2012-08-23 / Outdoors

Hunters, fishers pay for conservation

Act ensures wildlife supported by fees

Katie Keen, far right, a DNR wildlife technician, conducts bear den research with other DNR staff in Alcona County.LANSING – In Michigan, money raised from the sale of hunting and fishing licenses pays for the bulk of fish and wildlife conservation – and the state’s hunters and anglers are justifiably proud of their reputation for paying their own way.

But license fees aren’t the only dollars that support conservation in Michigan. For decades, sportsmen have been paying into the pot in a manner that – although arguably a bit more obscure – is absolutely critical to successful long-term management of the state’s fish and wildlife.

This year, Sept. 2, marks the 75th anniversary of the Pittman- Robertson Wildlife Restoration Act, and the start of a yearlong celebration for outdoors-minded organizations and individuals around the nation.

“During this landmark year, everyone can do one simple thing – thank hunters for funding 75 years of wildlife restoration,” said Steve Beyer, research and management supervisor for the DNR’s Wildlife Division. “Thank a hunter for helping support Michigan conservation efforts.”

Thank a hunter, indeed.

Beyer said that, from 1939 through federal fiscal year 2012, Pittman-Robertson funds have provided the states and territories with $7.2 billion for wildlife conservation, restoration and hunter education. Michigan, which currently ranks fourth nationally in total P-R funding, has received $261 million since 1939. (In 1950, the Dingell-Johnson Sport Fish Restoration Act was enacted to do the same good things for fisheries conservation.)

Money raised by the P-R Act is allocated to states through a formula based on the total land area of the state and the number of licensed hunters in that state, Beyer said.

“The money is allocated to state conservation agencies,” he explained. “In Michigan, the Department of Natural Resources is the recipient.”

During the 2011 fiscal year, more than $371 million in excise tax was collected through the P-R Act. This money was apportioned out to states to spend during this current fiscal year. Michigan’s portion for fiscal year 2012 is $12.3 million.

It isn’t a blank check, by any means.

These dollars are made available to the DNR in the form of grants for specific projects. Grants are available on a 3-1 matching basis, meaning the DNR must come up with one dollar for every three received in P-R funds.

Hunters, however, are not the only beneficiaries of P-R funds. P-R funds can be used for projects that restore and conserve any bird or mammal species, not just game species. Consequently, these funds have contributed to the restoration of some non-game species (such as bald eagles) and to preserve wild lands that not only benefit wildlife, but can be used and enjoyed by outdoor enthusiasts, like mushroom hunters, berry pickers, hikers, birders and others.

Learn more about wildlife management and conservation in Michigan at www.michigan.gov/ itsyournature.

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