is not allowed; wildlife resources are owned by the public and managed by government agencies for the benefit of the public. At the core of this tenet, and the North American Model as a whole, is the Public Trust Doctrine, a Supreme Court decision which, as noted by The Wildlife Society, “… establishes a trustee relationship of government to hold and manage wildlife, fish, and waterways for the benefit of the resources and the public.”
Commercial hunting and the possession and sale of wildlife is strictly prohibited (though with some exceptions, such as fur buyers and commercial venison farming).
Whether through legislation or via regulatory processes, the public shall have the opportunity to shape wildlife management policies.
To prevent the wanton waste of game, North American wildlife may only be killed for non-frivolous reasons, such as for food, fur, self-defense and protecting private property.
As wildlife do not recognize international boundaries, they shall be managed cooperatively between neighboring nations.
Every citizen has the freedom to hunt, subject to state and federal rules and regulations.
Visit Quail Forever
The quail division of our upland wildlife conservation org.
Pheasants Forever is a 501(c)(3) charitable organization. Your donation is tax deductible under the fullest extent of the law.