Montana hunters, anglers and conservationists are speaking to Montana Rep. Matt Rosendale. But it’s unclear if he’s listening to them.
On Monday, more than a dozen groups signed onto a letter asking Montana’s sole member of Congress to discontinue his sponsorship of a controversial piece of legislation that would remove the federal excise tax from firearms and ammunition, but also would gut more than $1 billion in annual funding for conservation programs.
“We are strongly opposed to this bill and view it as an assault on critically-needed wildlife funding, but also as a recruitment tool for hunting and shooting sports. It’s a program that is a point of pride among sportsmen,” reads the letter in part.
Some of the notable groups include the Montana Wildlife Federation, Public Lands Waters Access Association, American Bear Foundation and the Traditional Bowhunters of Montana.
The letter comes on top of other groups who have opposed the legislation, including the Backcountry Hunters and Anglers, the National Rifle Association, the National Shooting Sports Foundation, Boone and Crockett Club, Ducks Unlimited, the Izaak Walton League, Pheasants Forever and the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation.
In total, that makes more than two dozen organizations with affiliations in Montana that have reached out to oppose the measure, The Repealing Excise Tax on Unalienable Rights Now Act, or RETURN Act.
The legislation would gut the Pittman-Robertson Act, passed in 1937, which established a fund for conservation efforts to counteract overhunting and disappearing wildlife. Groups have credited the money for helping return deer, elk and turkey to populations stable enough for hunting. Moreover, the act funds many fish and wildlife departments in states. Montana received more than $28 million in Pittman-Robertson funds last year.
Both last week and again on Tuesday, Rosendale’s office did not comment or respond to inquiries about the legislation, and he was still listed as a sponsor on House Resolution 8167.
While most political insiders and lobbyists believe the bill, proposed by Rep. Andrew Clyde, R-Georgia, is nothing more than a “show bill” by the “Second Amendment Caucus,” of which Rosendale is a part, many are concerned that the idea could gain traction.
HR 8167 would gut the conservation fund and would make different conservation projects compete for funds out of proceeds from off-shore oil drilling.
“Pittman-Robertson is the backbone of the management that ensures that fish and wildlife that are pursued by hunters and anglers continue to flourish,” the letter read. “It is a key element in the phrase hunters proclaim proudly: ‘Hunting is conservation.’”
‘No’ on NATO
Rosendale was also criticized on social media and by some hawkish members of his own party as he joined 17 other members of Congress on a resolution that would add Finland and Sweden to the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, or NATO.
NATO’s profile has risen lately, especially with the ongoing war in Ukraine.
The measure enjoys wide bipartisan support in the U.S. House as well as the Senate.
The vote was 394-18, with all opposition coming from Republicans.
Rosendale joined other notable Republicans such as Reps. Madison Cawthorn of North Carolina, Andy Biggs of Arizona, Lauren Boebert of Colorado, Matt Gaetz of Florida, Marjorie Taylor Greene of Georgia and Thomas Massie of Kentucky.