Minnesota to see jump in P-R, D-J excise taxes

St. Paul – With generally bad news surrounding funding for state
departments for the upcoming fiscal cycle, the Minnesota DNR
received some good news recently: Grant funding available through
two federal programs – known as Pittman-Robertson and
Dingell-Johnson – that’s slowly crept upward the past few years
continued that trend this year.

Each time a hunter or angler buys equipment, ammunition, or
other related items, he or she pays an excise tax that’s returned
to states, based on a formula, for fish and wildlife projects. Last
week, Interior Secretary Ken Salazar announced that about $741
million would be available for states, including about $25.5
million for Minnesota.

That’s an increase of about 4.85 percent over last year’s
allocation, and a jump of about $7.6 million since 2006, according
to Jeanne Daniels, federal assistance coordinator for the state
DNR.

Daniels said those funds, distributed in the form of federal
grants, are marked for 16 different areas, some regarding fish and
others for wildlife. Two currently overlap the funding sources.

“We got preliminary approval (of grant projects) in late 2008,”
Daniels said. “Our final numbers came earlier in February.”

She said projects offered in the grant process are 75 percent
reimbursed by the federal programs. The differing fiscal years of
the state and the federal governments make it necessary for the
state to fund projects, then await reimbursement from the federal
sources.

Given the growing grant dollars available, Daniels said the DNR
would look at three new grant areas in the future: wildlife
research, outreach (recruitment and retention), and lake and stream
habitat.

“We need to look at what else we can be doing that we can seek
reimbursement for,” Daniels said.

According to the USFWS, funds for both programs come from excise
taxes and import duties on sporting items, ammunition, archery
equipment, sportfishing equipment, electric outboard motors, and
fuel taxes attributable to motor boats and small engines.

“The funds raised under the Wildlife and Sport Fish Restoration
programs have helped conserve our fish and wildlife resources and
provide opportunities for outdoor recreation for more than a half a
century,” Salazar said in a press release.

Pittman-Robertson Wildlife Restoration Act funding is available
to states (and commonwealths and territories) based on a formula
that includes land area, including inland waters and the number of
paid hunting license holders in the state.

Dingell-Johnson Sport Fish Restoration Act funding is available
to states, etc., based on a formula that includes land and water
area, inland waters and the Great Lakes coastal areas where
applicable, and the number of paid fishing license holders.

According to the USFWS, more than 62 percent of the Wildlife
Restoration funds are used to buy, develop, and maintain and
operate wildlife management areas.

There are about 1,700 WMAs in Minnesota, Daniels said, and there
are restrictions on selling all or part of those areas if money
from the federal government was used for their purchase. For
example, the land only may be sold if it no longer serves its
intended purpose, as determined by the USFWS; in that case, the
funds from the sale of the land must be used to purchase a similar
parcel. Also, there are sometimes cases when the state has lost
control of the property, for example, through an inaccurate land
survey.

Since the Pittman-Robertson wildlife program began, state
wildlife agencies have acquired 68 million acres through purchase,
lease, or easement, according to the USFWS, and have maintained 390
million acres for hunting since the program began.

In Minnesota, Daniels said the largest funded program with
Pittman-Robertson funds is wildlife habitat management, which will
receive $11 million over a two-year period.

For Sport Fish Restoration, a cold-cool-warm water fish
production and distribution program (stocking) will receive about
$6.6 million this year. Public access to waters also receives
significant funding from the federal source, Daniels said.

Only six states receive more Pittman-Robertson funding than
Minnesota, which will receive a total of about $10.3 million. Only
three states receive a greater portion of available Dingell-Johnson
funds (Alaska, California, and Texas) than Minnesota, which will
receive about $15.2 million this year.

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