What Does the Covid-19 Restrictions Mean for Conservation Funding?

Southwick and Associates April 6, 2020

Conservation stands to gain from the Covid-19 restrictions now in place across the nation. As seen in past times of uncertainty, license sales and Federal Aid in Sport Fish and Wildlife Restoration excise tax collections increase. What’s happening now? At the time of this newsletter’s release, Pittman-Robertson excise tax collections were increasing due to security concerns nationally. For many, uncertainties about their safety drive them to purchase taxable firearms and ammunition. This is based on a fear of what others might do if essentials are no longer available in stores, or if excessive unemployment affects peoples’ ability to purchase essentials. Expect sales of handguns and MSR’s to spike higher than shotguns and traditional rifles, along with matching ammunition. In some areas, shotguns will do better where purchase restrictions inhibit sales of handguns and many rifles.

For Wallop-Breaux sportfishing and boating excise taxes, the factor causing increased collections relates to excess time at hand. In previous economic downturns, when core outdoor segments have more time on their hands, meaning less overtime and weekend work hours, fishing and hunting license sales increased. The ‘great recession’ of 2008-09 is a prime example. Today, forced closures of many businesses and ‘social distancing’ are driving people outdoors. Not able to travel or visit areas with concentrated gatherings and wanting to escape the stress from continual 24-hour covering of Covid-19, fishing activities should be increasing along with related sales and excise tax collections. While we expect fishing activity and license sales to increase, we are not sure about the potential net effect on Spring turkey hunting. Certainly, many local hunters now have extra time on hand and will take to the field, including many who were too busy last year to hunt. This will cause an increase in Spring hunting license sales. To some unknown level, out of state hunters who buy higher priced licenses will not want or be able to travel, thus creating a dampening effect on license and product sales. Overall, we expect an increase, but uncertain by how much. It is not a good picture everywhere for hunting and fishing. Some sectors, especially among fishing and turkey guide services that depend on travelers, are taking a severe hit. Don’t forget your local guides if you have the chance to get out. Also, the early days of Covid-19 issue likely saw the greatest increases, but closures of many public areas, along with some beach and ramp closures, are likely dampening sales and activity. More will be known soon. We fully support the closures and restrictions being implemented to slow and shorten the spread of Covid-19. Some things are just more important than revenues. But amidst all the Covid-19 news out there, knowing there’s a silver lining of some sorts out there is good.

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