When hunters, anglers, and trappers say we pay for conservation, we mean it. In any given year, license fee revenue and federal funds based on license sales (PR and DJ funding, explained below) account for 30 percent or more of the Michigan Department of Natural Resources budget. In comparison, the entire general population of Michigan only contributes about 5-7% to the DNR through the general fund (7% is in the proposed 2014 budget, which has yet to be approved).
To clear up a general misconception, the DNR must actually apply for these federal funds just like they would any grant--so each year the Wildlife and Fisheries Divisions come up with projects that will be paid for with state Game and Fish (25%) and federal Wildlife and Sport Fish Restoration Program funding (75%). Any state can only receive up to their given allotment, and historically, Michigan has never left any money on the table. These projects may include state game area operations and maintenance, boating access at State Parks, research, surveys and biological monitoring, habitat and species management, fish stocking, and planning. The DNR is required to report to the federal government annually on their results and also get audited on their use of these funds regularly (external audit every 5 years and State of Michigan audit every other year).
Federal Wildlife Funding
Many sportsmen and women are familiar with the term “Pittman-Robertson” or “PR Funds”. For those that are not, it is the landmark federal act that was passed in 1937 to provide a “user pay-user benefit” source of funding for wildlife conservation. The Pittman-Robertson Act turned 75 years old last year, just like MUCC. Since its inception in 1937, Michigan has received funding from Pittman-Robertson totaling more than $262 million, all restricted and designated for wildlife restoration and hunter education efforts. The federal fund earns its revenue from excise taxes on manufacturers, 11% from firearms and ammunition, 10% from handgun and revolver purchases and 11% from archery and arrow components. Money earned from the excise tax is matched with state fees from the sale of hunting licenses at a ratio of 3:1; meaning for every state license dollar we put towards PR programs, we get $3 from the federal government (up to our allocated amount determined by a formula based on the number of individual hunters and the land area of Michigan).
The Pittman-Robertson fund has apportioned $371 million to the states and territories for fiscal year 2012.The funds brought in through the excise tax are then allocated to the state’s fish and wildlife agency for wildlife restoration and hunter education. Michigan was allotted $12.3 million in 2012, the majority of which ($9.9 million) went toward the Department of Natural Resources Wildlife Division and the remaining was designated for hunter education programs.
So how is this money being used? One prime example is wildlife habitat improvement. In 2012 alone, the DNR Wildlife Division has treated thousands of acres for forest regeneration, openings maintenance, wildlife food sources, and invasive species control (click here to view the 2012 Wildlife Habitat Accomplishments by County and a good source of in depth information, the 2011 Wildlife Division Annual Report).
Can We Take Advantage of the "Lead Rush"?
There has been a lot of talk about the "Obama effect" when it comes to the increase in gun and ammunition sales since the presidential election, and wildlife will benefit handily from this tidal wave that has sporting goods stores, gun dealers, and manufacturers scrambling. However, even with the rise in allotment in 2013 to possibly $17 million, this could be just a single year spike and Michigan still must be able to come up with the 25 percent match to get those federal dollars. Russ Mason, Chief of DNR Wildlife Division, is quoted in a recent Howard Meyerson article, “We are very close to having a problem coming up with the match.” This means that the DNR has a couple of options in order to not leave money dedicated to Michigan on the table: they must shift Game and Fish monies away from projects not eligible as PR match (like law enforcement or communications) or count on getting an increase in Game and Fish funding through increased license sales and/or increased prices.
Federal Fisheries Funding
In 1950, the Dingell-Johnson Act passed that provided a similar mechanism for funding sport fishing restoration. Revenues are earned through taxes and duties which include an excise tax on fishing equipment, electric trolling motors, motorboat and small engine fuel taxes, and import duties on tackle, pleasure boats and yachts. Money earned from taxes and duties are matched with state fees from the sale of fishing licenses, again at a 3:1 ratio.
This funding source has remained pretty consistent in the $11-13 million range to Michigan given that there is not a similar "lead rush" on the tackle side of things (at least yet!). The formula is based 40 percent on the state's land area, including inland and coastal waters, and 60 percent based on the number of paid licensed anglers in proportion to the national total. Michigan ranks seventh in the U.S. for the amount of DJ funds it receives.The Dingell-Johnson fund has awarded more than $255 million to the State of Michigan for its fisheries resources, public access for recreational boating, and aquatic education. In fiscal year 2012, Michigan was awarded $11.2 million, the majority of which went to the Department of Natural Resources Fisheries Division. The remaining money was designated for boating access.So MUCC says thanks once again to the hunters, anglers, and trappers of Michigan--we deserve a pat on the back for investing in the resources we care so much about.
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