Pittman-Robertson funds can be used in many ways
A few days ago, I received a brief email that made strong allegations about how the Pennsylvania Game Commission misuses its share of Pittman-Robertson money. This is a federal excise tax that is collected when we buy sporting firearms, ammunition, archery equipment and handguns. A percentage of money comes back to each state's wildlife agencies, based on the state's size and the number of hunting licenses sold. The fund is administered by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
The email stated: "I have read where the Game Commission is not using Robinson Pittman [sic] money for wildlife, game and fish. Instead, it is going for wages, office expense and nature trails. Is this true and if so, why? Thank you."
Was this idle gossip or did the author of the email know something that I didn't? One never knows where a story such as this might lead. I replied with a few facts and asked for more details.
My response recounted what I knew about the money and how it can be used. Wildlife agencies can spend their Pittman-Robertson funding for wildlife habitat, hunter education, hunter recruitment and outreach, wildlife research and the purchase of new game lands. I also asked the reader where he had acquired his information.
I didn't know about the wages, office expenses or nature trails, so I contacted Travis Lau, the new press secretary for the Game Commission.
Lau replied, "Pittman-Robertson funds can be used for salaries and benefits, so long as they are spent on activities the USFWS deems eligible through the grant process. We can and do use them for biologists, outreach and food and cover. Ineligible activities include law enforcement efforts and public relations activities, such as my position. The jobs linked to P-R funds are clearly defined in the grant application. The salaries essentially are approved when the USFWS signs off on the grant.
"Nature trails might or might not be considered a proper use of the funds. Constructing an access trail for hunters to access the interior of a large state game land such as a gated and mowed roadway certainly would be an acceptable activity. So would a bird-viewing trail and area such as at our Middle Creek Facility. That is certainly wildlife related and covered under the act as wildlife-related activity. Any activity that is [Pittman-Robertson] Act eligible should be related to wildlife management or hunting related such as access," Lau wrote.
I am still waiting for more details from the writer of the email. Could be a good story, but my guess is that it will likely be a dead end.