Field Notes

The West Virginia Division of Natural Resources has an interesting problem this year in what to do with an extra $2.4 million in funding.

No, they didn’t win the lottery and no, nobody bequeathed their estate to the DNR. And yes, there are strings attached.

The windfall comes from the Pittman-Robertson act which is an 11 percent excise tax on the sale of archery equipment, sporting arms and ammunition. It was created in 1937 for wildlife restoration. In those days, hunting laws and regulations were lax and enforcement was nearly non-existent. Consequently many animals had been hunted to near extinction and were quite rare.

Over the last 75 years, better laws and law enforcement provided by both state and federal agencies has allowed wildlife and habitat to recover greatly.

Nearly $761 million were collected last year nationally in P-R funds, more than a 30 percent increase over the year before. The US Fish and Wildlife Service administrate these funds and divide them up among the different states according to area and population. WVDNR’s share will be slightly over $8 million with approximately $1.4 million of that dedicated to Hunter Education programs.

The attached strings are that P-R funds must be matched by the state at the three-to-one rate. So West Virginia will have to anti-up about $2.7 million in order to receive their full amount. Finding the matching funds will not be easy, but not taking advantage of this good fortune would be a huge mistake.

The Pittman-Robertson excise tax collections have increased steadily since 2008 but funding for 2014 proves to be a bigger 2.4 mil bump than expected.

This is a good problem to have says Curtis Taylor, Chief of Wildlife Resources section of the DNR. But it probably is a one-time bump, meaning that hiring new conservation managers may be out of the question. “But we will be getting some new equipment and tools for our workers. These conservation managers are some of the hardest working guys in the state and anything that we can do to help them do their jobs, that’s what we will do”, said Taylor. There may also be some summer temporary help on special projects.

If we look a little deeper to see what caused this P-R increase, we need only go back to December 2012 and the Connecticut school shooting. Shortly after that there were new calls for gun control. Though no significant gun laws were passed, the fear was established that gun purchases might be restricted. This hysteria, fostered on by the NRA and other shooting groups created a run on guns and ammunition. In fact, ammunition prices quickly doubled and tripled in some cases, as demand outstripped production.

But the WVDNR was the main beneficiary and West Virginia hunters and sportsman will be the real winners.

There is a similar law for fishermen and boaters called the Dingell-Johnson Sport Fish Restoration Fund. This collects a similar excise tax on fishing and boating gear, but the collections there have fallen off somewhat. Taylor would like to see more funding there as the state has more water resources it would like to improve and protect.

So, maybe this is the forum to pass on the rumor that we have been hearing that the government was considering banning spinning reels and fly rods. Can’t say where we heard that, Mr. Taylor, but it’s out there. Maybe Trout Unlimited will pick up the banner and certainly not allow this travesty to happen. It would be positively un-American to ban the reel and rod.

If this causes a run on fishing gear and boats by sportsman, so be it. And if it causes an increase in Dingell-Johnson funds next year, you can thank us later.

Dave is a telescope operator at the NRAO and can be reached at davecurry51@

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