A dramatic increase in federal funds has Maine’s Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife looking at the possibility of investing in the state’s gun ranges and purchasing more wildlife habitat. And they need your help.
This story begins with the election of President Barak Obama, an event that sent the sales of firearms through the roof. An 11 percent federal excise tax on sporting arms, ammunition, and archery equipment and a 10 percent tax on handguns goes into the Pittman Robertson Fund, established in 1938 to provide funding for wildlife habitat, wildlife management and research, hunter training, and public target ranges. The money goes to state wildlife agencies and is restricted for those purposes.
Obama’s election fueled concerns about further restrictions in gun buying opportunities, but the surge in gun purchases that immediately followed his election seems to be continuing, and is pumping more and more Pittman Robertson money into state coffers. Maine’s Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife expects to receive an extra $1 million (and possibly more) in PR funds this year.
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.
At the top of their list are investments in gun ranges around the state. Many are owned and operated by fish and game clubs and are in need of improvements. And in some areas of the state, most target shooting is done on privately owned ranges – often in gravel pits. So DIF&W is smart to look at these as a possible place to spend some of this new money.
Unity College generated some information on the state’s gun ranges, and DIF&W is supplementing that with the contractual work of consultant Jeff Boudreau, trying to build a comprehensive list of the state’s ranges and the needs for physical improvements at those ranges. Once that list is finished, they’ll also have a good idea if and where new ranges are needed.
So here’s an assignment for you. If you are a member of a club that has a gun range, or you shoot at a range, or you even know of a range in your area, get that information to DIF&W. You can send it to Doug Rafferty, DIF&W’s Director of Information and Education, by email to Doug.Rafferty@maine.gov, or by mail to his attention at Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife, 41 State House Station, Augusta, Maine 04330.
The Department may also spend some of the new PR funds on the acquisition of wildlife habitat. Now that the Land for Maine’s Future has run out of money, this is another critical need.
Department leaders meet today to discuss all of this and we’ll learn more soon. But I believe they’re on the right trail here and hope they get the Governor’s support for their plans.