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KEN PERROTTE: State reaps federal outdoor revenue

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THE U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service recently reported the apportionment of a record $1.5 billion to state fish and wildlife agencies under two wildlife and sport fish restoration programs.

This money is collected on excise taxes on firearms, ammunition, archery and some fishing gear and dispersed annually based on several factors, among them a state’s number of paid hunting and fishing license holders and its size (both land and water). [https://www.fws.gov/program/wildlife-and-sport-fish-restoration]

Virginia’s Department of Wildlife Resources is getting nearly $19.6 million in funding from the Pittman-Robertson Wildlife Restoration Program. Virginia Congressman Absalom Willis Robertson was a sponsor of the original legislation in 1937. Texas is receiving the largest allocation, $51 million.

Virginia gets another $6.3 million via the Dingell-Johnson Sport Fish Restoration Act. Texas and Alaska received the largest apportionments, nearly $20 million each. Those funds are split, 69 and 31 percent respectively, between DWR and the Virginia Marine Resources Commission

According to Darin Moore, DWR’s planning and finance director, this federal funding will apply to the agency’s Fiscal Year 2023 budget. The funding, especially the Pittman-Robertson dollars, is a somewhat-expected windfall.

“We’ve been expecting a ‘PR Bump’ to some extent,” Moore said, “given the increases we’ve seen reported in excise taxes collected throughout the year, especially on firearms and ammunition; however, I’m not sure we expected this significant of an increase.”

Moore explained that DWR historically plans for about $11-12 million in Pittman-Robertson funding, expensed across both operating and capital budgets each year. Another $4 million or so is plugged in for the Dingell-Johnson allotment. The state’s annual operation budget is roughly $67 million.

Virginia’s DWR has an authorized workforce of some 550 people, mixed between full-time and wage employees, the largest component serving in law enforcement at nearly 185 authorizations.

Clueless?

Most Americans are clueless about conservation funding. Hunting and fishing license fees, plus various stamps and registration fees, pay for conservation at state level. These state-derived revenues are augmented by the federal apportionments.

Dingell-Johnson funding comes from a 10-percent excise tax on sport fishing tackle, a 3-percent excise tax on fish finders and electric trolling motors, import duties on fishing tackle, yachts and pleasure craft and more.

Pittman-Robertson’s excise tax is set by law at 11 percent of the wholesale price for long guns and ammunition and 10 percent for handguns. It is paid by manufacturers, producers and importers and applies to all commercial sales and imports, whether their purpose is hunting, sport shooting, or personal defense.

Some of the funding requires a partial license-revenue match from the states, underscoring the importance of buying hunting and fishing licenses.

Many states are grappling with escalating costs for managing conservation and looking to increase their pools of prospective license holders or seek alternative funding means.

Hunters, anglers and shooters have paid for conservation for more than 100 years. Indeed, hunters and anglers were the people pushing for these federal taxes.

This is one big reason why state governing boards related to fish and wildlife agency operations are–and should be–filled with people supportive of hunting and fishing and the North American Model of Wildlife Conservation. Yet, as we’ve covered in previous columns, emotion-based, activist-spawned, ballot box initiatives are trying to erode this model.

Apportioned federal funds are used to restore, conserve, manage and enhance wild birds and mammals and their habitat, while providing recreational opportunities for fishing, hunting, shooting and boating. A specific federal earmark is that $8 million yearly must be used for Enhanced Hunter Education programs, including constructing, operating and maintaining public shooting ranges.

A state-by-state listing of the final apportionments for Fiscal Year 2022 is at the Wildlife and Sportfish Restoration webpage. [https://www.fws.gov/program/wildlife-and-sport-fish-restoration]

One Shot Turkey Hunt Contest

After a pandemic-induced break, the Old Dominion One Shot Turkey Hunt returns April 22-23.

Coordinated by Virginia DWR and the Wildlife Foundation of Virginia, this event raises money to promote hunting and outdoor wildlife opportunities statewide and support the Virginia Wildlife Grant Program, which provides funding to non-profits, schools and government agencies focused on connecting youth to the outdoors.

Youngsters, age 8-14, can enter an essay contest to win a hunt with an experienced mentor. At least five will win, according to DWR.

This year’s contest theme is, “What is your favorite quarry and why?” Entry deadline is Friday, April 8. Winners will be notified April 13.

The event begins April 22 at Bass Pro Shops in Ashland, with hunters and guides planning hunting strategies. They then hunt until noon on April 23 throughout the state on properties made available for this special event.

For more information on entering the essay contest, registering to hunt or attending the evening celebration at Bass Pro Shops, visit www.vaoneshot.com.

Long Beard Battle

Green Top Sporting Goods in Ashland is staging its second annual “Long Beard Battle,” a youth spring gobbler hunting competition. It is open to youngsters 15 and under who harvest a bird on the special youth hunting weekend of April 2-3.

To compete, kids should bring the turkey to Green Top (10150 Lakeridge Parkway, Ashland) between 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. for scoring. Birds are judged using a weight, bear length, spur length formula.

Every kid entering gets a “swag” bag and winners get trophies, plaques and prize packs donated by sponsors. A “Young Gun” award will be presented to the youngest hunter to tag a turkey.

According to Green Top’s Todd Sadler, Virginia DWR is also a partner and is providing the first-place winner with a lifetime hunting license. Entry is free; just show up with a turkey.

For more wide-ranging outdoors coverage, including videos, photos, wild game recipes and more, see Ken Perrotte’s weblog www.outdoorsrambler.com.

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