If youâ€™ve followed this column for long, you might remember our mentioning the Pittman-Robertson Act of 1938 or the Wildlife Restoration Act. This Act provides for an excise tax on certain hunting equipment (ex. firearms, ammunition) to fund wildlife programs at the state level. What we havenâ€™t mentioned much is its companion Act, Dingell-Johnson, of 1950 call the Sport Fish Restoration Act. It essentially does the same by providing an excise tax on certain fishing equipment (ex. lures, rods, reels) to support fishery management activity at the state.
Well, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) just released figures for those money allocations from the 2018 excise taxes and the numbers are impressive. In February, the USFWS released just over $1 billion in combined funds to the states. You read that right, billion with a â€śbâ€ť. That is money huntersÂ shooters, and anglers gladly contributed to support improvements in wildlife and fish habitat, shooting range developmentÂ and hunter safety training. Letâ€™s look at the specific numbers.
For fiscal year 2018, the USFWS distributed just over $670 million Pittman-Robertson funds to the states and U.S. territories. Iâ€™m no mathematician, so I donâ€™t exactly understand the formula used, but it seems to be based on both an equitable distribution to each plus a distribution based on the number of licensed hunters in the state.
For the Old North State, that means we got just over $18 million in Pittman-Robertson Funds this year from last yearâ€™s excise tax. That puts North Carolina in the top ten states in the amount of apportionment. The largest went to Texas, with just under $30 million. Along with NC, both Georgia and Tennessee, were in the top ten.
What this means is that our hunting programs are strong here in North Carolina if one of the discriminators isÂ hunting license holders. The way the Act is written,Â states can only use these funds for wildlife habitat restoration, shooting range maintenance and constructionÂ and hunter education.
How do we see that in our area? Well maybe the dove fields and upland habitat at Sandy Mush Game Lands are beneficiaries of these funds. Same goes for Cold Mountain Game Lands habitat projects. The shooting range at Cold Mountain is probably also the result of these funds.
Now letâ€™s look at Dingell-Johnson apportionment from the Sport Fish excise tax. The total distribution to all states in 2019 from 2018 excise taxes was just over $365 million. North Carolinaâ€™s portion of that was $10.9 million. Where does that rank us? We are eighthÂ in the nation in funds allocated. Texas and Alaska were tied for first place and only one other southeastern state, Florida, ranked ahead of NC.
Iâ€™m guessing Floridaâ€™s ranking is based primarily on their saltwater fishing popularity. Whereas here in North Carolina with our three distinct geographic regions we have a variety of fisheries: saltwater; lake and river for bass, bream, catfish; and trout fisheries in mountain streams. I canâ€™t verify it, but my guess is that some of the funding for the mountain trout hatcheries and hatchery supported waters comes from Dingell-Johnson funding. Great news for mountain anglers!
Today we tend to think of government spending programs not working very well, donâ€™t we? Money being wasted or moved from one program to another to support other efforts. These programs are different. Excise taxes from Pittman-Robertson and Dingell-Johnson are â€śfencedâ€ť funds. They cannot be diverted to other programs or agencies for non-wildlife uses. Well, thanks to the foresight of a few thoughtful legislators many years ago our hunting, shootingÂ and fishing programs are thriving in the U.S. Not only that, but they are supplied by the primary beneficiaries:Â hunters and anglers. Who cares more about wildlife conservation than us?
This past Saturday was a big day for hunters and anglers. Saturday ushered in the opening day of hatchery supported waters as well as Youth Week for the spring turkey season. Anyone who participatedÂ in either activity should take a moment to thank either of these Acts for the opportunity. That new turkey load your youth used to kill their first turkey? You paid excise tax that helps restore wildlife habitat. That new fishing rod that helped you get a limit of trout on Saturday? Your excise tax on it helps keep our fisheries thriving. It is all connected.
This is the opinion of Don Mallicoat. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org