August 18, 2019

Maine Fish & Game to Invest $ Million Windfall From Pittman-Robertson on……Rifle Ranges?

It appears to me that this blind, political ignorance that so blatantly reveals itself in Washington, is deeply imbedded into state governments as well.

According to George Smith, free lance writer and blogger, the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife (MIDFW) is about to receive a one-million dollar windfall from excess Pittman-Robertson (PR) money, due to the increase in gun and ammunition sales since Barack Obama became president. The excise tax on guns, ammunition and other assorted sporting goods, gets doled out to each of the states according to land mass, how many licenses sold, etc.

Smith writes that Governor LePage doesn’t want to use that money for programs that will just cost the taxpayers of the state more money once the symptoms of the windfall go away.

Governor Paul LePage is determined not to take federal dollars if the end result – down the road – will be increased spending of state dollars. In other words, he doesn’t want this extra PR money to be spent on new staff, because if and when the federal funds go back to normal levels, the state would have to pay all those costs. That’s got DIF&W officials looking for one-time expenditures of the new PR funds.

LePage’s notions make sense. So, if the state is looking for “one-time expenditures”, what’s the first thing that comes into your head? There are restrictions on the PR money and what it can be spent on. But like all government appropriations and expenditures, that expenditure gets abused and isn’t used exactly as was intended. It’s supposed to be money for preservation of wildlife habitat or most anything directly related to promoting and enhancing huntable wildlife, etc.

What would you say if I told you that also according to Smith, MDIFW is looking to use at least some of that money on gun and rifle ranges. No, really! Don’t get me wrong. I think having some rifle ranges around are a good thing but honestly, how high on the priority list of things “critical” is dumping money into game club’s rifle ranges?

Smith says, “The Department may also spend some of the new PR funds on the acquisition of wildlife habitat.” Gosh, am I mistaken or wasn’t it just a short time ago that deer hunting was never going to recover unless the state did something about protecting habitat? This coming directly from MDIFW. And wasn’t it just awhile ago that the state was arguing over whether the Governor should appropriate some general fund money to pay for predator reduction? And wasn’t the concern over where the money would come from to continue the effort as all agreed it had to be ongoing to be effective? And what ever has become of Maine’s Plan for Deer? Wasn’t the lament that the plan might be good but where in hell was the money going to come from?

And now MDIFW thinks the need for improved rifle ranges is more important than what has come before?

I just don’t get it. Is this a bit of sour grapes that the Governor doesn’t want to use the money to hire more wildlife officials to count butterflies, bats and look out for piping plovers and so MDIFW has decided to spend the money on something that probably ought to be handled by the private sector, especially at a time when money is tight all over. In your face?

Isn’t it a matter of priorities and sound, sensible investment. A loss of a deer herd and the hunting industry will cost the state millions of dollars. Using this money toward that goal, of which the plans are drawn and everything ready, only makes sense; not improving rifle ranges. Not now!

Is MIDFW still praying global warming is going to take care of the deer problem? That’s my bet.

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Report Claims P-R Money in Maine Going to Pay Salaries, Operating Costs

V. Paul Reynolds, editor of the Northwoods Sporting Journal, has been reporting on a three-part series, written by outdoor reporter Steve Carpenteri. This series examines how Maine’s Wildlife Management Areas (WMA) are, or perhaps more accurately, are NOT being managed. Capenteri says hunters are being short changed.

So once again hunters are getting the short end of the stick. Money they spend on licenses and taxes is going everywhere else EXCEPT to manage wild game and wild game habitat.

Another head-shaking irony is that, while MDIF&W holds private forestland owners accountable for not protecting deer habitat, the Department itself apparently does not steward game habitat on the large parcels of forest that it directly controls.

In addition, Carpenteri reports that Maine received in 2010, $4.5 million from Pittman-Robertson excise tax funding and according to John Borland, a supervising biologist with the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife (MDIFW), that money was spent on “salaries and operating costs”.

The Pittman-Robertson Wildlife Restoration Act was formulated for the purpose of specifically dedicating an excise tax, paid by the users, for the distinct purpose of protecting and restoring wildlife and habit for that wildlife for the hunters, trappers and fisherman who paid the fees. It was our money. Money that we agreed was to be used to ensure perpetuity of a hunting, trapping and fishing resource.

Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled, ø16 U.S.C. 669¿ That the Secretary of Agriculture 1 is authorized to cooperate with
the States, through their respective State fish and game departments, in wildlife-restoration projects as hereinafter set forth; but no money apportioned under this Act to any State shall be expended therein until its legislature, or other State agency authorized by the State constitution to make laws governing the conservation of wildlife, shall have assented to the provision of this Act and shall have passed laws for the conservation of wildlife which shall include a prohibition against the diversion of license fees paid by hunters for any other purpose than the administration of said State fish and game department, except that, until the final adjournment of the first regular session of the legislature held after the passage of this Act, the assent of the Governor of the State shall be sufficient. The Secretary of Agriculture 1 and the State fish and game department of each State accepting the benefits of this Act shall agree upon the wildlife-restoration projects to be aided in such State under the terms of this Act and all projects shall conform to the standards fixed by the Secretary of Agriculture.

But, like all government “acts” and “laws”, they get hijacked, abused, rewritten, manipulated, and misinterpreted, until each special interest gets what they want, and as Carpenteri pointed out, the sportsmen, who pay the tax, get short changed.

We now know that environmental, anti-hunting, animal rights groups, neatly disguised as “conservation” organizations, have successfully lobbied Congress in order to steal away from the sportsmen their money for projects that have nothing whatsoever to do with providing game protection and restoration of habitat for that game.

And because sportsmen, as a whole, are notorious for not being vigilant and participating in keeping their fish and game departments accountable for their actions, have allowed this to happen. Because the Department of Interior and each state’s government fails the Act by not conducting proper auditing, there is little if any accountability in how this money is spent.

Yes, the sportsmen are getting screwed but much because of their own indifference. Governments, at all levels, are by nature, corrupt. Great sums of money are involved and so long as there are men who feel compelled, without any moral conviction, to knowingly steal monies intended for a specific program for their own special interests, nothing will change. What is left is to expose the corruption and hope enough people care enough to want to do something about it.

Tom Remington

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