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April brings two opening dates

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By Don Mallicoat-If you are a regular reader of this column, you’ve heard me mention the Pittman-Robertson Act before. Recently the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced that it will distribute nearly $1.1 billion in excise tax revenues paid by sportsmen and sportswomen to state fish and wildlife agencies to fund wildlife conservation and recreation projects across the nation. The funds are apportioned through the Pittman-Robertson Wildlife Restoration and Dingell-Johnson Sport Fish Restoration programs. Revenues come from excise taxes generated by the sale of sporting firearms, ammunition, archery equipment, fishing equipment and tackle, and electric outboard motor, as well as through fuel taxes on motorboats and small engines. 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 and an increase in excise tax receipts from sales of firearms and ammunition in the Wildlife Restoration Trust Fund.

Let’s break down those numbers even further. Since its inception, Pittman-Robertson and Dingell-Johnson have contributed over $9 billion dollars to a variety of wildlife projects at both the state and national level. That money is used to purchase land that becomes wildlife management areas in the states. It is also used to fund wildlife research projects to support conservation initiatives. You know that Hunter Safety class you and your kids attended? Yep, funded through P-R dollars. It is also used to build public shooting ranges on federal and state land.

What are the results of this multi-billion dollar contribution by hunters? In 1900 there were only about 500,000 deer in the United States. Today the estimate is about 32 million. Due to heavy market hunting there were few ducks in the U.S. in 1900, now the population is about 44 million. Turkey season starts next week. A century ago there were about 100,000 turkeys in the country. Today the estimate is 7 million. So next time an anti-hunter or animal rights activist assails you about hunting, have your facts ready and then ask them: So how much have you contributed to wildlife habitat?

These guys never seem to give up. Again, a topic we’ve written about in this column. The Center for Biological Diversity (CBD) and its coalition of fringe anti-hunting groups continue in their attempt to overturn a lower court decision that found they did not have standing to sue the U.S. Forest Service and force it to ban the use of lead ammunition by hunters on National Forest System public land. As previously reported, pro-sportsmen’s groups have countered CBD’s efforts by filing their own joint amicus brief in the appeal supporting the dismissal of the CBD’s original lawsuit for lack of standing. I believe this is all about dollars for the CBD. If they win one of these suits the Federal Government (your tax dollars) pay their legal fees which can come to millions of dollars.

The U.S. Forest Service in North Carolina continues to receive public input on plan revision for the Pisgah/Nantahala National Forests. The forest plan revision team plans to hold a public session on April 17th regarding wilderness and other designated areas. The meeting will be held at the Crowne Plaza Resort, 1 Resort Drive, Asheville, NC 28806. They are asking for those who are interested to RSVP for this session, as space is limited. This is currently expected to be a focused day-long discussion in Asheville on the following topics: Identification and inventory of areas that may be suitable for inclusion in the National Wilderness Preservation System; the process for identifying special designated areas; The Scenery Management System.

The discussion on wilderness and special designated areas will be from 9:00 to 3:00, with a drop-in session on the Scenery Management System following. If you are interested in participating in the wilderness and/or designated areas discussion, please RSVP to NCPlanRevision@fs.fed.us by April 10th. An agenda will be posted on the NC Forest Service website by April 1st. Here’s the problem with the focus of this day-long meeting: We ALREADY have enough designated areas in the National Forest. If you total up all the acres that are in specially designated areas it comes to over one-third of the total one million acres. Why is this a problem? Because one an area falls into a specially designated area it typically can no longer be managed for any purpose to include wildlife. The simple message at this meeting should be: No more land designations.

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