Springfield — When the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced Illinois’ share of federal wildlife funds, it included a note about how some of the money could be used to address programs or concerns.
Actually, the USFWS also posted a note for every state: Iowa is working on prairie chickens. Missouri is improving its fishing education program. Wisconsin will continue to study bobcats.
Illinois? Deer disease, among other things.
The state will get $23,783,360 through the USFWS, though it doesn’t come in one big check. The state is reimbursed for wildlife and fish projects as part of the Pittman-Robertson Wildlife Restoration and Dingell-Johnson Sport Fish Restoration programs.
Mark Alessi, acting chief of DNR’s Wildlife Division, pointed out that the dollars in question come from hunters and anglers.
“A relatively unknown contribution that hunters and trappers make [to fish and wildlife] is when they purchase sporting arms and ammunition, handguns and revolvers, bows, and archery accessories,” Alessi said. “There is a 10 percent excise tax – or higher – on that equipment, and those monies are deposited in the Wildlife Restoration Fund. The money stays in that account and is given to Illinois and other states.”
The amount given to each state is determined by a formula that is based on the amount of land and the number of paid licensed hunters.
“That money is treated as reimbursement; we do not receive it annually but receive the ability to be reimbursed for various activities,” Alessi explained. Those activities have and do include deer management, turkey restoration, habitat enhancement, aerial waterfowl surveys and surveys of Illinois hunters and trappers to understand their attitudes and opinions on various issues. A portion of the money is also used to restore populations of threatened or endangered wildlife in the state.
The USFWS, which will distribute $1.1 billion in revenues across the country, noted Illinois’ fight to maintain its popular deer herd.
“White-tailed deer are one of the most popular and valuable wildlife resources in Illinois, so managing this species is a top concern to the Illinois Department of Natural Resources,” the USFWS noted in its announcement. “Persistent diseases like chronic wasting disease and bovine tuberculosis present pressing issues to deer population managers.”
Illinois’ DNR has been actively managing the spread and prevalence of it by sharpshooting in selected areas and by increasing hunter harvest in positive counties, the USFWS pointed out.
Such efforts that are critical to the preservation of America’s wildlife and natural resources, USFWS Director Dan Ashe explained.
“But they are also the fuel for a massive financial engine that benefits outdoor recreationists, hunters, boaters and anglers, equipment manufacturers and retailers, and local and regional economies,” he said. “Their value cannot be overstated in providing opportunities for the next generation of Americans to get outdoors, experience our wild places and learn the importance of conserving our natural heritage.”
State fish and wildlife agencies routinely match these funds, mostly through hunting and fishing license revenues.
“The Wildlife and Sport Fish Restoration program provides critical funding for conservation projects and outdoor recreation activities across this great nation,” USFWS Assistant Director Hannibal Bolton said. “I can’t stress enough that the key to the program’s success is through our dedicated partnerships with state agencies, non-government organizations and many others.”
Dollars awarded to each state go to pay for programs such as hunter’s education, wildlife habitat, public shooting ranges and other similar efforts.
According to a fact sheet on Pittman-Robertson by the National Shooting Sports Foundation, 11 percent of the wholesale price of long guns and ammunition, and 10 percent of each handgun is collected and deposited into the Wildlife Restoration Trust Fund administered by USFWS.
The amounts available under Pittman-Robertson have been increased in recent years because of a spike in gun and ammunition sales. In 2014, $760 million was apportioned by the USFWS from collected taxes. This is more than twice the $371 million allocated in 2012.
Illinois’ $23,783,360 was similar to Ohio’s portion, and far more than Iowa and Indiana. But it was far below Wisconsin and Michigan. Here is a breakdown of the neighboring awards:
- Indiana – $18,386,530
- Iowa – $16,502,569
- Michigan – $37,569,842
- Minnesota – $37,850,616
- Missouri – $29,783,609
- Wisconsin – $36,479,149