Friday, March 28, 2014

Montana's Bounty

There have been a couple of interesting news items over the last couple of weeks. Both of them revolve around conservation funding. We all know that the world is run by money, but how that affects our ability to hunt & fish rarely is shown in such dramatic terms.

First, Montana could receive almost $22 million from the Land and Water Conservation Fund, if it were to be fully funded as prescribed in the President’s current budget. That money would go to the purchase of places like the Tenderfoot acquisition, in the Belt Mountains (Which is #3 on the list nationwide for acquisitions). Other places include land that is currently owned by timber companies like Plum Creek, who have been working with state and federal stakeholders to ensure that traditional hunting lands remain open for future generations as they are transferred into public ownership. The LWCF funds would also go to programs like the Blackfoot Challenge and the Rocky Mountain Front Conservation Program: Both of those programs deal with conserving private land for public wildlife; ensuring that there are incentives for landowners to engage in maintaining quality habitat on private land.

Second: Montana will receive almost $28 million from excise taxes on hunting and fishing gear. That money goes to Fish, Wildlife and Parks and will be used for a host of programs that benefit public land hunters & anglers. We all know how difficult it’s been to find .22 ammo and components for reloading, but that shortfall on the shelves has led to record revenues for conservation. That in turn lead to the announcement from Secretary Jewell, which saw $1.1 billion in funding headed back to the states. Montana’s share is $28 million, or about 20% of FWP’s total budget.

Directly related to that: Montana’s Senator John Walsh recently helped get funds from the Sportsman’s Trusts released from the effects of sequestration. When Sequestration became the law of the land after Congress couldn't pass a budget, the Wildlife Restoration Program and the Boating Safety Trust Funds, known collectively as the Sportsmen’s Trust Funds, were held essentially in escrow – neither being spent on the National Debt, nor spent on the programs hunters & anglers lobbied for. Senator Walsh and host of other Legislators saw that as being well outside of the scope of Sequestration and an unnecessary reduction in spending. The Office of Management and Budget agreed, and released the funds to be spent as they were intended: On fish, wildlife and the conservation of our national resources.

Altogether, that’s over $40 million for Montana’s wildlife, wild places, working landscapes and increased public access to public lands. That kind of investment is remarkable, especially in the face of repeated attempts to strip Montanans of their public lands, and their ability to hunt & fish.

Hunters & Anglers spend billions of dollars every year on conservation through license sales, excise taxes, donations of money and time to groups like the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation and our very own Hellgate Hunters & Anglers. That investment is at the core of our long seasons and abundant wildlife. Budgets aren't sexy. There’s no fancy model standing next to a Power-Point showing line item expenditures for land acquisition or fence removal. There’s no glitzy commercial showing how the Sportsmen’s Trust Funds increase the number of sensitive species and reduce the number of critters that need listing under the Endangered Species Act. But the reality of our collective largess is that hunters and anglers continue to pour their hearts, minds and wallets into ensuring America, and Montana, remain a hunter & anglers paradise.

Recently, the National Shooting Sports Foundation has released an infographic showing how your license and excise tax dollars help wildlife:

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