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Last week we covered a proposal to tax outdoor gear (and legal marijuana and sports gambling) to help fund the tremendous maintenance backlogs facing public lands nationwide. Hunters and anglers have, for decades, paid excise taxes at the point of purchase when they buy pretty much any piece of equipment or gear used in their outdoor activities. These taxes were passed by Congress, the Pittman–Robertson Act for hunting in 1937 and the Dingall-Johnson Act that supports fisheries management in 1950. Those taxes go toward conservation programs, wildlife protection, habitat restoration, and some trail maintenance. The idea is that the hunters and anglers are contributing directly to their passions financially, by supporting programs that keep wildlife populations healthy, while also maintaining access.

What about the rest of the backcountry users? Should there be a “backpack tax”? Sure, our tax dollars already go some way toward funding public lands, and to access national park lands and some state lands, we pay fees that also fund those wild spaces. But there are calls out there to apply excise taxes to backpacks, tents, hiking boots, campstoves, sleeping bags, skis—pretty much anything campers and outdoors users employ while out on trails and mountains and deserts. It’s controversial to be sure. Some fear it will prevent low-income people from buying the gear they need. Others point out that gear is already expensive, an extra tax is onerous. Still some don’t mind chipping in a few extra bucks to help sensitive wilderness areas they love.

This topic has come up quite a few times in our reporting over the years, but we’ve never put the question directly to you, the readers. What say you?

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Photo: Patrick Hendry