WILDLIFE DIVIDEND Guns and Ammo Have Direct Connection to Conservation
Landers, Rich, The Spokesman-Review (Spokane, WA)
A set of numbers suggests that Barack Obama's presidency is the best thing that's happened to hunting since Teddy Roosevelt.
Record-breaking sales of guns and ammunition in recent years have resulted in a windfall for wildlife conservation.
The corresponding federal excise taxes on guns and ammunition also have soared to record levels - and that funding is earmarked for wildlife and hunting programs.
"The increase is not a surprise for anyone who's tried to buy .22 shells in the past few years," said Brad Compton, Idaho Fish and Game Department wildlife bureau chief. "They're sold out as soon as they hit the shelves."
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has announced it will distribute nearly $1.1 billion in hunting and fishing excise tax revenues to state and territorial fish and wildlife agencies to fund fish and wildlife conservation and recreation projects.
The funding comes from two programs that have generated more than $15 billion since their inceptions:
Pittman-Robertson Wildlife Restoration, approved by Congress in 1937, sets a 10-11 percent federal excise tax on guns, ammunition, archery and other hunting equipment; funding is earmarked for wildlife habitat, research and hunter safety and shooting programs across the nation.
Dingell-Johnson Sport Fish Restoration, approved in 1950, sets import duties on fishing tackle, recreation boats, and a portion of the gasoline fuel tax attributable to small engines and motorboats; the funds are used for fishing and boating programs.
The D-J sportfishing apportionment for 2014 totals $325.7 million, which includes $18.5 million that had been sequestered during 2013. However, the 2014 funding is $34.1 million lower than last year because of reduced domestic fishing equipment excise tax receipts, Department of Interior officials say.
Meanwhile, the P-R wildlife funding continues to shoot past previous records, a trend that started with Obama's election in 2008.
The 2014 P-R wildlife apportionment totals $760.9 million, which would be a record even without the addition of $20 million that was sequestered last year.
The funding is distributed to the states by reimbursing up to 75 percent of the cost of each eligible project while state fish and wildlife agencies contribute a minimum of 25 percent.
The funding cannot be used for wildlife police programs, public relations or raising pheasants to release for hunting.
"The state match can come from hunting license revenue or donations by conservation groups such as Ducks Unlimited, or the labor provided by volunteers," said Nate Pamplin, wildlife program manager for the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife. …