Federal funds down, but slightly
Nearly $26M flows to New York in fiscal 2016
Washington — New York state is receiving $17.7 million in Pittman-Robertson federal funds in fiscal 2016, a total that’s down from last year’s record $20.8 million.
The Pittman-Robertson funds, also known as Federal Aid in Wildlife Restoration monies, are generated from an 11 percent excise tax on firearms (10 percent on handguns), ammunition, archery equipment and arrow components.
The state received an additional $8.1 million in Federal Aid in Sport Fish Restoration (also known as Dingell-Johnson or Wallop-Breaux) funds. Those monies come from excise taxes on fishing equipment, motorboat and small engine fuels, import duties, and interest.
The $8.1 million figure is up slightly from $8.09 in fiscal 2015, according to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
Overall, $1.1 billion was set to be distributed to state fish and wildlife agencies across the U.S. as well as American Samoa, Puerto Rico, Guam and the Virgin Islands.
In New York state, Pittman-Robertson and Dingell-Johnson funds are used to fund various DEC Division of Fish, Wildlife and Marine Resources operations and projects.
Doug Stang, assistant director of the division, said the Pittman-Robertson money over the years has been used in New York for the study and management of birds and mammals “from eagles, woodcock, turkey, waterfowl and spruce grouse to fisher, deer, bear, and moose.”
DEC also uses the funds to maintain and improve access at wildlife management areas; acquire additional (or add acres to current) WMUs, and manage “on-the-ground” habitats for numerous wildlife species on those tracts.
No Pittman-Robertson funds are used for the rearing and stocking of pheasants, since that is not an eligible use of “P-R” funds, Stang said.
“But DEC’s hunter education program is almost entirely supported with wildlife restoration funds and countless hours by volunteer instructors,” he added.
Pittman-Robertson funds are apportioned based on a formula that includes land area and the number of paid hunting license holders. The formula for apportioning hunter education funds is based on population, Stang said. Wildlife Restoration funds are used for projects to “restore, conserve, manage, and enhance wild birds and mammals and their habitats; providing public use and access to wildlife resources; hunter education; and the development and management of shooting ranges,” according to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, which administers the program.
At the height of the Pittman-Robertson funding boom in fiscal 2014 and 2015, fueled by record gun purchases amid concerns the Obama administration would be successful in tightening gun ownership regulations, some states were challenged to allocate all their money.
“New York has never failed to obligate the funds at its disposal within the two-year period,” Stang said. “I would have to check records, but we may not have used all that we committed to using, which also could result in ‘lost funds.’”
New York’s Pittman-Robertson funding doubled between 2012 ($10.06 million) and 2014.
Since the Pittman-Robertson funds 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, that non-federal money comes from hunting, fishing and trapping license revenues. That 25-percent match occasionally is a hurdle to some states when record federal dollars arrive. Staffing issues can also create further obstacles in managing various projects.
There has to be an initial outlay of the money before the federal reimbursement flows to the states. States then have two years to “obligate” the money, Stang said.
The sport fish restoration funds are allocated based on a formula that includes land mass and a count of paid fishing license holders. Those dollars are used for sport fishery projects, boating access and aquatic education programs.
Stang said DEC uses sport fish restoration funds in various ways:
• to support a portion of the operational costs of DEC’s hatchery system
• support a significant portion of DEC’s Great Lakes fisheries investigation and management efforts.
• conduct creel and angler surveys on New York waters.
• support free fishing clinics provided by DEC.
• maintain DEC’s boat launch and fishing access sites.
• design new and rehabbed boat launch sites.
New York’s Dingell-Johnson allocation would be higher had not Gov. Andrew Cuomo several years ago repealed the $10 saltwater fishing license in favor of a free registry. Since New York doesn’t get credit for free registries, it loses about $1 million annually in federal funding.