Monday, July 18, 2016

Increases in gun sales boost a program that pays states to manage and restore wildlife, buy land

Increases in gun sales, often spurred by public shootings and calls for more gun control, benefit state wildlife programs. The 1937 Pittman-Robertson Act, which provides federal aid to states for management and restoration of wildlife, is funded through an 11 percent excise tax on sporting arms—shotguns, rifles, ammunition, bows and arrows and other outdoor equipment—and a 10 percent excise tax on handguns.

"With gun sales soaring, Georgia is receiving record amounts of conservation money from Washington," Dan Chapman reports for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Georgia, which has received more than $221 million since the program's inception, got more than $15 million from the program last year, a 300 percent increase from five years ago.

Mike Worley, president of the Georgia Wildlife Federation, told Chapman, “You see spikes in gun sales every time you have a horrible event anywhere in the country. You don’t know if they’re first-time buyers or gun enthusiasts who want to add to their collection before any restrictions are put in place. And any increase in guns and ammunition sales indeed benefits wildlife and wildlife habitat production across this country.”

The funds pay up to 75 percent of cost approved projects, such as improvement of wildlife habitat, introduction of wildlife into suitable habitat, research into wildlife problems, surveys and inventories of wildlife problems, acquisition and development of access facilities for public use, and hunter education programs, including construction and operation of public target ranges. (National Shooting Sports Foundation graphic)
Hunters mainly benefit from the program, Chapman writes. "Earlier this month, for example, the Georgia Department of Natural Resources set aside a few million dollars to buy 3,400 acres of prime deer-hunting land along the Flint River an hour south of Atlanta. "Yet nothing prohibits Atlanta hikers or birders from enjoying an expanded Sprewell Bluff Wildlife Management Area. The public property will also serve as critical green space in a state woefully lacking publicly owned and accessible land."

Mississippi has received more than $116 million from the program, reports Mississippi Wildlife, Fisheries and Parks. The Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources announced last week that funds from the act partially helped pay to acquire 2,900 acres of mostly forested land that will be used for hunters, anglers and wildlife watchers.

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