H.R. 4429, Cormorant Control Act
H.R. 2591, Modernizing the Pittman-Robertson Fund for Tomorrow's Needs Act of 2017
Statement for the Record
U.S. Department of the Interior
Prepared for the House Natural Committee on Natural Resources
Subcommittee on Federal Lands Hearing on
H.R. 4429 – Cormorants Control Act
H.R. 2591 - Modernizing Pittman-Robertson for Tomorrow’s Needs Act of 2017
February 15, 2018
H.R. 4429 – Cormorants Control Act
H.R. 4429, the Cormorant Control Act, would direct the Secretary of the Interior to reissue a rule relating to extension of the expiration dates for double-crested cormorant depredation orders. The Department supports the goal of H.R. 4429, but recommends a technical amendment and an amendment to ensure an ongoing public engagement process to better understand the effects of cormorants is carried out.
As a matter of policy, the Department traditionally supports cormorant depredation orders for the lethal control of problem birds. However, in May 2016, the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia remanded the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s (FWS) 2014 Environmental Assessment (EA) and vacated two Depredation Orders for double-crested cormorants until the FWS prepared an adequate EA or Environmental Impact Assessment (EIS) pursuant to National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA).
The Department strongly supports reinstating methods to lethally control problem birds. To that end, on November 15, 2017, consistent with the Court’s direction, the FWS finalized an EA that provides for the issuance of individual permits to lethally control cormorants for health and human safety risks, damage to aquaculture facilities, impacts to federally-listed threatened or endangered species, and damage to property, while ensuring the long-term health of the cormorant population.
The EA released on November 15, 2017, did not include potential damage to recreational and free-swimming fish by cormorants. However, FWS is working with state fish and wildlife agencies, tribes and other stakeholders to review the science and available data to better understand the impacts cormorants have on free-swimming fish populations and recreational and commercial fishing. This process is expected to take approximately one year. This will include identifying the monitoring needs necessary to address the issue and gathering better scientific information that could be used in the NEPA review and decision making process.
Until this evaluation and potential NEPA review process is complete, the Department supports a temporary authorization of lethal taking of problem birds through legislation, while ensuring the long-term health of cormorant populations. The Department would like to work with the sponsor and the Subcommittee to draft language to ensure that H.R. 4429 accomplishes that objective.
H.R. 2591 – Modernizing the Pittman-Robertson Fund for Tomorrow’s Needs Act of 2017
The Pittman-Robertson Wildlife Restoration Act (P-R Act), passed in 1937, along with the Dingell-Johnson Sport Fish Restoration Act (D-J Act), passed in 1950, authorize grant programs that provide critically important funding to States and territories for administering State fish and wildlife programs and for implementing on-the-ground wildlife and sport fish conservation.
Revenues for the Wildlife Restoration Program are derived from excise taxes on firearms, ammunitions, archery equipment, and arrow components. Revenues for the Sport Fish Restoration program are derived from excise taxes on fishing equipment, motorboat and small engine fuels, and import duties. The source of funding creates a “user-pay-user-benefit” cycle of success.
The U.S. Department of the Interior (Department), through the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s (FWS) Wildlife and Sport Fish Restoration (WSFR) program, apportioned approximately $1.1 billion in Wildlife and Sport Fish Restoration grants to all 50 States and six U.S. Territories in fiscal year 2017. These grants provided essential support for State agencies to conserve fish and wildlife species and their habitats, and to enhance opportunities for boating, angling, hunting, and recreational shooting. Through the funding that has been distributed, nearly 10 million students have been trained in hunter education and over 7 million hours have been contributed by volunteers to hunter education and safety training. In addition, through this funding, 455 million acres are maintained for wildlife restoration and wildlife recreation nationwide, and habitat improvements have been made on 2 million surface acres of reservoirs and lakes.
If enacted, H.R. 2591 would amend the P-R Act to allow a State to use up to 25 percent of its apportioned P-R Act funds for hunter and recreational shooter recruitment, and to include as an eligible activity constructing, maintaining, and operating public target ranges that are not connected with hunter education programs. The bill would also allocate an additional $5 million of trust fund revenues to the Multistate Conservation Grant Program, exclusively for hunter and recreational shooter recruitment grants.
The recent figures from the National Survey on Fishing, Hunting, and Wildlife-Associated Recreation , showed that overall hunting participation decreased 16 percent from 2011 to 2016, that total hunting-related spending decreased 29 percent between 2011 and 2016, and hunting equipment purchases decreased 18 percent. Given the source of revenue for the Wildlife Restoration Program, efforts are needed to increase the number of hunters and recreational shooters if apportionment levels are to remain intact.
As such, the Department supports H.R. 2591, the Modernizing Pittman-Robertson for Tomorrow’s Needs Act of 2017, to increase participation in traditional outdoor activities.
 Preliminary Report of the 2016 National Fishing, Hunting, and Wildlife-Associated Recreation may be found here: https://wsfrprograms.fws.gov/subpages/nationalsurvey/nat_survey2016.pdf