Habitat & Conservation  |  06/11/2024

State Level Advocacy a Key Mission for Pheasants Forever and Quail Forever


Highlighting some common challenges to conservation policy across the upland range

By  Jim Inglis, PF & QF Government Affairs, Retired

Mark Twain said, “There are two things nobody should ever have to watch being made, sausage and laws.” 

With all due respect to the beloved Twain’s statement, while the science of law-making may be messy and chaotic, it’s imperative that organizations like Pheasants Forever and Quail Forever take a meaningful part in the process. 

The Habitat Organization has always been at the forefront of creating and defending sound wildlife and conservation policy. We’ve had many wins along the way, and are not afraid to jump into a fight to push back on policies that would harm wildlife and hunting heritage. 

Unfortunately, we’ve seen a number of new approaches in government lately that could limit the tools we have available to further our conservation mission. No where is that more true than on the state level, which has a major hand in shaping conservation policy.

With the 2024 state legislative sessions mostly wrapped up for the year, below we’ll highlight state-level policies we’ve recently engaged in, and outline the defensive and offensive approaches we need to be prepared for each in years to come.

Diversion of Wildlife and Conservation Funding

Over the last year we saw several attempts by state legislatures and administrations to divert funding away from wildlife and natural resources to other funding pools — like back into general funds to offset other state costs. These moves would also impact those states’ ability to receive millions of dollars in federal support for state wildlife and fisheries management, upending programs such as Pittman-Robertson that have been in place for over 80 years.  

These approaches would reallocate funds that are typically not general tax revenue — the money is directly generated by hunters and anglers who purchase licenses and gear, or matched significantly by federal funding that is generated through taxes on guns and ammunition. We must remain diligent in protecting existing wildlife funding, while also finding new streams of dedicated funding. 

Limiting the ability to secure new public lands

The majority of land in this country is owned privately, which means we must continue to find more opportunities for hunting and access. There have been continuous attempts by state law- and policymakers to eliminate the ability of state land management agencies and NGOs like PF & QF to secure lands that would provide more public access. The argument is often that we have too much public land already, and private lands need to stay in private ownership. This is a mis-informed position, especially in the eastern half of the country where public land is limited; when polling shows constituents overwhelmingly support the creation of additional public lands; and when selling or donating land for access will always be the private landowner’s decision to make. 

Legislators and non-hunters/anglers directing wildlife, fishing, and conservation policy 

For over 100 years, the North American Model of Wildlife Conservation has been the envy of the world, and we must prevent any attempts to disrupt the management of our natural resources. This important work should remain only in the hands of trained wildlife and conservation professionals and scientists. 

“Ballot box wildlife management” is a relatively new term, in which groups on the state level attempt to limit science-based harvest and management of wildlife via ballot initiatives. These groups are well-organized and well-funded, and often use emotionally charged messages to lobby their initiatives. It takes a tremendous amount of both effort and funding to combat these mis-informed, non-science based campaigns — which unfortunately have been ramping up over the last few years. 

The last concerning trend is state administrations appointing advisory council members and wildlife commissioners, at times with legislative support, that do not have a background in hunting, fishing, nor public or private lands management. In some cases, these individuals have been publicly opposed to hunting, or certain methods of hunting and fishing.

Rest assured the Pheasants Forever and Quail Forever government affairs team will continue to work with state-elected officials to ensure we provide high-quality policy and programs — benefiting both our mission and the North American Model of Conservation. Even in the most challenging situations, we will provide common sense solutions. 

In 1903, President Teddy Roosevelt said “The Wildlife and its habitat cannot speak, so we must...and we will!”

This article includes excerpts from an article published in an outdoor column in The Courier of Findlay, OH (Feb 17th, 2024) by outdoor writer Jim Abrams. He is a retired Ohio wildlife officer and has been involved in PF for over 35 years both personally and professionally. 


Advocating for Conservation 

It takes good habitat to produce abundant wildlife and opportunities to hunt—but it also takes robust public funding and sound conservation policy. Pheasants Forever and Quail Forever’s dedicated Government Affairs team works in Washington D.C. and state capitols across America to create and secure funding for programs that benefit the uplands, from the rugged backcountry to the neighboring farm’s “back 40.” Thank you to our chapters, volunteers and members for the generous grassroots and Legislative Action Fund (LAF) support that makes this work possible.  

To learn more about PF & QF’s policy priorities and ways you can help advocate for conservation, visit this page or email advocacy@pheasantsforever.org .