Record P-R funds for N.Y.

Washington — Federal dollars continue to pour into New York and other states through an 11 percent excise tax on shotguns, rifles, archery equipment and ammunition.

In fact, New York is getting so much money – a record $20.5 million for fiscal 2014 – the state may have trouble spending it all, since it has to provide a 25 percent match to the monies.

“The challenges come from having sufficient staff to effectively undertake and oversee projects (as well as administer the grants from a ‘bureaucratic’ perspective) and for there to be sufficient non-federal funds available to be spent on the projects,” DEC assistant director of fish, wildlife and marine resources Doug Stang said.

Since the Pittman-Robertson funds – derived from an 11-percent tax on shotguns and rifles, archery equipment and ammunition and a 10-percent tax on handguns – are doled out on a 75 percent reimbursement on eligible projects, states are required to provide a 25-percent match from “non-federal” sources. Typically, those non-federal monies come from hunting, fishing and trapping license revenues.

But there has to be an initial outlay of those monies before the federal reimbursement flows to the states.

“We have two years to ‘obligate’ the funds – determine how they are to be spent,” Stang said in outlining the funding situation to the state’s Conservation Fund Advisory Board last month. “And DEC is just starting to develop plans to wisely use these funds.”

New York’s apportionment of the Pittman-Robertson funds for fiscal 2014 is officially $20,539,566, Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell announced recently. That’s about 40 percent higher than the 2013 allocation of $14.2 million and more than double the 2012 figure of just over $10 million.

Analysts attribute the rise to increased gun and ammo sales, some of which came on the heels of the passage of the New York SAFE Act gun restrictions in January 2013.

New York is actually “eligible” for the $20.5 million in Pittman-Robertson funding; Stang says the state must actually apply for the money in the form of grants to do approved work.

“A portion of these funds (about $3.9 million) must be used for hunter education programs and the rest can be used on ‘almost all things wildlife’ – provided they have hair or feathers (birds and mammals) and are wild (no game farm birds or mammals),” Stang said.

The rocketing Pittman-Robertson allocation was predicted by Hannibal Bolton, assistant director of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s Wildlife and Sport Fish Restoration Program, who noted that tightened gun laws had fueled more gun sales that could lead to a big jump in the funding allocation this year.

“I wouldn’t be surprised if the spike could continue,” he said last year.

Stang said gun sales have soared, but were strong even before the Connecticut school shootings and the subsequent passage of the SAFE Act.

In all, nearly $1.1 billion will be distributed to fish and wildlife agencies across the U.S. The total distributions this year are $238.4 million higher than last year because of the inclusion of funds not distributed last year because of the government sequester, as well as an increase in excise tax receipts from sales of firearms and ammunition in the Wildlife Restoration Trust Fund.

The Pittman-Robertson Wildlife Restoration Program apportionment for 2014 totals a record $760.9 million, which includes $20 million that was sequestered from the 2013 fiscal year but subsequently returned to the Wildlife Restoration Trust Fund.

That $1.1 billion funding total also includes $325.7 million in Dingell-Johnson Sport Fish Restoration Program funding. Of that total, $18.5 million that was sequestered from FY 2013 but subsequently returned to the Sport Fish Restoration Trust Fund will be distributed this year.

New York’s share of the Dingell-Johnson monies is $7.9 million

The FY 2014 Sport Fish Restoration apportionment is $34.1 million lower than FY 2013 due to lower domestic fishing equipment excise tax receipts.

And New York’s Dingell-Johnson allocation could be higher if the $10 saltwater fishing license – repealed by Gov. Andrew Cuomo several years ago in favor of a free registry – had remained intact. Since New York doesn’t get credit for free registries, it loses about $1 million annually in federal funding it would receive with a fee saltwater license in place.

The Wildlife and Sport Fish Restoration Programs have generated a total of more than $15 billion since their inception – in 1937 in the case of the Pittman-Robertson Wildlife Restoration Program and 1950 for the Dingell-Johnson Sport Fish Restoration Program – to conserve fish and wildlife resources. The recipient fish and wildlife agencies have matched these program funds with more than $5 billion.

“Anyone who enjoys our nation’s outdoor heritage should thank hunters, anglers, recreational boaters and target shooters,” said Dan Ashe, director of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. 

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